The following post was written by Artistic Literary Intern Maggie Rogers
You may have seen on the press and website for Come From Away the phrase “presented in association with La Jolla Playhouse.” But what does this actually mean? This is something called a co-production, or co-pro for short, meaning that two or more theatres decide to take artistic and fiscal responsibility for making a production happen together. This is a process which involves many people and takes place over many years. To fully understand how a co-pro works, it is important to know how the seed of an idea for such a project is planted. After talking to Elisabeth Farwell-Moreland, Producing Director at SRT, it is only right that we start our story with Kenny Alhadeff.
In 2013 Kenny Alhadeff, a lifelong SRT patron, New York producer, and Seattle native– he was actually here for the first opening night at SRT of King Lear in 1963 – saw the workshop of Come From Away at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) Festival. He was incredibly taken with the show and brought it to Jerry Manning and Ben Moore at SRT. He is also on the Board at The 5th Avenue Theatre, a prominent musical theatre institution in Seattle, and knows a great show when he sees one.
Since Kenny has the musical theatre connections, he brought the show here in the summer of 2014 for a two week workshop with The 5th, with Seattle Rep hosting the second week of the workshop. At this point Christopher Ashley, the show’s director and Artistic Director of La Jolla, was already on board as Kenny had worked with him on Memphis, which originated at La Jolla Playhouse. After this very successful workshop, SRT sat down with La Jolla and agreed to co- produce with them. Not only did Braden Abraham and Christopher Ashley hit it off, but they had the same artistic vision for how the show should feel and how to develop the script further with the playwrights.
Since La Jolla has the experience in producing new musicals, Memphis and Jersey Boys both getting their start at the theatre, it only made since for the production to begin in California. The show went up in La Jolla knowing that two of the actors and two of the understudies would be recast as Seattle actors to give both cities opportunity to include actors from their communities. We agreed and were thrilled to use the incredible designers Ashley works with often who have experience with new musicals.
After a successful debut run in July 2015 – extended twice due to popular demand – the set and costumes were put into storage. In late October the actors, designers, and set and costumes – which were driven by truck from California – travelled to SRT to begin a two- and- a- half week week rehearsal process which included rewrites of the script. Actors new to the show were put in and the veteran cast got the opportunity to fine tune the show. Playwrights David Hein and Irene Sankoff were in residence, making daily rewrites and witnessing the play’s continued evolution. At the same time, La Jolla’s set was put into the Bagley Wright theatre space. Fun fact: When a designer knows that they are developing a set for a co-pro, they create a plan to fit seamlessly into both spaces.
When talking with Elisabeth about how a co-pro works, she made it very clear that both theatres are in on every decision. For the Rep, it marked the beginning of a strong artistic partnership with La Jolla Playhouse. Seeing the sense of community written in the show is not only evident with the characters on stage but all the hardworking people who made it happen.
Make sure to catch Come From Away in the Bagley Wright Theatre before it’s gone! Find more information about the production and reserve your tickets on our website.