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Anything can happen in a day, as evidenced by The 24 Hour Plays on Monday, when actors, writers and directors came together to create six short plays in that time period for an American Airlines Theater performance benefiting Urban Arts Partnership.
For example, Justin Long made out with a Justin Long mask, worn by Amanda Seyfried, while Peter Dinklage used Stephen Merchant as a stepstool in Shake It Off by Jonathon Marc Sherman. In the play, Dinklage played Long’s emotional father who is obsessed with a fictional self-help book called Shake It Off and finds out that his son’s date for the evening (Seyfried) is also a fan of the book. Seyfried also sang classic soprano renditions of the dueling Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey songs that share the play’s title, though according to their characters, the songs are too different to be compared.
And Justin Bartha, Katrina Bowden, and Taran Killam pretended to be Long, Seyfriend, and Dinklage in David Cross‘s Darkness Falls on St. Petersburg, directed by America Ferrara. (Cecily Strong played a rude audience member in the bit.)
Additionally, Rachel Dratch, Sam Rockwell, Sebastian Stan, and Leslie Bibb collectively chewed a piece of gum in Exposure Therapy by David Lindsay-Abaire, directed by Kathy Najimy. Jay Pharoah sported ass-less chaps as a Russian movie star. Plus, Pablo Schreiber and Laverne Cox kissed.
“I finally got my lips on her lips, so that was good!” Schreiber joked to The Hollywood Reporter about his Orange Is the New Black co-star. This marks his fourth time participating in the annual event, which celebrated its fourteenth year. “It’s very honestly my favorite experience in New York City — the hardest part is the hour before you do the show and it’s just panic.”
The night before, the actors bring in props and share ideas with the writers, who then work overnight on their scripts, which are handed to the casts and directors in the morning to be performed that night.
“Coming from the SNL world where everything’s on the fly, it doesn’t really freak me out that much,” said Dratch. “It reminds me of those games, paper-bag dramatics, we used to do when we were little — putting random objects in a bag and making up a play about them, that’s kind of what this is like, the grown-up version.”
Urban Arts Partnership is one of New York’s largest arts education organizations, which focuses on closing the achievement gap in the city’s public schools. The U.S. Department of Education awarded the organization a $3 million grant, but in order to receive it, the company needs to raise $250,000 in matching private donations. “Urban Arts has changed my life beyond my wildest imagination,” says Sarwat Siddiqui, the winner of a $40,000 scholarship through the organization who wrote one of the evening’s six plays.
When asked about her favorite part from school, Najimy responded, “When I was in the second grade I got to do the Abraham Lincoln poem for the PTA. Jumpstarted my career!” Tracie Thoms, who marks her tenth year with the event, recalled her favorite part as well. “I was really blessed because I went to a performing arts school,” she says. “We did The Learned Ladies my senior year. I played the evil mother. I never get to play villains!”
After the event, which was sponsored by Montblanc, VIPs went next door to BB Kings for an after party, DJed by Samantha Ronson.
“When I was in high school in the Midwest outside of Detroit, an arts program similar to this would come and do community theater and they gave acting lessons,” Bartha said. “It was my introduction into that world because I had no connection to Hollywood. And to actually be able to have my mind opened by a program like this completely changed my life.”
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