FIRST THEY CAME FOR: Philadelphia Young Playwrights' Inaugural PARTNER PRODUCTION
What are Partner Productions? Why is PYP partnering with Found Theatre Company?
Partner Productions are a newly-created program that we’re piloting for the first time with Found Theater Company. But at the program’s heart, it contains the same ingredients in Adele Magner's vision when she founded PYP three decades ago.
How did we get here? Well, we select winners from our Annual Playwriting Festival each August. It's always tough to narrow down the winning plays that will be produced from hundreds of incredible, vivid writers across the city. Sometimes we have a play that we feel is worthy of being produced, but requires a specific method of development, and that pushes the envelope when it comes to theme and aesthetic. Sometimes, we actually have to pass on producing these kinds of plays because we know we can’t fully honor the playwright’s vision.
These partner productions give us an ability to champion new kinds of plays in innovative ways.
When we first read First They Came For, we were struck by how Shannon was writing theatre from a place of abstraction and expressionism -- moments of choral acting and movement; challenging stage directions with lots of detail about elements like time and light. While the play has a clear plot with specific characters, it demands an ensemble with physical and vocal craft to ‘solve’ many of the awesome ‘problems’ Shannon dreamed up.
We partnered with Found for the first time in 2016 on Nearly Famous by Emma Q Baxter during the Paula Vogel Mentors Project. I directed that piece, and saw first-hand just a glimmer of Found’s method. We knew Found would bring the vital skills and methodology to help Shannon take her play to the next level.
While fully authored by Shannon and shaped by her vision, director Matt Lorenz and the ensemble have also sown patches into First They Came For’s quilt, inspired by work that Shannon has articulated to them in the room during the 3-month workshopping process, within the text, and through Found's own devising methodology.
Ultimately, we hope each partner production is greater than the sum of its parts: for Shannon, for the play, for PYP, and for Found. Through partner productions, our young playwrights get to develop their work in a three-dimensional way; while partners have an opportunity to engage in the kind of work we're most passionate about -- championing young voices, diversity and inclusion; and using theatre as a tool for youth development and empowerment.
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