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Penn students take on 24-Hour Theatre challenge

Creativity will be on the clock when Penn High School students take on the challenge of a 24-hour Theatre this weekend.

Penn students will begin the unique process on Friday night at 7 p.m. with auditions.

“We anticipate seven shows to be written and edited after auditions at 7 p.m. on Friday, December 4,” said Penn High School English teacher Michael Coffee, who is coordinating the event. “The seven shows are to be rehearsed during the morning and afternoon of Saturday, December 5.”

“The seven shows are to be performed at 7 p.m. in the Studio Theatre the night of Saturday, December 5,” Coffee said. “Tickets to the performances are $5.”

Tickets are online at or can be purchased one hour before each show at the ticket office

Penn student Camille Arnett is signed on to be a writer at the event.

"It sounds like a ton of fun, if I’m honest,” Arnett said. “I like projects that are high-octane and full of adrenaline like this is … I also love the idea of writing for actors after meeting them, because they are inspiration themselves." 

Penn student Billie Bennett will be directing one of the performances.

"I've been a part of Penn Theatre since freshman year, and never before have we taken on a project that is so adrenaline-pumped and unusual," Bennett said.

Coffee and Penn drama teacher Courtney Qualls met with Bethel College’s Theatre Chair, Don Hunter, to develop the 24-Hour Theatre concept for high school students.

An organizational meeting was held for students in late October.

“This is an experience that hopes to draw in more participants than our traditional student-written and directed plays in that this experience demands the writer and director be different people,” Coffee said. “It is an opportunity to more fully immerse our Creative Writing participants in activities within the Fine Arts Academy, and our success this year may lead to collaboration with other artistic communities within the school. As the writers write, I intend to look for young playwright contests seeking submissions.

“The majority of our writers are coming out of our Fine Arts Academy's Creative Writing classes, which are taught by Caelea Armstrong,” Coffee continued. “Our directors, actors, and technical crew have a range of technical and acting experience within the Fine Arts Academy under the guidance of Courtney Qualls, David Dutton, and Adam Callender at Penn High School, but our students also have experience within the community.”

Coffee hopes to see the cutting-edge event develop into a Penn Fine Arts Academy tradition.

“We hope to expand this opportunity further down the line and partner with local organizations,” Coffee said. “Both Melissa Gard of South Bend's Acting Ensemble and Lucinda Moriarty of Michiana PlayMakers have applauded our efforts and look forward to hearing how it goes.”