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A Conversation on THE STOWAWAY
With Trusty Sidekick Theater Company’s Drew Petersen (Artistic Director)
and CSC’s Kathleen Dorman (Associate Artistic Director, Education)
KD: Tell me a little about Trusty Sidekick, and your role there.
DP: Trusty Sidekick is a theater company that makes high quality work for children and their families from the ages of two to one hundred and two. It runs with the touchstone that children have no preconceived notions of what theater is, so we try to reimagine what the theater experience can be for young people. As Artistic Director, I help to mold and sculpt the season, overseeing all artistic programming. Specifically, I’ve performed in, written, project led, sound designed, and devised many of the shows.
KD: You do a little bit of everything! What was your reaction when you heard there was a possibility of a Shakespeare project?
DP: I was super jazzed about the company taking it on, particularly given that it felt new, but also like something we could do. This was one of the first times we knew we had to lean really heavily into source material, even without actually adapting it. We had to ask ourselves, “how do we stitch this icon, this massive body of work, into our show?” It’s a fun challenge!
KD: Tell me about the devising process and the script itself.
DP: Trusty works in a four phase sprint model with bursts of devising and then time off to mull over the content. The first phase will happen anywhere from eight months to two years before the project is actually meant to run. We’ll get in a room and kick around ideas. For this project, we played with language, Shakespearean plot lines, and art forms, like puppetry, and music. We’re not married to any of it. Phase two is a more targeted devising around certain moments or ideas, often involving the young people intended to be the audience. And then, phase three and four is the rehearsal and mounting of the first production of it. For The Stowaway, this process has led us to a Frankensteined version of multiple Shakespearean comedies, like Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors.
KD: And many others.
DP: Yes, it pulls from every play we possibly could grab language from, and injects it into the world of the show. Our script floats from contemporary dialogue to people breaking into Shakespearean lines.
KD: Which is what I love about it. My hope for the project is that the next time kids encounter Shakespeare, it won’t feel foreign or challenging. Speaking of: can you talk a little bit about the children’s influence on your work?
DP: The young people are treated as dramaturgs of the show. We’re very transparent with them; we’ll ask for design, content, and character ideas. There’s always a moment of massive “AHA” where a young person brings something to it, where you think “that’s such a better idea than what we had as adults!” The kids are integral.
KD: They really are. Having observed the workshops you did with kids early on in the process, I must say it’s a rewarding moment when they are so eager to contribute to whatever it is that you’re offering. They’re so on top of it that they’re a step ahead of you.
DP: If we ever don’t know, we ask the kids. Across the board those workshops were awesome!
KD: I agree. I’m really looking forward to having those kids – and all the others who will be joining us – see the final product.