This year marked Olney Theatre Center’s second annual internal showcase. As OTC plans for the 2020-2021 Season, the internal showcase is a chance for the artistic staff to hear some of the plays under consideration. Part of the season is already set, but there are several openings that have yet to be decided. After spending several months reading potential plays, the artistic staff narrowed down the list to seven and brought these plays to the internal showcase.
Each member of OTC’s artistic staff—Artistic Director Jason Loewith, Senior Associate Artistic Director Jason King Jones, Associate Artistic Director of Music Theatre Christopher Youstra, Associate Artistic Director/Casting Director Jenna Duncan, Director of Production Josianne Jones, Casting and Artistic Apprentice Gabriela Schulman, and Dramaturgy Apprentice Sarah Kiker— chose one of the seven plays under consideration and acted as an advocate for the play. They selected a portion of the play to be read at the showcase, researched the production history of the play, and prepared discussion topics.
Members of the OTC community attended the event, including staff, actors, National Players, and board members. The showcase lasted from 10 a.m to 6 p.m., so the audience for each of the readings was slightly different as people came and went. Each advocate had an hour to present and discuss their play. They started by introducing the play and gave a summary of the plot and characters. Then, a few people in the audience stood and read through a 20-25 minute excerpt of the play.
A discussion of the play filled the rest of the hour. Those in attendance shared reactions to the excerpt, asked questions about the story, raised concerns, and expressed excitement about possibilities within the play. Several questions repeated in each of the discussions: Is this a story OTC wants to tell? Is this a story that’s relevant and meaningful for the community? Does this play uphold OTC’s standard for diversity, equality, and inclusion?
The showcase makes it possible for the artistic staff to not only hear the play read out loud, but also to hear the thoughts and reactions of the community. A few members of the audience shared their thoughts on the event:
“Personally, I find it thrilling to be in the room and am so grateful Jason [Loewith] makes this part of the season-curation process. Professionally, this is a really valuable form of inclusion that donors, particularly grant-makers, value. On grant applications, we're often asked about how our programs are designed (for us, that mostly translates to season planning) and how the community is involved. This is just one of the initiatives we brag about when we answer that one. When we state our mission, vision, and values as an organization, we are setting a very high bar for ourselves. As a fundraiser, it's especially heartening to be able to point to specific ways we reach it.” —Maureen McNeill, Director of Development
“I think this is one of the most interesting and fun events we do internally. It is great to see actors and staff members bring to life the written word.The discussions afterwords are so honest and intimate.” —Weldon Brown, Sales Director
“Hearing the artistic director, artistic staff and other actors discuss what work should be brought to the community, considering different races, ethnicities and preferences and saying, ‘What is our responsibility in this community as producers of theater?’ It was very inspiring and made me very proud to be part of their season now for the last three years.” —Rhett Guter, currently starring as Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain, from an interview with WTOP
“Getting to sit in on this year’s Internal Showcase was such a great experience! It is this kind of event that sets OTC apart from the rest. The Internal Showcase allows people of differing artistic backgrounds and perspectives to voice their opinions on the coming season.”—Ella Gatlin, high school student and New Voices Student Program Coordinator
Both years it has taken place, the internal showcase has significantly altered the artistic staff’s season-planning discussion. As OTC works to build a well-rounded and meaningful season, the conversations from the internal showcase are an invaluable part of that process.