Since most of the company is away during the summer doing amazing things (for example, Charlie Thurston performed in Cyrano this summer with Peter Dinklage) we don’t see them until just before the season begins. It’s at this time that Trinity Rep calls the acting company back to the studio, as well as Brown/Trinity MFA students, to experiment and perform new plays in a workshop setting. The goal is to hear the play out loud with professional actors and to see if the new play has the potential to be produced on the Trinity Rep stage.
Each of the plays are in various forms of development when they come to the workshop series. Some writers have been working on their script the night before the workshop; others have had their script finished for months. For the play, Some Things are Private, produced at Trinity in 2009, the writer Deb Salem Smith brought in various controversial images from photography and art and started to write the play based on how people responded to the different images. Often, the play being worked on has been commissioned by the theater – such as George Brant’s Into the Breeches! from last season or this season’s production of Lauren Yee’s The Song of Summer. Commissioned plays are works that the theater has invested in so that we may produce an original work by a promising writer.
While these workshops are generally closed to the public (though sitting in on a new play workshop is a donor benefit!), Trinity Rep is dedicated to developing new works and does so through these readings. We produce classic plays quite frequently, of course, from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller, because they speak to the universal human condition, but new plays can speak to our contemporary society in ways that classic plays sometimes can’t. “You want to create the pieces for the future, plays that will be considered classics in five, ten years,” said Tyler Dobrowsky, associate artistic director. “New plays create new audiences, it creates new energy, and it helps us make a statement on what’s happening today and the way we live now.”
The plays that are developed in these workshops are constantly transforming. The 2017-18 Season’s premiere Into the Breeches! was originally three-and-a-half hours long when first read in at its workshop. While the plot didn’t change from when it was read to when it was performed on stage, there were definitely a lot of deleted scenes as the script was trimmed down.
The biggest play ever workshopped, in the ten years that these workshops have been running, was actually part of this year’s schedule — with 20 actors working on a show. The smallest workshop we’ve ever held was just three company members reading through a script. We work with many writers during these workshops, including resident company members like Stephen Thorne, Mauro Hantman, and Joe Wilson, Jr. Tyler continues, “We’ve had lots of different playwrights behind-the-scenes, like Sarah Ruhl, Dan LaFranc, George Brandt, Lauren Yee, Paula Vogel, there’s plenty of people we’ve produced, some we haven’t, but it’s always a joy to work on new, fresh plays.”
Ready for even more behind-the-scenes knowledge? This year we workshopped the following plays: Prince of Providence by George Brant adapted from the novel by Mike Stanton, Four Legs to Stand On by Ana Bess Moyer Bell, executive director/playwright of COAAST, The Boyd Girls by Curt Columbus, Substantia Nigra by Vatic Kuumba, and The Texas Plague by resident company member Mauro Hantman.
We adore getting to work with such amazing artists and community members and are thrilled to be a home for writers to explore new works. Stay tuned to see how these plays progress.