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Area Voices: 24-hour theater event returns Jan. 12-13 to Grand Rapids

Two actors standing on stage one in a pink dress and the other in Letterman's jacket.
Grand Rapids Players
Performers in a play for InsomniActs 2018.

Theater Director Jake Anderson says Grand Rapids Players' "InsomniActs 5" is a low-stakes way to try out theater and doesn't require any acting experience.

GRAND RAPIDS — “As an actor, this is just playing in the sandbox,” said Director Jake Anderson on the appeal of participating in InsomniActs.

InsomniActs gathers together writers, directors and actors to create and perform a play from scratch within 24 hours. InsominActs 5 returns to Grand Rapids at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12.

How does it work?

It starts with the writers. They draw prompts for characters, gender and props from a hat to use in their scripts. Then, they have 12 hours to write a play using those prompts. In the morning, directors and actors get those scripts and rehearse them until their performance at 7 p.m.

Three actors on stage one in a tweedledee costume another in a green dress with pink glasses and the other in a pink dress with a tiara on.
Grand Rapids Players
Performers from the InsomniActs 2018 event.

The plays run 10-15 minutes. Anderson explained on Area Voices that anything shorter than that means the audience wouldn’t have a chance to engage with the material. Anything longer and it would be very difficult to properly rehearse enough to perform the material, he said.

(I have participated in a similar event in Bemidji Community Theater's "Out of the Hat." Play settings can range from the post-apocalyptic wasteland to a trip to the grocery store. You truly cannot know what to expect.)

Why now?

This is the first InsominActs since 2018. An ambitious endeavor like this needs someone willing to lay the groundwork, though, Anderson said. At meetings, everyone remembered what a fun event InsominActs was, but it needed a champion. And that turned out to be Anderson. He was willing to get the ball rolling and deal with the logistics of pulling it off. He may be one of the directors for one of the plays as well.

“Writing is probably the most challenging aspect of it,” Anderson said. “I mean, it's not easy to memorize, rehearse, and perform in such a short time frame. But for a writer, being able to pull a fully coherent plot in 12 hours ... that does ask a lot and we do ask a lot of our writers.

“And we could not do this kind of show without very talented writers in this community.”

Quite a few actors have already registered for the event. There’s a special appeal to actors for a performance like this, Anderson said.

“The biggest draw for this kind of event, in my opinion, is just that it's a fairly low stakes way to engage in theater,” he said. “I mean, sure, you're rehearsing mad dash to the finish line for an entire day, but at the end of it all, you've been there one day. Just making it exist means you get to a lot of freedom to play with things.”

If you’re a writer, director or actor interested in participating in InsomniActs, register online at the Grand Rapids Players’ website. “No acting experience is even remotely required or necessary for this,” Anderson said.

The InsomniActs performance will be 7 p.m. Saturday at the Reif Center in the Ives Theater. Open seating tickets for $5 are available at the door.

Tell us about upcoming arts events where you live in Northern Minnesota by emailing

Area Voices is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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