BWW Interviews: PJ Albert Dishes on Orlando Shakespeare's 25th Anniversary Season
Orlando Shakespeare recently announced its 25th anniversary season with promises that it will be the best and largest season yet. Over the past 25 years, Orlando Shakespeare debuted 17 world premieres and produced about 130 productions since 1989. Some of the 2013-2014 season headlining productions will include a complete version of THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, DRACULA: THE JOURNAL OF JONATHAN HARKER, A NIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS: A MAGIC TREE HOUSE ADVENTURE, JULIUS CAESAR, and more. PJ Albert is Orlando Shakespeare's Managing Director, and he took some time to discuss the process of developing such a comprehensive season.
BWW: What is the process for picking shows to produce? Do your audience/subscribers pay a role in deciding the content?
[PJ Albert] The process is actually quite involved and includes input from the staff, Board members, volunteers, and patrons. We typically begin the process about five months prior to the season being announced in March. We survey all of the aforementioned people, and then evaluate all suggestions in order to both meet our mission and financial goals. The Artistic Director then uses all of that information to make the final decision on the season that will be presented.
BWW: Everyone is talking about The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby because of it's enormity. What are some challenges that you expect to encounter with putting on a show of this magnitude?
[PJ Albert] We have expanded our partnership with Theatre UCF for this production in order to conquer expected challenges and turn them into successes. Both organizations will tackle the building of the scenery, props and costumes. Additionally, we will provide a number of BFA and MFA students their first professional credits with this production, which will require adjusting rehearsals to allow for class schedules. This is a challenge we do not normally encounter. Beyond that, we are broadening our marketing to reach an audience that is interested in seeing this type of production. Seeing six hours of theater over two performances is a commitment. We hope to increase awareness of how amazing this play is so that all avid theater goers, both locally and throughout the Southeast region, make sure not to miss it.
BWW: Orlando Shakespeare is also dedicated to bringing the joys of live theater to younger audiences. Where did the idea to partner with the publisher of A Night in New Orleans: A Magic Tree House Adventure to provide books for Orange County 3rd Graders come from?
[PJ Albert] Mary Pope Osborne, the author of the Magic Tree House books, is very involved in child literacy initiatives. When the production was presented as a workshop in Newark, NJ, Magic Tree House ran a similar program that was extremely well received. During discussions between our Education department and Magic Tree House, we determined that Orange County would be a great place to expand the program. We are excited that Magic Tree House is willing to make this type of donation because it wouldn't be possible without them!
BWW: Harriet's New Play Series will feature The Cortez Method and Pluto, with new plays what is it that you think will draw in an audience?
[PJ Albert] Because Shakespeare was a new playwright during his time, we like to provide playwrights of our generation the same opportunity. We may find the next Shakespeare! For many patrons, new plays can be an exciting opportunity to experience the potentially next big hit in the theater world. Offering the World Premiere of a production allows us to help bring the play to life for the first time, and develop ideas that future productions will use. Audiences often have the opportunity to give feedback that will be used by the playwright in future productions.
BWW: The two Shakespeare production that will bookend the season are The Taming of the Shrew andJulius Caesar. What is it about these classics that make the stories relevant to today's audience?
[PJ Albert] The issues in Taming of the Shrew are still in the forefront of our mind's today. Issues such as gender equality, relationship challenges and financial woes are all still prevalent today. While the some of the methods of tackling these issues in Shakespeare's play may be outdated, the overall message still pertains to modern audiences.
With Julius Caesar, I think that it is clear just by opening a newspaper that the same type of political struggles are occurring across the world, and here in the United States.