Riot Act Inc.'s 48 Hour Play Festival

Stacey Nail, Charley Daveler and Angel May Wise rehearse for Riot Act Inc.’s annual Series of Short Plays at the Center for the Arts in June. This weekend the theater company will debut its 48-Hour Play Festival, with performances set for Sunday.

There will be no months of planning, late-night rehearsals and elaborate set designs.

At the inaugural Riot Act Inc. 48-Hour Play Festival this weekend, each team’s writer, director and actors will have exactly two days to write, cast and rehearse a 10- to 15-minute play to perform Sunday evening.

Here’s how it’s all set to go down: At 7:30 p.m. Friday each team will randomly draw a genre, a prop, a character name and a word or phrase to be used in the play.

On Friday night, the writer will get to work on a script. Saturday, the director will cast the show and work with the actors.

At 5 p.m. Sunday the teams will perform the short plays for an audience.

Organizer Kelsey Johnson grew up in Dallas, where she did a mix of acting, writing and directing before moving to Jackson four years ago and becoming involved in the local theater community.

For Johnson the off-the-cuff nature of this festival is creatively liberating.

“From a writer’s perspective it’s great because it forces you to just get something out there,” she said. “As a writer a lot of us can be perfectionists and too worried about what we’re creating to share it with other people and just let it grow.”

Local theater mainstay Deborah Supowit plans to participate in the festival as a director. She said she’s excited about the format’s opportunity to create something fun, creative and spontaneous.

“We’ll be picking everything out of a hat the day before we do it,” Supowit said. “It’s sort of like doing improv — to see what you can throw together in that short period of time that, hopefully, will entertain an audience.”

Andrew Munz plans to participate in the festival as a writer. He said he doesn’t find the festival’s short time frame particularly daunting.

Munz writes fast — he scratched out the script for last year’s “I Can Ski 4 Ever” in about two weeks. And though two days is a little less than two weeks, he’s up for the challenge.

“To be able to do 48-hour theater where we start with a blank piece of paper and blank stage and create theater out of it in two days — it’s going to be a really interesting opportunity to showcase what that process is like for audiences who might not really understand,” Munz said.

People interested in participating as writers or directors are encouraged to reach out to Riot Act in advance. No theater experience is required.

It’s an opportunity for people who are interested in theater — but might not be able to commit to a months of preparation for a show — to scratch their thespian itch.

And if it goes well, the 48-Hour Play Festival could mark a new era for the performing arts in Jackson.

Johnson said the 48-Hour Play Festival is a trial run. Riot Act is hoping to plan a local Fringe Festival, starting in 2020, that would focus on music, dance and theater to complement the visual-art offerings of the annual Fall Arts Festival.

“I’m excited about it because Fall Arts brings artists from other communities into Jackson, so I’m excited to have the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, if you don’t have a visual art thing going on, here’s a taste of the performing arts in our community,’” Johnson said.

For Munz, something like the Fringe Festival would be a breath of fresh air for Jackson.

“To be able to offer something completely different than what we’re used to is very necessary for our artistic community,” Munz said. “We put a lot of value in visual art in this town. The Fall Arts Festival is about 95% visual art, so to be able to increase the performance art visibility by even like a half percent is progress.” 

Contact Leonor Grave by emailing

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