They say Rome wasn’t built in a day. They can never say that about Cone Man Running Productions’ Spontaneous Smattering X: nine one-act, 12-minute plays, conceived, written, rehearsed, and performed in a single 24-hour block.
“On Friday night, the writers pull actors’ head shots and resumes from a hat and get randomly assigned a genre: romantic comedy, fantasy, sports, whatever,” says Christine Weems, Cone Man’s artistic director. “Then, they go home and write for 13 hours.”
On Saturday morning, June 17, the writers meet back at the Beacon Theatre, where they’re assigned a director and get a 30-minute consultation to go over the script. The writers go home, and the directors and actors spend the day rehearsing the plays, before the festival opens its doors to the public that night.
“It’s crazy and fast and you never know what to expect,” says Weems on the process. “But, inevitably, you have all these creative people in a pressure cooker situation and magic happens.”
The zany play festival is the brainchild of Weems and her husband Michael, who hatched the idea when they were living and working in New York City. Upon their relocation to Houston, they brought the event with them, and for the last 10 years, the festival has shared proceeds with the Houston Food Bank.
This year, Cone Man Running is giving proceeds to Houston teachers for school supplies, classroom décor and other needs. Ten teachers will be selected at random the evening of the show, and they’ll divide any collected school supplies and cash equally. Teachers signed up to be considered on Cone Man’s website.
“We asked them, 'What do you buy that you’re not reimbursed for?'” says Weems. “And we thought this was such a great way to give back to the people who do so much for our kids.”
Audience members should be prepared for an evening of unpredictable antics. Weems says each of the plays will feature the same prop—“Whatever I find at the Dollar Store that I think has multiple uses,” she laughs—and the audience gets to vote for their favorite shows in categories like Best Use of Props and Best Use of Genre. Weems says she’s even lined up a liquor sponsor, so everyone gets a drink as they’re coming in the door.
“Just expect a wide range of randomness,” she says. “And be ready for a good time.”
The Beacon Theatre, 5012 Navigation Blvd., 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., Saturday, June 17. $20. conemanrunning.com.