Thanksgiving weekend of 2011, with a stomach full of tryptophan, I made my way to Philadelphia to see a show called “The Whipping Man” in which our soon-to-be Artistic Associate, Cody Nickell was starring.
For over 20 years, the Arden Theatre has been producing great theatre in Philadelphia, and this show was no exception. I was sitting in the second row of their 175-seat studio theatre, watching a gripping drama unfold, replete with leg amputations, Confederate soldier outfits, and holiday ritual. At intermission, the woman sitting next to me turned to me and said, “This is intense.” And I knew it was a play we had to produce.
And so the wheels were set in motion. First and foremost, I talked to the director, Matt Pfeiffer. Obviously he was crucial to re-mounting a production that had the same amount of heart and soul that the production at the Arden had.
Once Matt had expressed his interest, we went about hiring the entire cast from the original production. The plan was a good one, but the execution was faulty. We couldn’t get one of the three actors, because he had a conflicting engagement in Philadelphia (starring in a show with Scott Greer, who played Michael and Yvan in our “Reza Rep” this fall.) And so auditions began to find a replacement. Interestingly, we found the answer to our quest in an actor named Biko, who, incidentally had ALSO done the play, which in fact closed the week before he arrived in Naples.
Hiring (and re-hiring) the creative team was equally as interesting a journey. First, the original set was designed for a thrust stage, and so we needed a completely new set designed. Attempts to contract the original designer were not successful, so we got a brand new designer. And it turns out a new lighting designer. We are, in fact, using the original costumes from the Arden production, and the original Sound Effects.
All of this proves that theatre TRULY is a collaborative art, and an extremely satisfying and enriching one…especially when the product is as special as this one.