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Think of it as theater with nothing to lose -- and everything to gain

December 20, 2007|Mindy Farabee

IT was all producer Kylie Delre's idea, and "it's a leap of faith for everyone," she says. Potential audience member, she's looking right at you.

This Saturday night, the Eclectic Theater Company presents another of its irregular Theatricapaloozas, an evening of 10 brief, one-act plays brought to fruition under nail-biting circumstances. Like a stomach virus, all of it -- the writing, casting, directing and producing -- is wrung out in one relentless 24-hour period. In the past, such efforts have resulted in puppetry and corpses. This year, there's just no telling.

At 8 p.m. Friday, 10 writers will be presented with one overarching theme -- ideas floated around include the four elements, traveling abroad and happy holidays -- accompanied by a line of randomly composed dialogue. Actors and directors come on board the next morning, meaning scribes receive no advance knowledge about their casts beyond gender and age ranges, a particular wrinkle the Eclectic incorporated to up the entertainment factor. "You could have someone totally opposite to whom the writer imagined for the part actually playing it," says actor/writer/co-producer Kerr Lordygan, "which I just think is funny."

Delre pitched the idea to her colleagues after participating in similar productions around New York and L.A. Nationally, a small movement seems to be afoot, ever since a group of New York artists began "The A Train Plays" -- mini-musicals completed during round-trip subway rides the length of Manhattan -- in 2003. A smattering of L.A. companies have experimented with the concept (such as next Monday's "Fast and Loose" at Sacred Fools Theater), while Suzan-Lori Parks pioneered and popularized a high-brow approach with her "365 Days/365 Plays."

Dynamic unpredictability offers one reason for this simmering popularity. "You don't know what's going to happen, if someone's even going to pull out the right prop or say the right line," Lordygan says. Watching the actors juggle the madness is a big part of the fun -- and the thespians aren't the only ones juggling.

"All those cliches about how it adds spontaneity and energy are true," says participating playwright Hillary Rollins. "You're creating something so fresh-off-the-presses, you get some of your most wonderfully volatile, electric stuff when you don't have time to workshop it. You just give birth and give the baby away. It's theater without a net." There are, she says, many reasons artists agree to walk that high wire, some quite simple. "In general, deadlines are good for writers."

Other reasons can border on the profound. "It takes you back to your artistic roots," adds Eclectic production VP Erin Traenor, who's producing a festival-bound documentary of this year's production. "You have to think on your toes. You go with your gut and stay real, and somehow everything turns out OK. It reminds you to be that way in life."

-- Mindy.farabee @latimes.com

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THEATRICAPALOOZA

WHERE: Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood

WHEN: 8 and 10:30 p.m. Sat.

PRICE: $10

INFO: (818) 508-3003; www.eclecticcompany theatre.org

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