BWW Blog: Selecting a Season
Hello, Broadway World! So last week, I talked about my college's social justice based season, and this week, I want to talk about something kind of related, but also different. A few weeks ago, I had my Theatre Student Review, which is a process at my school wherein each theatre student meets with the theatre faculty every March to discuss our progress and prepare for the future. It can be a little bit scary, but this year, I was given an exciting challenge -- create the next season for our company.
Now, as excited as I was to put together a season, I had no idea how to begin. Like I said, this past season was all about social justice. How could I follow that? I've never put together a season before, and I felt like it had to be perfect. It felt wrong to pick a bunch of lighter plays, and that isn't what our campus would want anyway, but it also felt lazy to do another "social justice" season. Eventually I decided that the best course of action was to find plays with similar themes that a college campus would relate to in 2019.
Naturally, the first playwright I looked at was Shakespeare. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love Shakespeare, but sadly, we have not done any of his plays since I got here. In fact, we have not done any plays older than the last century, excluding last year's production of The Liar, which utilized a very modern translation/adaptation. I decided it was only fair that I use this opportunity to suggest changing that. Besides, Shakespeare's plays didn't last this long by being unrelatable. I immediately seized upon either Troilus and Cressida or A Winter's Tale, two of his more obscure plays that I personally enjoy. With their themes of toxic masculinity and the restrictions placed on women, I thought either one of these would connect well with a modern audience and whichever other plays I chose. Troilus and Cressida is incredibly grim, however, so I settled on A Winter's Tale, which is not.
My first selection made, I still had to choose three more, so I thought back to plays that I had seen or read over the course of my education. At the time, none of them really stood out to me as plays that I wanted to add to the season, either because they didn't fit with what I was trying to say or because they felt too similar to something we had already said. The one exception was Paula Vogel's Indecent, which I read last year and loved. But was this too self-indulgent, I wondered. As a Jewish lesbian, I was naturally drawn to this play, but if I added it, would it look like that was why I chose it? Looking back on my notes about this play, however, I remembered all of the other themes in this play, like the necessity of art in troubled times and the dangers of negative representation for already marginalized groups. No, I decided. This is a play that our audiences will definitely connect to.
Lucky for me, my sister was performing in She Kills Monsters, by Qui Nguyen, the weekend I was working on this, and I spent the whole show imagining how my school might put it on. Badass women, lesbians, individuality -- into the season it went. For my final selection, I eventually settled on Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, which covers similar themes to Winter's Tale, in particular, but still connected well with the others.
Now that I had the shows, I needed to put them in order. Because Winter's Tale has the most unquestionably happy ending, I immediately put it at the end -- finish on a high note. Indecent begins with a playwright, so it only felt right to put it at the beginning. By putting it at the beginning, it also introduces the themes for the rest of the season and prepares audiences to think about them. A Doll's House takes place near Christmas, so I put it in the second slot, right before the winter break. I put She Kills Monsters in the third slot, because, after Indecent and A Doll's House, the audience could probably do with something a little bit more fun (tone-wise).
Now, just to be clear, this was not a be-all, end-all, tell-us-what-to-do-and-we'll-do-it type of season. The goal was to challenge me, to see what my ideas were, and maybe get some good suggestions at the same time, but that does not necessarily mean that we will put on even one show that I suggested. (But we might, and that is still really cool!)