1440 COUNTDOWN at TheatreWorks

The most epic sleepover of the year has arrived!


At 5pm this evening, 1440 Countdown will officially kick off at our rehearsal studios in Redwood City. Teams of 5-8 people from local high schools will take part in a overnight play creation lockdown, with only 24 hours to create a ten-minute piece to be performed for family, friends, and a distinguished panel of judges providing feedback on each team’s work.


Late night creativity during 1440 Countdown. Some students aren’t quite able to stay awake for the whole night.

Ahead of tonight’s festivities, we sat down with  Associate Education Director Katie Bartholomew for more on 1440 Countdown.

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley: What makes 1440 Countdown so special? Why do you think students return every year?

Katie Bartholomew: 1440 Countdown occurs once a year, with a different theme, and different requirements and challenges for writing the play. Yes, it’s the same structure, but the process of getting to that performance for judges is different every year. Students look forward to coming every year for a fun evening out with their peers, the challenge of writing a play, and the opportunity to try and write the winning play. It’s special for students to have a chance to express their creative ideas and thoughts in a safe and supportive space. It’s about the process the students go through to create something new, not the play itself. Also, how much fun is it to be out of the house and up all night eating junk food with friends?


Students work late into the night on scripts in our rehearsal hall.

TWSV: Do you see teamwork and leadership emerge within 24 hours?

KB: Yes, teamwork and leadership definitely emerge within the 24 hours students are locked in TheatreWorks’ spaces. Students arrive in team costume, in fact we’ve had students make their own team t-shirts for the event. Also, throughout all the fun that occurs, there is always a point when students realize how much time is left before they must present their play to the judges. Ultimately, one student will jump into the leadership role in order to help guide their team. Or in some cases, all students find a specific leadership role to make sure they help their team succeed. Teamwork is definitely something that emerges, especially on such a lack of sleep. The students realize they need to work together in order to accomplish their goal of writing a play that meets all the given guidelines.


TWSV: Can the late night time crunch become a challenge for students?

KB: Yes, the late night crunch can become a challenge for some teams. As multiple cups of coffee are being drunk to stay awake and the late night craziness ensues, students begin to lose their focus a bit. This is especially true when the teams receive three surprises throughout the early hours of the morning into the next day. These surprises, in the past, have been curveballs such as “add another character to the script” and “cut your 10 minute play down to 5 minutes.” However, magically around the 8am breakfast time, students gain a boost of energy and start figuring out how to pull everything together.


TWSV: What are some of the valuable skills students are able to take from 1440?

KB: Students are gaining a number of valuable life skills throughout the course of 1440 Countdown: collaboration, time management, learning to be flexible with changes, organization, cooperation, building confidence, and problem solving. These students are learning through hands-on experience as a team. Learning to collaborate with a team is ultimately one of the bigger skills they are gaining through the course of the event. Collaboration is key as students are working in teams of 5–8, and must work together by listening, communicating, and giving constructive criticism to create their play. 1440 also requires a lot of time management, as there are timelines for printing drafts of scripts, surprises that are given to teams which alter the way their play is being written, and memorizing the script in order to perform for the judges.


TWSV: What are some of your favorite memories from past years of 1440?

KB: There are a variety of memories from previous 1440 events. Watching students try to write their plays at 3am or 4am while falling asleep at their computer and then waking up not knowing they’d fallen asleep is pretty funny. One year we had a younger group of students, and hearing things such as “No one helped me write. Yes, we did, but you wouldn’t let us!” is telling of their experience of learning to work together. Also, seeing all the tents and “camps” set up in our rehearsal hall is always such an amazing sight. Everyone sets up camp for the night and gets settled in their space to write. Once a team is inside their tent, things have gotten serious, as they are ensconced in their own world.

Check out this short documentary on 1440 Countdown:

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