When COVID-19 hit the global stage this winter and things began to cascade through the US, Phamaly decided to take a wait and see approach to producing our summer show. We felt we owed it to our artists and audiences to produce if possible. But as the weeks of social distancing went on, it became clear that even if we could get actors in a room together, we wouldn't be in a position to have full audiences.
By the end of April it was apparent that producing the show fully wasn't in the cards, and since it felt like this was a show which really need a full production for the audiences to fully appreciate it, it only made sense to postpone the production. Immediately talk turned to how we could turn this negative into a positive.
Alice in Wonderland is the first time Phamaly is commissioning a work. There are four ways companies are able to produce productions - choose a play in the public domain (think Shakespeare), pay a licensing house for rights to do a play, for plays not yet owned by a licensing house (new plays) you can contract a playwright directly paying them a fee to do their work, or the fourth kind is to commission a work - when you have an idea and a playwright in mind you pay them to actually write the piece. Alice is the fourth category. Regan, upon deciding she wanted to do a production of Alice in Wonderland realized the published versions of plays weren't in line with what she was thinking. She wanted something that no only felt contemporary but a piece which would incorporate new music. So she approached David Jacobi and Wheelchair Sports Camp months ago to start creating a brand new work.
Often when you create a new work, it goes through a period of development, playwrights will find artists to do readings along the way - hearing a play out loud can be much different than reading it on the page. Often you can't really understand the flow of the work and how it will read to an audience until you have an audience of people watching it. Sometimes during the course of a development process scenes can be added or cut, even new characters can be introduced. When we first decided to proceed this way with Alice, we weren't in a place where we had the time to do a full development process, we decided to do a few drafts of the script without hearing it out loud. We knew we wouldn't be able to hear the script with the music numbers integrated until we were into rehearsals.
So when we suddenly had extra months of time during pre-production it made complete sense to replace our original rehearsal schedule with one focused on development. So this June we will be involving the writer, musicians, and creative team along with our full cast of actors into a workshop process of the script. This will give us a chance to work with the actors on character development, teach them the music, and really work through scenes. Then we'll do a full reading of the work virtually so all involved can see how all these pieces will fit together. An individual actors approach to a character may inform rewrites of dialogue that the playwright makes. The music underscoring a scene may influence the flow of the scene.
Theatre is a at its core a collaborative art - you have so many people coming together each bringing a unique skill set and talent to the process, and with this workshop production we'll get the chance to create a platform for all the artists involved to collaborate.
And we can't wait until next summer when we will put the final pieces of it all together and we can show you the results of these amazing collaborations.
So the end of May we will virtually connect all our actors and start working on the piece. We'll teach the actors the music and work through their characters. We'll then have the full team get together to watch it with full script and music and have time afterwards to work through any changes we may still want to make. This will give us a chance to finesse everything so when we produce this in 2021 it will be the best version possible.