Production Blog

A behind the scenes peek at rehearsals, artistic choices, artist interviews, and the daily business of running a theatre.

A word with playwright Mat Smart about the inspiration

Q: The bottom of the world is an exciting and unfamiliar place to write about. It is certainly clear that your time in Antarctica influenced the setting and texture of your play The Royal Society of Antarctica, but what about your time there inspired the story you settled on telling and the characters that you wrote to inhabit your version of McMurdo Station?

A: One of the buildings I had to clean as a janitor at McMurdo Station was the Science Support Center.  From the second floor of that building, there was a stunning view of the Royal Societies – the majestic mountain range across the sound from the base.  At the SSC, they had great maps on the walls, and so I often looked at the names of the different peaks.  Also, a woman named Pam worked in the building – who had been coming to the Ice for twenty-something years.  I once asked her if anyone had been born at McMurdo and she said no, but there had been a close call one winter.  I believe all of these things came together to form a curiosity in me of: what would it be like to be born in the most inhospitable place on Earth?  

The Dead Seal, the dance move in the play, was inspired by two things I experienced at MacTown.  The dance that summer that took the base by storm was the Cat Puke.  Picture what a cat’s body does before it pukes – that’s pretty much the dance move.  But I wanted to come up with something very Antarctic-themed, so I meshed that idea together with the fact that there’s dead seals out on the mountaintops in the Dry Valleys.  

Tamara is based on a real life legendary jano that I was there with.  I got to share the play with her during a workshop at Portland Center Stage.  Before the reading, I explained to her that she was the inspiration with one big exception – that the character has a big problem with lying whereas my friend was incredibly honest (perhaps too honest).  She sat next to me during the reading and it was a blast.  Thankfully, she was honored.  She likes to be the life of the party.  

I interviewed a bunch of the scientists there, trying to find the most fascinating experiment and metaphor.  While so many of the projects are vital to understanding climate change, many of them are pretty dull.  I was amazed when I learned about the diatoms – the unicellular creatures that star in the play.  All of the science described is accurate.  It’s so far-fetched, I couldn’t have made it up.

The Biscuits and Honey Butter were amazing.  The best thing I’ve ever tasted.

Lastly, the Poop Chair was real.  And it was epic.  But thankfully, I didn’t have to clean it up.

Find out more about The Royal Society of Antarctica playwright

 

Stage West + FWISD !

Stage West made a commitment back in January with the Ghostlight Project to increase the ways that we give back to our community, especially those portions of our community that have been historically disadvantaged. We each started planting seeds.

While doing a College and Career Readiness Session with a lovely group of young women at Morningside Middle School back in February, our Marketing Director was approached to see if Stage West would be interested in participating in a similar summer program. Would we? Of course we would! How wonderful!

And finally it's time!

The FWISD IROC program (I’m Ready for the Opportunity of College!) is a summer camp facilitated by the Fort Worth ISD Academic Advisement Department. IROC! helps middle school students investigate their potential for college attendance and career exploration. The program involves visiting a variety of business environments as well as participating in local service projects. It has proven to help keep students on a college track, particularly among minority and first generation college students.

Our IROC! camp will be Thursday, July 6. In these interactive sessions, the staff at Stage West will offer students an overview of potential careers in the performance, technical, and business aspects of theater arts. Executive Producer Dana Schultes, actors Garret Storms and Mark Shum, Stage Manager Tiffany Cromwell, Education Manger Andrea Gonzales, Technical Director Natalie R. Mabry, and Marketing Director Jen Schultes will engage with over 100 8th grade students over the one day event. From Q&A sessions to improv games to branding basics, we have pledged to pull back the curtain on a world of careers in the arts and arts management spheres.

The participating students will be representing Leonard Middle School, Kirkpatrick Middle School, Meacham Middle School, Rosemont Middle School, Rosemont 6th, Daggett Middle School, Morningside Middle School, Forest Oak Middle School, Jacquet Middle School, William James Middle School, Meadowbrook Middle School and Handley Middle School.

We are so excited, We can't wait to share what we have learned in our careers, to help the younger generation achieve their dreams of college and careers, whatever path they take.

 

Some background on Sex With Strangers

Q: Laura Eason’s new script, Sex with Strangers, is one of the most produced plays in the nation at the moment. As Executive Producer, what about it struck you as being a great fit for Stage West? '

A: Balance is everything when planning a season, and I was immediately taken with the current relevance of Sex with Strangers alongside its strength as an interesting, dramatic and fun story. It's a two-actor piece with some nice twists that easily leaves audiences with something to discuss afterwards. Laura Eason's recent prominence as a writer and producer on the hit Netflix show House of Cards has also played a hand in the popularity of the play. She's a great writer, and it is difficult for any producer to resist a well-written play that satisfies audiences eager for a meaty story. On a personal level, I was taken by the character of Olivia Lago and knew I would want to play her. She is smart, sassy, and strong but also full of self-doubt and vulnerability. Furthermore, I knew this would be a perfect piece for former Stage West Artistic Director Jim Covault to rejoin our merry team for a bit as director. And of course, though I didn't know this at the time of season selection, we ended up with a primo team all around with Jake Buchanan playing Ethan Kane opposite me, supported by an outstanding technical and design team. Sex with Strangers is a fun, steamy, intelligent show that exemplifies a classic Stage West play.

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