On our way to 41… what goes into selecting a season
Have you wondered just how we decide what shows will comprise a Mainstage season at BTE? Who makes the decisions? What factors guide the choices?
Our Mainstage season is our central artistic program and is selected to offer variety and exploration. As we looked back on previous seasons’ process and accrued data, we decided to restructure the 2018 season play selection. We wanted to incentive individual artistic interest and to guarantee a diversity of selection and felt placing the ensemble and play selection committee participants into pods rather than working in a one group format would help accomplish those goals.
Eric Wunsch, ensemble member, answers some questions.
WHAT WAS THE COMPOSITION OF THIS YEAR'S COMMITTEE BESIDES ENSEMBLE - MEANING HOW MANY COMMUNITY
MEMBERS, STAFF, BOARD?
This year the play selection committee consisted of the ensemble, managing director Jon White-Spunner, production stage manager Michael Yerges, two board members, an acting intern, education director Amy Byrne, and 3 guest actors from our production of The Diary of Anne Frank.
WHAT WERE THE PODS?
The pods this year were named each by a short-hand from different categories of our most consistent kinds of offerings. The pods were titled Crowd-pleasers, Classic/Literary, Edgy and New, Holiday Show, Original/Event programming, and Castable-in- house.
CAN ANYONE BRING PLAYS TO BE CONSIDERED?
Yes! I also try to do a lot of research and gathering of exciting new plays that are being featured on stages all over America and the world.
SO THERE WAS HOMEWORK FOR THE COMMITTEE - READING HOW MANY PLAYS WOULD YOU SAY?
By the end of play selection, it is safe to say that each of us have probably read somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 plays. We also have plays that have been big contenders in previous season selection processes that still remain under consideration.
HOW MANY PLAYS WERE ACTIVELY CONSIDERED?
Each pod narrowed down their selections to about 4 choices. We also had a few titles from previous seasons and some new discoveries added on later in play selection. We probably actively considered about 25 different productions.
DID YOU NARROW DOWN THE NUMBER OF POSSIBILITIES?
Slowly but surely we did. It is tough and each of us have projects we get attached to that have to be let go for the immediate future. Closer to the end of play selection, it becomes a lot more about how the pieces fit together and what is truly possible.
WERE SOME PLAYS REALLY POPULAR BUT NOT PRODUCIBLE HERE? WHY POPULAR AND WHY NOT PRODUCIBLE?
Sure! Given our budget and personnel constraints, we always have to balance our season with what is truly possible. We selected a few projects for next season that are some of the most ambitious projects BTE will have ever done, so we balanced that with some smaller, more intimate offerings. There were a few shows we looked at that had extremely large royalty costs in addition to large casting and
production needs that we unfortunately had to drop from consideration.
WHAT IF SOMEONE WAS ABSOLUTELY AGAINST A PLAY BUT EVERYONE ELSE LIKED IT?
I think that depends on the nature of the objection. Sometimes we have to concede that something is not necessarily to all of our taste, but the pro's of producing it may outweigh that. Sometimes, the objection can come from a deeply personal place or a concern that no one else really thought of, and those contentions have to be considered.
WHAT CEMENTED A PLAY'S SELECTION?
Some plays we immediately all agree on. Some projects took us years to decide it
was the right time. It is difficult to say what cements a play's selection as it varies
from show to show, but every once in a while we all immediately agree and get
excited about something.
WITHOUT GIVING AWAY THE 41ST SEASON, WOULD YOU SAY YOU HAD A CROWD PLEASER, A TOPICAL NEW PLAY, A CLASSIC?
I surely hope so! I think we definitely have something for everyone, and I think we're taking a lot of really exciting risks with what we're capable of!
ANY WAYS TO FURTHER IMPROVE THE PROCESS?
This was my first year leading play selection. It is always a tough process, because there are so many factors to consider and so many great projects to choose from. The pods were a new idea this year, and I'm hoping to re-shape them a little bit next year. We had a lot of really great pieces that we considered this year, and I'm hoping we can nail some of those down for Season 42 before we go searching into the unknown again. I think our audiences only see the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is possible or what we have considered, and I'm hoping we can bring more of our favorites from previous play selection processes to our stage