The Commissioning Process

In the fall of 2012, Rumble Theatre rebooted its commissioning program with the intention of adapting established scripts to create new and contemporary Canadian plays. The first commissioned script, Indian Arm by Hiro Kanagawa, will have its world premiere this April at Studio 16 in Vancouver.

Are you curious as to how an existing script gets adapted to create a new script then gets produced on stage? Artistic Director Stephen Drover provides some insight into how it all works.

Rumble’s commissioning process starts with the selection of the source material. We consider classical texts from the world repertoire that we believe would be exciting and relevant if reimagined through a contemporary lens and a fresh perspective. This approach goes beyond staging a classical text with a modern vision (setting Hamlet in the offices of a multi-national corporation, for instance, or placing a steampunk spin on Oedipus Rex). Rather, it’s a new construction built from the ground up; the source material provides the core narrative and inspiration for a new play.

After the source play is selected, we approach a Canadian playwright—someone whose work we admire and whom we believe would “fit” with the project. We want to work with a playwright whose style and sensibility will illuminate the source narrative and who is keen to enter into a special exercise, one where the original yet absent playwright—be it Strindberg, Aeschylus or Ibsen—remains a partner in the playwriting process.

Over three years, a new play is commissioned, developed, and produced. The process involves the generation of multiple drafts of the script, workshops and staged reading with actors, and lots of planning. In the year the script is produced, we already have another commission underway, allowing us to premiere a new Canadian play every two years.

Commissioning and producing new Canadian adaptations of established plays allows us to generate new text-based work, to contribute in a special way to a canon of Canadian plays, and to work with exciting playwrights. Focusing on adaptations means tapping our collective memories and harnessing the stories of our forebears to reboot old stories—stories that still hold the potential to show us who we were and still are.

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