Two fresh scripts will be presented on stage.
For many of our local theater companies, finding material comes down to combing the popular and even trendy stage offerings and finding something to bring in an audience.
But all for One has never shied away from bringing fresh material, even world premieres, to the stage, and in establishing themselves in that light have garnered attention from playwrights around the country.
Bringing unknown material can be risky, however, and in putting together their four-production seasons, all for One artistic director Lauren Nichols is mindful of how they want to balance their faith-based mission with a mainstream message. Created for Playwrights
“When we put together our regular season, only one of the four will have an overt faith message,” Nichols said. “Our shows feature characters with an avowed Christian worldview and are consistent with a Judeo Christian worldview. We would never do a piece with a bias against that. But we want to appeal to all audiences, and we don’t want them to feel preached at or beaten down with the message. We want all four shows to appeal to everyone, and I think we’ve been successful with that.”
With Fresh Finds, all for One has taken a somewhat different approach, focusing on a more specific faith content as well as providing a place for playwrights to hear their works read by actors on a stage.
“This all began because we have built a reputation that this company is not afraid of world premieres,” she said. “And it’s not just staging the plays that I’ve written, but we’ve nurtured five outside playwrights and produced shows that have helped to develop talent. I feel for any playwright who is sitting in a room by themselves and not getting any positive feedback. In the past year, I’ve received eight to 10 scripts — some solicited and some unsolicited — and I wanted to be able to produce some of those scripts. And this gives us a little visibility in the summer when we aren’t usually active.” From Connecticut to Indiana
For Fresh Finds, Nichols opted to share two of the scripts she had at the ready. Sincerely, Angelica Wright by Connecticut playwright David Barbour tells the story of a woman’s suicide and how it affects those who are implicated in the note she left behind.
Nichols said that the play has strong language but also contains a powerful message.
“Sincerely, Angelica Wright is different from many of the plays we’ve done,” Nichols said. “It’s not based on a historical event or on a piece of literature. It’s a completely original story that has a strong faith content, but the characters are rough and there’s more vulgar language than our audiences have come to expect. We’re letting people know that’s it’s a PG-13 show because we know what the expectations are with our shows. This show is rough and crude, but it’s also extremely funny.”
The second show is by a playwright familiar to both Nichols and all for One audiences. Having already contributed Turtle Soup and last season’s opener Bentley to the company’s 25-year history, Michael Wilhelm had already shown The Dreadful Journal of Phoebe Weems to Nichols before he’d completed Bentley, but she didn’t feel it was ready to be presented — until now.
“Michael and I have been working together for years, and he had written Phoebe before he wrote Bentley,” Nichols said. “But I didn’t feel it was a vehicle for us at that time. Now the timing feels right. Originally, I didn’t feel it had enough substance, but he’s given it more depth. It deals with serious issues which are very timely.
“Of course the issue of bullying is timely, and that’s a focus of the play. But it also deals with a young girl’s crippling level of fear and asks what might have precipitated it, and it seems that it’s just come from her vivid imagination. She’s afraid of everything, and we see how her teachers and parents provide the tools she needs to conquer her fears. And of course it features Michael’s trademark humor and physical comedy.” New Venue for All For One
The plays will be read at the Sweetwater performance theater, a new venue for all for One and a departure from their regular season home at the Auer Center ArtsLab. Nichols, who is serving as director for the play readings, is grateful for Sweetwater’s offer to use the space and is excited to provide a beautiful setting for the playwrights and the actors, many of whom she hasn’t been able to work with in several years.
“I sent out an email to all of my favorite actors with the two scripts and the rehearsal dates,” she said. “When enough people said yes, I was ready to go. We rehearse them on alternating nights which has allowed some actors who haven’t performed with us for awhile to come back. Some have found our rehearsal schedule too much with their family and other responsibilities. So this schedule was easier for them to handle.”
Admission is free, though a $10 donation is encouraged, and those attending can see one or both plays read. Sincerely, Angelica Wright will begin at 1 p.m. and run two hours, followed by a discussion and a break with light refreshments provided. The Dreadful Journal of Phoebe Weems will begin at 4 p.m. with discussion following at 5:30 p.m.
While both feature a strong message and humor, Nichols thinks the order of the plays is important.
“Angelica Wright is funny but it’s also tough so we’re starting with that, then moving on to the lighter content in Phoebe.” Rolling into the new season
Following these readings on July 20, Nichols gets right into the 2019-20 season, beginning rehearsals for all for One’s September production of Sherlock Holmes and the 1st Baker Street Irregular on August 1. But for this summer’s project, she is delighted to not only provide a staging of two new works but to host the playwrights as well. Wilhelm lives in the area, but Barbour and his wife will be visiting that weekend from their home in Ashford, Conn.
“David Barbour has his own production company, but most of the actors in his group are older,” Nichols said. “Because many of the actors needed for this play are younger, he didn’t think he’d ever see it produced. So I’m looking forward to having him here to see this and be part of the discussion.”