Fort Worth — Most of these Work in Progress essays have covered plays that have been workshopped and developed in DFW. I get to talk to the artists in the middle of the process, before the project is complete and all problems have been resolved. I assumed that a similar story would be found when I interviewed Aaron Mark, the playwright of Deer. Stage West is producing the world premiere of this play, and I was intrigued because I have never heard of this writer. I didn’t know if he was local or an emerging playwright, but the following conversation I had with Mark affirmed that there’s no one clear path to getting a play produced.
Aaron Mark grew up in Houston, attending theatre and classes as the notable Theatre Under the Stars. Instead of taking the typical route of going to college and majoring in theatre, Mark decided to move directly to New York City after high school to start his career working in the theatre. He began by assistant directing numerous musicals. Mark mused about his past ambitions, “I was on a path to become a director of musicals.” He’s most known as a director, and has a notable amount of credits in the city.
But something changed as Mark began to take an interest in writing plays… weird plays, as he says. Deer was inspired by real events; a couple of Mark’s friends were driving in a wooded area when they suddenly hit a deer. It completely changed their night because the animal was not quite dead yet—one of them would have to kill it. Mark was fascinated by that situation. “Who is going to do it? What does it reveal about the dynamics of their relationship? What would it catalyze in their relationship? I was intrigued by the intensity of that moment.”
Deer is unusual from a development standpoint… because it has already been published. Even before a single production of the play had occurred. That is interesting…and almost unheard of.
The play did not simply drop into his mind and into the publishing house, as Mark spent some time on his own creating this new work. He had some closed readings with a few collaborators to develop the play (including the woman who hit the real deer). The first scene was written fairly quickly, and he developed the rest over a couple of years.
In the meantime, Mark gained success with his play Empanada Loca at Labyrinth Theatre (which he also directed and featured Daphne Rubin-Vega). Mark has served as writer and director for many of his projects, allowing a sort of “tailoring” as Mark describes it. He can write the characters for his collaborators, which he has done for many of his plays.
After the success of Empanada Loca, Dramatists Play Service decided to publish it, and they asked if Mark had any other plays to consider for publication. He submitted Deer along with another play, and Dramatists selected the two-hander about a couple hitting an innocent animal. Then, a copy of the play was sent to Stage West, and they selected it for their season.
I can’t help but feel just a little bit of envy.
Can I get an “amen” from another playwright?
Mark notes that it is strange that this is the first time he will see one of his plays produced by another theatre company, it is particularly odd that he has never seen the play on its feet yet at all. Mark notes that it’s a different experience to have a work published “before the problems have been solved.” He’s talked with director Garret Storms about the piece, mainly to discuss the physical business in the play. He’s eager to see what Stage West has done with the play when he arrives this weekend.
» Shelby-Allison Hibbs is a Dallas-based teaching artist, playwright, director, performer and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. In her Work in Progress column, she'll have conversations with playwrights, theatermakers, directors, designers, dramaturgs and others involved in the process of realizing new work from page to stage as she explores new plays and musicals being developed/created by theaters of all budget sizes in North Texas.
PREVIOUS WORK IN PROGRESS COLUMNS
- Len Jenkin's Jonah at Undermain Theatre (April 15, 2016)
- David Lozano and Lee Trull's Deferred Action in a co-production between Dallas Theater Center and Cara Mía Theatre Company (April 28, 2016)
- Janielle Kastner's Ophelia Underwater, presented by The Tribe at Margo Jones Theatre (May 11, 2016)
- Caridad Svich's De Troya, a developmental reading presented by Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth (May 13, 2016)
- Steve Yockey's Blackberry Winter and The Thrush and the Woodpecker in Kitchen Dog Theater's 18th New Works Festival at Undermain Theatre (May 18, 2016)
- Stefany Cambra's Finding Myself in Bed from Proper Hijinx (June 1, 2016)
- Acoustic Nerves/Therefore, a collaboration by Dean Terry and University of Texas at Dallas artists, at the Texas Theatre (June 9, 2016)
- Checking in with playwright Jonathan Norton (July 22, 2016)
- Lake Simons and John Dyer's visual theater adaptation of Don Quixote at Hip Pocket Theatre (Aug. 6, 2016)
- The Third Dallas One-Minute Play Festival, presented by One-Minute Play Festival and Kitchen Dog Theater (Aug. 8, 2016)
- Justin Locklear's Dreamless at the Ochre House (Aug. 15, 2016)
- Jeff Swearingen's Old McDonald's Farm: A Children's Fable about the Obama Presidency at Fun House Theatre and Film (Aug. 17, 2016)
- Iv Amenti's Deep Remembrance Project in the Deep Ellum Unplugged series (Sept. 13, 2016)
- Jessica Cavanagh's Self Injurious Behavior, as a staged reading, performed at Theatre Three's Theatre Too! (Sept. 15, 2016)
- Kirsten Childs' Bella: An American Tall Tale at Dallas Theater Center, a co-production with New York's Playwrights Horizons (Sept. 22, 2016)
- Katy Tye's movement theater piece Midas, presented by PrismCo at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center (Oct. 4, 2016)
- Wild, Wicked, Wyrd: Fairytale Time by Maryam Obaidullah Baig, Michael Federico and John M. Flores, presented by the Drama Club (Oct. 23, 2016)
- Day Light by Bruce R. Coleman, presented by Theatre Three (Nov. 21, 2016)
- Holy Bone by Thomas Riccio and Dead White Zombies (Feb. 12, 2017)