Letters to Holly

Wednesday, May 14

Talking Scripts

The script committee for the theatre met last night, although two of us were not only absent but purposefully left unidentified by the leader, my last director. He compiled a list of audience requests from the previous season and a list of all the shows produced by the theatre. We could then see the requests, debate their merits, and see when the theatre had last mounted those shows. Two shows got five requests each: Moustetrap, which I just read, and Harvey. We also got sheets to organize our notes on the assigned scripts.

The theatre has all but finalized a deal to lease a downtown space for the next five years. That gives the company some certainty of stage space and that opens up the potential repertoire. There are mitigating factors: two plays originally scheduled to run this season, Glass Menagerie and Witness for the Prosecution, were bumped. Their replacements were coincidentally the two shows I acted in. There are at least two actors who wanted the original shows to run, and they have enough clout to grumble and be unpleasant.

However, there's resistance to Menagerie from the committee; it's a long show, and it's a dim drama. When we did the show in Greenville, we managed to inject some humor to it, but that can't assuredly be repeated. There's a perception in the company and the audiences that straight drama is no fun and uninteresting. I obviously disagree, and I plan to advocate such plays. Not necessarily Menagerie, but shows that don't depend on pratfalls and simplistic music to sell tickets.

I recommended that we could have it both ways: if we held a teaser show made up of scenes from a few shows and used that to show off the new theatre space, we could placate the vocal divas and allow the theatre to flex the muscles of the acting pool. That seemed to be accepted well as an example of the kind of new tactics the theatre can try. I also think we should use the new library ampitheatre during street festivals to show non-theatre people what they could be seeing during production.

I don't know what the other committee people thought I could bring to the discussions, but I suspect they didn't think I'd be into marketing the company better. It's crucial. I stayed away because of the perception from the press releases and posters. The theatre has to aggressively present itself as an energetic company to woo actors and audiences. For instance, one play I read has virtually an all-female cast. That's a big selling point.

We considered why types of shows to try in the new season and the possibility of presenting more shows than normal and specifically more fan-favorite shows to help offset costs of the new space and necessary renovations. My concern for running more shows is the probable actor rotation. This group had three huge shows, one after another, last year, and that exhausted the actors.

The group -- us, I suppose -- has to pace shows and actor requirements, and that's going to disqualify good shows. For instance, Inherit the Wind is a great show and timely as ever, but it calls for 30 people. I don't think Asheville could offer a 30-person drama. Musical, yes; every stage parent will drag their kid to fill out a chorus, but dramas, as noted, unfortunately spook people on both sides of the stage. There's also the concern of which shows have been recently offered by other area theatres.

I was handed Wind and five other scripts to read before we meet in two weeks. It's daunting, but I think I can do that. I already know Wind and the Neil Simon (Come Blow Your Horn).

When I got home, I found that Your Sis had invited the school art teacher for dinner. It was a good evening. We talked school and art and the local college, and I got to show my painting to someone else.

Picture of the Day
Um, this doesn't help your argument, sir. Or ma'am.

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