New work is electric

Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Chandler Hubbard about his upcoming world premiere of ANIMAL CONTROL, which we will be presenting starting April 17. It was a fun and lively conversation that will be on the Firehouse Podcast soon.

Something that has always fascinated me is the development of new work. As an undergrad student I learned the ropes working with a few playwrights and the directors of the various shows during my time at college. As an older graduate student, it was part of my life to mentor new artists and help them develop.

I have no idea about what playwright Hubbard and director Joel Bassin have cooked up for ANIMAL CONTROL, as I have yet to read the play or even sit in on a rehearsal. As the late Freddie Prinze used to say, “It’s not my job.” But I can tell you that I’m excited to see this new work – a fresh piece of theatre with no preconceived notions. That’s a rare thing.

How many times have you gone to see a play that you’ve seen before? Pretty much every Shakespearean play is a repeat for me (although I would like to see GARY, the “sequel” to TITUS ANDRONICUS now on Broadway with Nathan Lane), and just about any play older than a few years has been read or otherwise studied.

So, a world premiere is always a cause for hope. New work and new faces (several cast members will be making their debut in the play) make for an exciting evening. If you’re a regular theatre goer, you know what I’m talking about, that moment between when the lights fade and when they come back on again – that frisson that tingles your spine just before the first words are spoken.

It’s electric, and is exactly the kind of reaction that you’re hoping for every time you attend a performance.

At some point, I would love to document the beginning of the creation of the play, from the writing process, editing, reading by a cast, editing, choosing the play for production, meetings with the director and designers, auditions and casting, the rehearsal process, and finally the opening with an audience experiencing the show for the first time. So much goes into the development and so few of us ever get to experience it first-hand.

There are any number of new playwrights in the world vying for very few slots in the theatre world. When I worked for TheatreVirginia back in the day, I had a storage closet filled with new works. The first week I was there, I was determined to read every single one of them. By Wednesday of that first week, I had read 17 plays (on my own time, on top of my public relation duties) and tossed all 17 into my “NO” pile. So many plays were written by well-meaning but often clueless folks and it soured me to the whole procedure.

In the two years I was there, I found two plays I wanted to produce and neither one ever made the final cut to appear in a season. For any new work to show up on a theatre’s production schedule, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, I digress. After ANIMAL CONTROL, there will be a return of the “Dada Comedy” WRONG CHOPPED, a newer version by the team of Connor Scully, Dixon Cashwell, and Levi Meerovich. If you saw the last incarnation of this developing work, you enjoyed their blend of madness and satire. It wasn’t quite the new incarnation of the Marx Brothers, but it was definitely in the same family.

We are by no means the only theatre in town developing and encouraging new work. Just about every theatre tries to make exploring new work a priority, but it takes money, time, and resources to birth new art. At the Firehouse, it has become a mission for us to take chances on several new works during a season. There’s always something new going on at the Firehouse, with our plays and with our fringe shows. You just never know what’s going to happen and that’s a good thing.

Anyway, I hope you will come visit us for both ANIMAL CONTROL, WRONG CHOPPED, and the other shows we’ve got lined up. I can’t guarantee that every one will be to your liking – after all, these are theatrical presentations and are subject to personal taste, but I can guarantee that you’ll be engaged and entertained and just might walk away with some new favorites.

Until next time, we’ll see you at the theatre!

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