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Pray for Alia Shawkat, Who's Performing the Same Scene for 24 Hours Straight

She's starring in 'The Second Woman,' a play in which she'll perform a single set of lines 100 different times.

by Drew Schwartz
Sep 17 2019, 8:27pm

Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images

Spending eight hours behind a desk is enough to leave you exhausted; after 12 behind a bar, it's almost impossible to stay standing. But in a move that puts all us lowly, regular old laborers to shame, Alia Shawkat is about to perform in a play for 24 hours straight, reenacting the same scene 100 times back-to-back.

As Vulture reports, she's starring in The Second Woman, an "epic feat of endurance theater" coming to the Brooklyn Academy of Music next month. Over the course of a whole-ass day, Shawkat will act out (and act out, and act out, and act out) a single scene with 100 different male co-stars—none of whom she's rehearsed with before—and try not to collapse onstage in the process. Meanwhile, five cameras will be filming the whole thing from different angles, and the footage will be projected on a screen above the stage in real time.

The scene is inspired by John Cassavetes' 1977 film Opening Night, a deeply meta movie about a play and its lead actress, who becomes increasingly unraveled as her stint performing it goes on. Mercifully, Shawkat won't have to go a full 24 hours without eating or drinking—the roughly eight-minute scene opens with a man bringing her takeout, apologizing for "being so crude" (what could it mean?!?), and pouring her a glass of wine, which one would hope is actually just water. Worryingly, the scene doesn't seem to involve Shawkat going to the bathroom, so unless she has a bladder of steel, we'll have to hope the producers have worked that logistical problem out.

Despite the fact that The Second Woman sounds exhausting at best, and masochistic at worst, Shawkat is apparently psyched for the show, which will be her first go at live theater.

“I couldn’t be more excited to make my stage debut in The Second Woman,” she said in a statement. "It’s a show that encompasses all the themes of art that I am most interested in being a part of."

The Guardian gave the play—written and directed by Australian co-creators Anna Breckon and Nat Randall, and produced by Performing Lines—a five-star review after its run in Sydney, calling it "a stunning exposure of gendered power relations and emotional coercion." While watching the same scene 100 times in a row might sound tedious, it's apparently anything but.

"The script is the same, but the scene is markedly different each time... its meaning changes depending on how the words are spoken," the Guardian's Stephanie Convery wrote. "The Second Woman is not only remarkable for the endurance of its lead performer. It’s also a demonstration of the power of formal experimentation and a stunning creative feat, from concept to execution. One of the finest examples of independent Australian theater in years."

Sounds like acting for 1,440 consecutive minutes will be worth it—but still, please pray for Alia Shawkat. May the theater gods give her the strength not to fall asleep halfway through this thing, and deliver her the gift of at least one bathroom break.

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Tagged:
Theater
B.A.M.
plays
Brooklyn Academy of Music
opening night
the second woman
john cassavets