Long-term Collaborations

 Jodi Wicker and Nathan Raley

Jodi Wicker and Nathan Raley

I'm in Austin working with my favorite theatre company, 3rd Course: Theatre, on Dough & Cookies. Our collaboration on this play began in 2012. It's been a wild and joyous experience, as usual. I'm reminded of this quote from Erik Ehn and Sarah Ruhl from "Dirty Thoughts About Money" about long-term collaborations: 

We believe that there is not enough reward for long-term collaborations on stage. Institutional theaters break up long-term artistic partnerships. What we see on stage, then, is could-have-beens (a production that could have been really good given more time and the right collaborators) and introductions (artists meeting for the first time who haven’t had enough history to develop a process that makes for mind-blowing theater.)

There are probably very real financial reasons that motivate many institutional theaters away from long-term collaborations. But I'm grateful for hidden gems like Lisa Neely and 3rd Course -- yes, they're a small company and you probably haven't heard about them yet, but they have given so much to me and my plays over the years. They have become a necessary and integral part of my process.

I apply to the big contests and the name theatres. There's nothing wrong with that. But I want to suggest to other playwrights out there -- build your own grassroots theatre group or join an existing one. Spend years together, eating good food, having rich conversations, seeing shows, supporting art, and working on your own stuff. It can't all be about the big contests. It can't all be all about making a name for yourself. The important thing is the work itself. And this is where my plays have been given life. 

So, five weeks ago, after I had completely demolished the play's structure and hadn't started putting it back together again, I got an invitation from Lisa to do a developmental reading of it in Austin in 4 weeks! As I surveyed the ruins of the play, my first impulse was to say I couldn't possibly have it ready. But I decided to go for it because of the safety that has been fostered in this group over time. I knew there would be a safety to try new things, share a restructure that wasn't fully put back together again, and explore the impossible ideas in my head. 

 Lisa Neely (Director) and Perry Crafton (Bill)

Lisa Neely (Director) and Perry Crafton (Bill)

And now that the reading is over, my decision has been confirmed. Not only was it okay to share work in a vulnerable place, I feel sure this process will save me time in the next round of revisions. Things I felt about the play were confirmed and the problems areas became clear. I feel a sense of confidence that I'm going in the right direction.

I'm grateful to this particular group of folks for their hospitality to me and my plays. 

 Leslie Dovale (Dramaturge) and me

Leslie Dovale (Dramaturge) and me

 Perry, Caroline Cienki (Charlene), Jodi, Nathan, and Jeff Guerrero (Brother George)

Perry, Caroline Cienki (Charlene), Jodi, Nathan, and Jeff Guerrero (Brother George)

 Caroline and Jodi

Caroline and Jodi

 Hannah Wong, groupie, chef who prepared dinner for us, and brilliant art historian along for the ride

Hannah Wong, groupie, chef who prepared dinner for us, and brilliant art historian along for the ride