BWW Interview: Brian Watkins of GENERAL STORE at Creede Repertory Theatre
Creede Repertory Theatre spoke with playwright Brian Watkins about his upcoming world premiere of "General Store." Last summer, "General Store" was developed as a part of Creede Rep's Headwaters New Play Festival, and was one of the most talked about plays in Headwaters New Play Festival history.
CRT: I know you worked on an earlier version of GENERAL STORE with director Christy Montour-Larson (CML) at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference a few years ago, but had it been read publicly before that?
BW: I took a very early draft to Seven Devils, so that was the first time it was publicly read aloud, and where CML and I first worked together. Shortly following that it had workshops and readings at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre and LAByrinth Theatre in NYC.
CRT: What inspired you specifically to write this play?
BW: It's sometimes hard to remember where plays begin, as there's typically an inexpressible quality that is the essence of its origin; something I can't categorize or describe but rather something elusive I want to chase. (If I could catch it, perhaps the play wouldn't need to exist.) I can look at an amalgam of life experiences and sources that maybe seem to cohere this play - the 2008 financial crisis; a hunt for a rodent intruder; this amazing Yale lecture on Smith's "invisible hand" and the cognitive limits of data-driven market strategies - but I think the main thing that held my imagination captive while writing it was the central dramatic image of a great search for something elusive under the floorboards.
CRT: Any other random thoughts, trivia, musings about the play?
BW: Without giving too much away, the play takes us on quite a ride. Our design meetings have been a lot of fun - the whole team set out from the beginning to stretch our imaginations and resources to the limit. Our hope was always to make the crisis of the store viscerally felt in a way you might not experience all that often in the theatre.
The play deals a lot with the unknowable nature of crisis. CML and I have talked a lot about how it doesn't do the linear narrative work of resolving questions, but rather asks one question in order to soon plumb another one deeper. I'm curious to hear which of those questions most resonates with CRT's audience in particular.
CRT: Being from Colorado originally, had you heard about CRT before submitting to Headwaters? Any thoughts about having the GS World Premiere occur in a remote area of Colorado?
BW: I had not heard of CRT until Christy Montour-Larson told me that it was a company I should pay attention to. I think my first thought was "Where is Creede and how does it have it have a professional theatre company?" Even though I had grown up in Colorado, I hadn't heard of the town. Jessica Jackson and I started up a conversation about my work and CRT. I sent her General Store, which was read for Headwaters last year. During that week, Jess and I both agreed that we shouldn't pursue doing this beast unless we could actually do it. We talked a lot about the play's immense design demands (something that was incredibly important to me), how CRT would have to alter their typical rep format and pull in resources from everywhere they could. We talked about the importance of exertion and danger in the play, something she didn't want to shy away from. Jess was game to tackle it all. When they asked to produce the play, CRT had already strategized how they'd execute everything I was concerned about, so it was an easy choice to say yes. With new plays, more than anything, you're looking for collaborators and producers that are front-footed and ready to take risks. I guess sometimes you find them in remote parts of Colorado. It requires a mix of artistic integrity, creative resourcefulness, and a willingness to take risks to do this kind of play, and I'm happy that CRT has all of those in spades. I hope other theatres take on CRT's pioneering attitude and follow suit.
The World Premiere of "General Store" runs August 18th and runs until September 16th at Creede Repertory Theatre in Colorado. For more information and to order tickets online, visit www.creederep.org.
ABOUT CREEDE REPERTORY THEATRE
As a cultural home for artists, residents, and visitors of the West, Creede Repertory Theatre creates a diverse repertory season of plays, new works, and dynamic education programs. Founded in 1966, Creede Repertory Theatre is a professional theatre company located at 9,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Each season, CRT produces 7-10 plays in rotating repertory, hosts numerous musical events and concerts, develops new works through the Headwaters New Play Program, and offers nationally recognized educational programming. USA Today called CRT "one of the 10 best places to see the lights way off Broadway" and The Denver Post hailed CRT as "legendary" and "one of the state's top five theatre companies."