When can we see the show?
So, when is there going to be a play? This has been the most common question asked me whenever I start talking about the DYP. People are always interested in when there is going to be something for them to see; a product. I have a short answer and a long answer to this one.
August. In August we will be doing two things. First, we will be having two Open Studio Days. These are informal days when we will be opening our studio doors to the public. Anybody can come and watch our rehearsal/creation process, ask questions and engage in the creation of a new work of theatre. Although not a show, these open rehearsal are, to my mind, an interesting experiment in audience/performer relationship building. Secondly, there will be some public presentations at the end of the process. These presentations are not performances, they are designed to garner feedback and try out some things in front of an audience. Presenting unfinished work to an audience is an important part of the development process.
Well, I could get all theatre-ie on you and say that the work is never over, and nothing should be viewed at as finished, but if you are simply wondering when you will see a finished, polished, full production of what we are working on right now, the answer is two years from now. Our development cycle takes about 12-18 weeks (I originally wrote months, but I think I mean weeks). Since it isn't feasible to try and do all the development in one big shot (there is no way we could fund 12 months of straight development...yet) we've spread out our development into three steps ove three years. In the third year we will have a full production of the piece, which we hope to produce not only in the Yukon but elswhere in Canada. You may have noticed that the long answer isn't that much longer than the short answer. Well, the long answer does require some followup questions.
Why such a long process?
This, to me, is the easiest question to answer. Most people have a general idea about how a play gets created. First, a playwright sits at a desk and writes a play. Then, the playwright refines that play via multiple drafts and readings, and/or workshops. Finally, the play is given to a company of actors who, with the assistance of a director, puts on the show. One would think the most time consuming aspects of this process are the first two. Writing and refining a play takes time and energy. I worked on Mitch Miyagawa's Carnaval a few years ago while he was still refining it. I was lucky enough to take part in two workshops in 2005 and 2006 respectively. The play was then produced in 2007. That's three years already and it doesn't include the time it took Mitch to research and write the first draft of his play.
Imagine taking all three of those processes: writing, refining, and producing, and condensing them into a sinlge period of time. That is what we are doing. We are not just writing the script for a show, but we are also creating the staging for a show and refining both script and staging to a sharp point. Our process also involves many brains. While a playwright would be in relative isolation while writing a play, we have 6 brains working at once to create.
So, you might look at our timeline and think, "wow, they sure are taking a long time to make this play", but I think our development cycle is reasonable (and comparable to other development cycles) if one wants to create a strong, professional, devised production.
How does one production every 3 years benefit the community?
To answer this question I am going to have to try and alter your idea of benefit in relation to theatre. For most people the benefit of theatre is getting to see a show and in most cases they would be correct. The benefit of a Guild production is when those community actors take to the stage, not the three weeks of rehearsals leading up to that moment. At Open Pit, we are trying to shift the community benefit to include, not only the show, but also the rehearsal process. This is why we have a website that gets updated daily by all the creators. Think of each web post as a window into our rehearsals. This is also why we are opening our doors for Open Studio Days. I firmly believing in transparency during the process of creation. I also believe that through this transparency we can find a greater benefit than simply seeing a show. The best part about seeing a really good show is how inspired I feel leaving the theatre. What if we made that inspiration an ongoing experience through engagement during the process? I think people see theatre that they are invested in. I also think that by allowing the public into the process of creation you can create a strong investment.
There is also one benefit I have not touched on. That is having professional theatre workers in the community. There aren't a lot of us up here, but we are great people to have around.
Why are you exporting?
Quite simply, there aren't enough people here who see theatre. Part of the outreach we are doing is to get new people into the theatre, but in the end shows need to be seen for them to mean anything (or make any money, or have a continued lifespan). The Yukon is a great place to develop work. The people here are supportive and the arts community is amazing. Having grown up here I have a strong desire to feed back into the community which helped raise me. I would like to think that by exporting our material I'm not abandoning the north, but bringing the north Outside. I think that any theatre that leaves the Yukon is a representative for the Territory. We are part of the Yukon's cultural voice and we are bringing that voice to those who haven't experienced it. Even if the show isn't about the Territory I am still a representative of the Territory. I need my work to be seen, so I have to take it elsewhere. Theatre which is exported should not be seen as using up all the funding and abandoning the Yukon. We take the Yukon with us everywhere we perform.