The Cause Retrospective

 

We are now a little over a week removed from The Cause’s World Premiere, so I thought that I would take a little bit of time and write up a retrospective about the show and the process in creating it. In the next couple days, I’ll make a separate post that not only groups things that I’ve written involving the titular Cause, but I’m also going to be posting a brand new comic script that shows what Jo did the summer before The Cause begins. That was a question that came up multiple times, so I went ahead and wrote a short comic to resolve the mystery. Also, I’ll be posting scenes from the play for anyone that missed the show and would be interested in reading some of it. I’ve put the retrospective after the jump in case it gets a little long.

Overall, I could not be happier with how the show turned out. This was a new experience for me in a lot of ways but specifically being commissioned to write a show and writing a show for and about high school teenagers. When (Mr.) Miller first approached me about writing the fall show, the first thing that I was sure of was that I wanted to write a show that focused on characters who were high school aged. When I was in drama at Rich East High School and in college at IWU, I always played older characters in every show that I was in. But when I entered the world of professional theater I started being cast in roles that were very close to my age or younger, something that I had to adjust to. This is something that is true of professional theater, because theaters will not cast a 24 year old to play a 45 year old – they’ll just cast an actor in his 40’s. I took this into consideration and about 80 percent of the show were characters that were in high school like the people who would be playing them.

The story was one that I had thought of previously but had never developed until Miller and I discussed what the show should be about. Previously I had come up with the idea of a clandestine organization that used assassins and other means to destabilize countries, an organization that came to be known as “The Cause”. I had written two short comics about this organization, referred to simply as The Company within the comics, and had plans to develop it further and include a boarding school which would be the training ground for the next generation of killers. From that loose idea, it eventually grew and developed over the last 7 months into the play that was performed last weekend.

The development process of the show was something that I think worked really well. If I could go back and do it again, I would have started work on the first draft of the show much sooner than I did because the time crunch that I found myself in with that first draft really impaired the quality of that script. I knew the basic story that I wanted to tell, but I hadn’t figured out the how or why of many of the beats and hadn’t left myself any time to actually work on those. As a result, the first draft was a very rough script that required quite an extensive re-write. The second and third drafts, which were written and developed with notes from Miller and Jesse (my wife/the show’s set designer), were so much stronger and better. Some of my favorite characters from the play (Mrs. Storm and Vince to name two) did not exist until the second draft of the show and it wasn’t until the third draft that Mason and the Headmaster’s verbal battle for the soul of the school at the end of Act Two really clicked and became one of the highlights of the show for me. In all, I was extremely pleased with how the script turned out by the premiere of the show, though I do wish that I had gotten the script off to a much stronger start.

On opening night, this quote was put up on the Facebook page for Warren Township Theater:

“All the best performers bring to their role something more, something different than what the author put on paper. That’s what makes theatre live. That’s why it persists.” – Stephen Sondheim.

Originally I had joked with Mr. Miller about putting such a quote up when he knew I was going to be in attendance that night, but honestly this quote sums up what I am most proud of with this show. And that is the fact that the performances by the students of Warren Township High School were so solid and so wholly unique that the show became something truly magical for me. Every single character, no matter how small the part, was unique and interesting and fully formed. The ensemble all added brilliantly to the presentation and brought a real sense of depth to scenes and the world of the play, not to mention the tremendous job that they did executing the melee in Act 2 as designed by Patrick Dunham. And most characters now will forever in my mind be linked to these students and their dynamic performances. Cody will always be Lars when I picture him, ditto for Phil/Max, Brian/Tony, Tony/Cyp, and Gwen/Brynne. And Abi and Evan’s performances have elevated Mrs. Gray and Alpha for me that those characters are now going to be very important in the stories I write in this world going forward. And of course, there’s the tremendous work that Tyler, Josh, Ethan, and Makayla did on this show. The four leads for this show are all very involved and difficult characters, and these actors did a tremendous job with them. Without a ton of time to rehearse and prepare, and having to deal with multiple script changes as well, all of the actors in this show did a wonderful job with it and really brought the show to life.

My favorite experiences on this show were working directly with Miller and the students and just talking about the show and their characters with them. I really enjoyed being able to discuss the show and give my thoughts with them, and I really appreciated the opportunity to do that. I want to thank Adam Miller and Warren Township again for giving me this opportunity and for really getting behind this quirky show about a high school rebellion against a supervillain boarding school. I had a wonderful time working on this show from beginning to end, and I hope that those who saw the show enjoyed it as well.

Keep an eye on the website as I’m going to be sharing scripts that take place in the same world as The Cause, as well as a “prequel” of sorts that details what Jo did during the summer. I’ll be posting scenes from The Cause as well, and after all of that is up I’m going to be posting details on my next big project – a graphic novel about the last cop of Hell who has to rescue a woman from Lucifer’s army. I’m going to be posting about my process working on that comic, so I’ll have my plotting info and the first couple scripts of that story on here for people to read.

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