by Mark Rigney · July 31, 2015
In my previous post, I covered how my play The Shout came to be, and what it took to get it off the ground. Now we’re midway through day one of rehearsals, and the show opens August 13th. At 6:00 pm. Central Standard Time.
Reality sinks in.
The baldest fact about self-producing one’s own work is that there’s neither a safety net nor a support structure. At least, not any that you yourself haven’t put in place. That’s what I want to look at now, with an especial eye toward those of you who might be considering self-producing a play.
The truth is, I planned from the get-go to enmesh this production in at least two existing support structures. The first of these is my local college, the University of Evansville, and the second is the devising troupe of which I’m a part, In the Mix Ensemble.
My wife, Diane Brewer, teaches at the University of Evansville, in their theater department. She covers theater history, criticism, and academic courses in general. By bringing her into the fold as director of The Shout, a Ferguson-inspired one-act designed from the ground up to be a Fringe show (that is to say, low-tech, portable, largely comedic, and fifty minutes long), I not only acquired an experienced, game director, I also slid at least some of the theater department’s strengths into my back pocket.
These benefits include: a dependable black box rehearsal space; access to props and even costumes; the interest of the department’s costume designer, who is now helping dress rookie policeman “Danny”; familiar and predictable surroundings; storage space; and access to a raft of talented actors and stage managers.
In a lot of ways, crafting The Shout could be viewed as a mercenary process, not in the sense that I stand to profit from it, but in that I have tried to be mindful (that word!) of my assets at every phase of the writing. Thus my predilection for including only props that I know for a fact we can provide (the exception so far: a megaphone), and my avoidance of any stage artifice that we can’t control ourselves.
That mercenary theme rears its head again in the realm of marketing. Self-production implies self-promotion. Yes, In the Mix Ensemble, the company under whose auspices The Shout will take the stage, is a legit organization, but we lack a publicity department, or resident staff .We don’t even have an office. We’re small. A core trio, really. So what we have are the talents and experience of our members, auxiliary members, and past members. We also boast a website, NET membership, and a track record of three previous public shows.
Mostly what we have is our own force of will. That’s what being In the Mix is all about. So when it comes time to make a logo or print a postcard, it’s up to us. Luckily, director Diane is copacetic with Photoshop—but if she weren’t, this sort of thing would be a hurdle.
Another plus: producing a show via In the Mix invokes the many talents of musician and core member Jason Gresl, who with The Shout is tasked with creating soundscapes and sonic cues. No easy task, this. Incorporating sound into the play will likely be our greatest challenge, in part because Jason, thanks to the vagaries of jobs and geography, lives six hours north, in South Bend.
Still, we aren’t complaining. After ten months of laying the groundwork and knowing both our resources and our limitations, we have the rare privilege of putting our various credos to the test.
Meanwhile, sitting in on rehearsals today reminded me of the exceptional elasticity of stage scripts. There’s simply no such thing as a “finished” work or an “air-tight script” or a script that is, as I’ve heard some yearn for, “director-proof.” And why should there be? The form itself, in combination with human nature, guarantees breathing room, left-hand turns, malleability. That’s what makes it exciting.
For example, as we Mixers stumbled through the opening scene today, I had no conception that the lines I’d written would prompt either director Diane or “Erica” (Dylan Fluker) to set about changing clothes, much less to do it while trapped in her sleeping bag. But it makes perfect sense. The choice is generated organically from what I wrote. And that, right there, is what I love about collaboration.
Look for one final installment of these “Shout” blogs in mid-August, after we’ve opened.
For those in striking distance of the Indianapolis Fringe Festival, our exact performance schedule is as follows:
Thursday, August 13, 2015 - 6:00pm
Saturday, August 15, 2015 - 7:30pm
Sunday, August 16, 2015 - 1:30pm
Monday, August 17, 2015 - 9:00pm
Friday, August 21, 2015 - 10:30pm
Saturday, August 22, 2015 - 7:30pm
All shows will be held at the Marott Center, 342 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Even if you can’t make it, send a friend! We (like you) love a full house.