A new project being brought to Brazosport Center Stages will stage a real story told by a cast of writers and actors.
The Devised/Documentary Theater concept is being used to create the local theater troupe’s opening production of the 2023 season.
The based-on-true-events script is created from archival materials such as trial transcripts, official or government documents, iconic visual images or video footage, newspaper reporting, historical writing and recorded interviews.
“It’s a play created by us based on real stories, from real people,” director and facilitator Bobby Britton said. “It asks the question, ‘How can I tell this kind of everyday human experience through the medium of this stage?’ And so it tries to kind of uplift and exalt everyday life.”
Sticking to the idea of creating the play from start to finish, participants don’t a topic in mind when the project starts, leaving that for a collaborative development once the cast is found.
“That’s the scary part slash the really exciting part, is that we’ll work as a company on our first couple of rehearsals to kind of decide what it is that we even want to talk about,” Britton said. “It needs to be something that kind of everyone in the room has an access point into because we’re going to spend a year really writing and thinking about this one specific topic. So it does need to be something that is relevant to our community.”
Once a topic is decided, production team members will go out and get real information from people in the community and from public sources to develop the story.
“It draws its sources from typically interviews with people who have something to say around the topic, but it can also come from any other open source information, so we can have Twitter or trial transcripts or things like that,” Britton said. “We’ll be looking for people who are willing to share their stories with us. So that’s what this whole idea is driven by.”
Auditions took place last week with a goal of assembling a diverse group of about a dozen actors and writers 14 and older. Drawing people from a cross-sections of backgrounds and experiences broadens the perspectives the completed play can offer, Britton said.
“When we look back at how issues and events kind of shape our culture, that is the best way to make sure that all of our voices are preserved for the next generation to know what we’re thinking about and talking about now,” he said.
Examples of the concept include “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” a play based on the diaries and emails of a peace activist killed by an Israeli soldier when she was 23, and “The Laramie Project,” which portrays the reaction to the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.
“When I watched the ‘Laramie Project,’ it was so moving and emotional, so when I heard this was happening at the center, I decided I wanted to do this,” actress Misty Congdon said. “Bobby is truly one of the best people to put this on. He is so connected to theater and will really do this justice.”
The project is expected to bring both new and seasoned volunteers to the stage at the Center for Arts and Sciences, simply because of the unique nature of the production.
“Center Stages does an amazing job of not only engaging current volunteers, but new volunteers in different ways to different performances,” Vice Chairwoman of Productions Lorin Furlow said. “I think it’s going to be a very interesting process and will be really fulfilling to anybody who participates in it and gets to go through this creation.”
Throughout the next year, the cast and crew will be writing and developing the story to take the stage for the 2023 production season. Britton expects to grow the cast when rehearsals for the play begin in mid-2023.