by Mark Rigney · April 22, 2015
In the fall of 2014, after having spent six months out of the country and necessarily far from the theatrical scene, I received a rejection letter. Via email, of course. I was at that moment casting around for a new play to write, and I said to myself (bolt from the blue), “I’m not going to bother writing another play unless I can guarantee it’ll be produced.”
No easy task, that. I live in Evansville, IN, where up and coming theater companies are non-existent, and established companies number three (two university programs, one community theater). My nearest professional company is two hours away, in Louisville.
The only solution: self-produce.
Despite all the disadvantages geographically, I’d heard terrific reports about the Indy Fringe Fest in Indianapolis, about four hours away. I investigated, concluded Indy looked like a sound option, and presented the case to my wife––who happens to be a dramaturg and director at the University of Evansville. UE has an excellent undergraduate theater department, and thanks to my marital connection, I knew I could mine the department for actors and a stage manager.
So. I got to work dreaming up a forty-five to sixty-minute play (as required by Indy Fringe). Whatever it turned out to be story-wise, it had to be low-tech, support a youthful cast, be ultra-portable, and involve very limited light and sound cues.
The (un-named) first draft was easy to compose, and wasn’t any good. After reading, my in-house dramaturg was blunt, but also staggeringly accurate: the character of Danny, a rookie police officer, started the play in the wrong place. His arc, as a result, was non-existent.
That single observation jump-started a much more successful revision––but one that took months to write. I’m an at-home parent, and in February and March, thanks to snow days, spring break, sickness, diseases, bubonic plague, and not one but two broken arms, I had almost no uninterrupted writing hours. If you want to hear a properly poetic take on what it's like for a writer to suffer through a lack of writing time; please refer to Bears, published right here on Indie Theater Now. I promise you, Growl Bear has a great deal to say on this vitally important subject.
So. The result of the second draft is The Shout, which received its first back-to-back readings (in the delightful privacy of my basement) in early April. I got the three cast members I wanted, and essentially wrote the parts for them, including obvious markers like race and gender, but also tapping into hair styles, mien, height, and vocal range. (Yes, in this play, everybody gets to holler.) I must say that writing for specific actors––a company––is very freeing. I recommend it. Thank goodness.
After another round of re-writes, we’ll convene again just before the troupe scatters for summer. Then it’ll be back on the ground for two weeks of intensive July-August rehearsals before we “transfer” the show up to Indianapolis. Stay tuned! I’ll post again as we move into the rehearsal process, and we open (I believe) on August 13th.