Some of entertainment's biggest names _ including Eva Mendes, Elijah Wood, Julia Stiles, America Ferrera, Claire Danes, Christopher Meloni, Leslie Bibb, Gloria Estefan and Kyra Sedgwick _ have signed up to be frazzled.
They'll be appearing next month in the 10th annual benefit "24 Hour Plays on Broadway," which tasks 24 actors, six writers and six directors to come up with six original short plays over the course of a day.
"It's pure chaos," Rosie Perez, who has acted in the project every year, said Monday. "I tell all the actors when we begin, 'You will probably have a nervous breakdown. It's normal _ go with it. If you're not having a nervous breakdown or some type of anxiety attack, you're doing something wrong.'"
The playwrights who have agreed to participate include Kristoffer Diaz ("The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity"), singer-songwriter Mike Doughty, Rajiv Joseph ("Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo"), Lynn Nottage ("Ruined") and Theresa Rebeck ("The Understudy"). Elizabeth Cruz Cortes, the winner of a young writers project, will join the playwrights.
The marathon project unfolds like this: The playwrights will gather at 10 p.m. on Nov. 14 and must pen a 10-minute play by 7 a.m. the next morning. The actors will then rehearse the work for the next 12 hours. At 8 p.m. on Nov. 15, the plays will be performed for a live audience.
The one-night-only show at the American Airlines Theater benefits the Urban Arts Partnership, an organization that brings arts education into New York City classrooms. The 24-Hour play project is backed by German luxury penmaker Montblanc, which has helped fund the project for the past four years.
"The opening night is the closing night at the same time, which makes it fun," said Jan-Patrick Schmitz, president and CEO of Montblanc North America. "What I've seen over the past four years has gone from hilarious to really very thoughtful. It's interesting to see the different angles."
Some of the other actors who have agreed to participate this year are Anthony Mackie, Diane Neal, Fisher Stevens, Gaby Hoffman, Michael Kenneth Williams, Rachel Dratch, Tracie Thoms and Alicia Witt. And, of course, Perez, who has long championed community arts and sits on the Urban Arts Partnership's artistic board.
"It's nerve-racking. I've seen actors lose it. I've seen myself lose it," she said. "I'm better now, but the first year I was like, 'This is insanity. Who the hell thought of this?'"