These are some insights into the process of creating of a world premiere plays by First Run Theatre. Specifically, we are looking at our current production Screaming at Optimum Pitch by Peg Flach, as presented by St Lou Fringe.
Our process at First Run is somewhat different in its evolution than most theatrical productions. We begin by searching for the best in original works by regional playwrights. This is done by conducting invitational readings of new works in a public forum, then choosing the ‘best of the best’ for performance.
When that is done, auditions are held, and the best possible casts are chosen. The challenge here is casting actors who have never heard of the plays or the characters as written.
The next level is to conduct as many workshops as the playwright deems necessary to hone the words. Attending these workshops are the production director, stage manager, and cast. The script is read as many times as needed, and the playwright makes edits and additions for the next workshop.
As a director, an integral part of my preparation is to prepare a Concept, Analysis and Style report for the cast, crew and designers to read. The purpose of this is to unify and focus our creative energy and attention toward a common cause. In other words, “Making sure we’re all on the same page”.
This is done after discussions by myself and the playwright wherein I picked her brain as to the back story of her work. What compelled her to write it? What message did she want to send? What does the work mean to her?
Here are excerpts from my Concept, Analysis and Style preparation for Screaming at Optimum Pitch:
Our playwright has presented to us three unique, powerfully poignant women, weaving a story of three generations of a single family. She does it with such grace and subtlety (a trait to be greatly admired) that we do not fully realize the unity of purpose until the end.
This compelling story is told through three monologues, and actually includes a fourth generation, both already present, and pending through Six’s expectancy. It is touching, funny, and at times vengeful. They are stories told to—or experienced by—our playwright. They are real.
In discussions with Ms. Flach, the themes of family and spiritualism were prevalent, The idea being that a family exists on at least 3 planes simultaneously. These three planes being:
This is the start of our search for a working concept. There is no doubt that each generation faced—and is facing—its own set of unique challenges. From Six’s unplanned pregnancy to Paradise’s working through World War II and the loss of two husbands, we see these vividly described. But we see that in each instance, the strength of the family mitigates the pain to act as a lifeline.
So, I believe our production concept for Screaming at Optimum Pitch should be:
Family outweighs challenges
When this process is complete, the next step becomes much more familiar to theatre practitioners. Rehearsals begin for the plays.