Gwydion Suilebhan is the author of The Butcher. The Butcher was workshopped as a part of Gulfshore Playhouse’s 1st Annual New Works Festival and will be opening its World Premiere production at Gulfshore Playhouse on February 28th. Gwydion’s work has been commissioned, produced, developed, and read by Centerstage, Ensemble Studio Theatre, the National New Play Network, Forum Theatre, Theater J, Theater Alliance, Active Cultures, and the Source Theater Festival, among others. In addition to his work as a playwright, Gwydion lectures and writes widely on the intersection between theater, the arts, and technology.
The day before rehearsals started, I tried to make a list of all the artists who’ve contributed to the development of THE BUTCHER throughout its nine-year existence. I started with my friend Merry Alderman, whose eye was drawn to the article that inspired the play in the first place and who suggested we make a piece of theater out of it. Then there were the six actors who devised the first draft, the dramaturg who supported the process, the three new actors we brought in to help us do a public reading, and the producer who gave us a space in which to work for a year and a half. That’s 13 people, myself included, right there.
The play’s next developmental step took it to the Great Plains Theatre Conference, where a new director, five new actors, a designer, and yet another producer added their names to the play’s list of supporters, bringing the total to 20. Readings at three new theaters added 22 more names, and a three-day workshop at another theater added eight more. All told, 50 artists helped me make THE BUTCHER, in varying ways, before I even introduced the play to Gulfshore Playhouse… and that’s not even counting the innumerable audience members who attended those readings and offered feedback, the handful of playwrights who read early drafts and shared their thoughts, the stage managers who kept the engines of all those programs running, or the all-too-often overlooked donors and administrators who made all of those programs possible. My guess is that at least 100 different people got THE BUTCHER that far.
The first visit I made to Naples—for Gulfshore Playhouse’s inaugural New Works Festival in 2013—added easily ten new names to that list. Or was it more like 15? Yes, definitely 15. After the play was slated for this season’s production, three rounds of auditions meant even more contributors… and I can only guess how many joined in once the pre-production process got started. Did we hit 150 before the first day of rehearsal, all told? I think that perhaps we may have. By then, five brilliant actors had joined the roster, and a terrific stage manager, and a talented team of designers, all of us led by the play’s current champion, director (and Gulfshore Playhouse Artistic Director) Kristen Coury. And I have to add one other very critical name as well: my wife Maura, without whose partnership, soul, and intellectual camaraderie I could never have gotten this far.
So let’s call it, say, 175. And by the time the show opens, we’ll definitely be at 200. Would you have imagined the number was that high? We’re all attached to this precious myth that creative work is the result of lone artists, but it’s far from the truth. Nothing as big as a play gets built by one person.
For THE BUTCHER in particular, that under-acknowledged truth seems particularly important. This is a play about multiple perspectives coming into conflict (and, at times, into concert) with one another. Making those perspectives authentic and honest has required me to open my heart and mind to as many of those 200 different people as I could during the last nine years. Every conversation I’ve had about the play, every question I’ve been asked, and every bit of information that’s been shared with me has been of great use to the play. The generosity of those 200 collaborators has expanded my vision and enlarged the world of THE BUTCHER… and I could not possibly be any more grateful.