Monday, April 16, 2012

I Interview Artistic Directors Part 8: Hal Brooks

Hal Brooks

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA (Elkins Park).

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about the Cape Cod Theater Project.

A:  Now in its 18th year - CCTP has developed almost 60 plays, 44 of which have gone on to have further productions (one on Broadway, many Off Broadway). We develop one play a week each week in July. The actors, playwright and director arrive on Sunday, rehearsing Mon-Sat. Each Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, there is a presentation and talkback. Playwrights can then do re-writes Friday and Saturday, and rehearse them, for that evening's presentation. We have a very sophisticated audience and their participation in talkbacks has been instrumental in CCTP's success.

Q:  How do you create your season?

A:  This was my first time - so I am certain I will learn a lot once the season is up and running. I received about 200 applications this year. I created a reading committee, divvied up the scripts and read a bunch of plays on my own. Based on the readers's reports, and my own tastes, I weeded that list down to 10 plays and decided on four works from that. I attempted to find playwrights at varying stages in their careers and scripts that I thought were at varying levels of development. Of the four "mainstage" shows, I chose plays that are very different stylistically. I am really happy that Mike Daisey will be coming up to work on what's next. CCTP has been a real home for him. And Neil LaBute's play, The Money Shot, is a hilarious read. I can't wait to see it up on its feet. I've gotten to know Bess Wohl at Ojai Playwrights Conference: I watched her do amazing rewrites on her play, Barcelona, so I know she is game for development time. Josh Allen's play, Chrysalis, was totally unusual: fun, smart, scary, dark. I can't wait to hear the audience's reactions.

Ultimately, I wanted to choose a season that I hope will do two things very well: allow playwrights to further develop their plays, and excite our audiences to be part of the development process. Definitely, a longstanding goal is to choose plays that go on and have successful productions. I also initiated a playwright residency. I've invited Meghan Kennedy whose play Too Much, Too Much, Too Many I love, as well as two playwrights I've worked with (Sharr White and Mona Mansour) to come up and work on new pieces.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as an artist or as a person.

A:  I played Barney O'Toole, an elderly Irishman, in my fifth grade production of "Show Biz Iz". That should say it all.

Q:  If you could change one thing about the Cape Cod Theater Project, what would it be?

A:  For what I want to do at Cape Cod Theatre Project, I really need to find more housing options. In Falmouth, there is no boarding school (like there is in Ojai) or dormitories (like at NY Stage and Film) so we really rely on the kindness of donors. We are therefore limited in the number of projects we can do at anytime. This year, I am going to initiate a writer-in-residence program so that way at least we'll have more than one playwright up at a time. In my ideal world, we'd be able to have multiple productions there, and a real festival weekend each July, where we could invite industry to see a host of new plays.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Whatever I am working on, especially new play development.

Q:  What plays or playwrights are you excited about now?

A:  That would be telling. But for starters, the playwrights that I've worked with: Sam Hunter, Mona Mansour, Will Eno; and the playwrights that I am going to work with: Alena Smith.

Q:  What do you aspire to in your work?

A:  Creating a home, full of creative people doing innovative work.

Q:  What advice do you have for theater artists wishing to work at CCTP?

A:  Apply! And let me know about your work: your readings, your workshops, your rough drafts. AND COME VISIT!

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