Detour: The Play!

In her latest An Artistic Director Prepares column, Joanie Schultz debuts a new play at a festival, about a new play festival.

published Friday, February 23, 2018




Scene: A festival. Not a new play festival, an old-school festival, the kind that they sang about in Into the Woods. A ball, if you will. 1 and 2, dressed in formal gowns, finish dancing and sit down at their table, where they take sips of their wine.

Characters: 1 and 2 are both different Joanies. In a cartoon way, they are wearing ball gowns that are almost identical but 1 is in pink, and 2 is in green.

Note: This entire play might be better if you picture it as a cartoon. Maybe.


1: So, here we are at a festival.

2: Yes!

1: And you brought me here because you want to write a play about a new work festival.

2: Yes.

1: But you don’t write plays.

2: True.

1: But you thought it would be a good idea to spend this month’s column writing a play.

2: Exactly.

1: Okay.

2: …

1: …

2: …

1: So now what?

2: I guess we should talk, you know, dialogue about the festival. Huh. Get it?

1: That’s not going to make this a play. That’s going to make it a dialogue. It will be like reading Plato, not like reading a play.

2: Okay, so I’ll add some action. (2 smacks 1 across the face) Better?

1: (touching sore cheek) Yeah, okay. Fine. So, tell me about the festival.

2: Oh! It’s called The Detour Festival of New Work. It’s the first time we’ve ever done it, there are 4 new plays and 3 new devised works along with 2 late night shows. It’s part of our renewed effort to support artists in their creations of new work for the stage!

1: Great, so I could read that on the website (turns out to the audience) (Turns back to 1) Tell me something I don’t know, like, why a festival?

(They look around, the DJ changes to the next song—Madonna’s Holiday, tons of people are on the dance floor now.)

2: (Duh.) Festivals are fun.

1: And?

2: And, there’s an energy in a festival that you don’t get when you just do an occasional reading of a new play. Take, for instance, the difference between us dancing in the kitchen, or dressing up and coming here to dance with hundreds of other people.

1: I like dancing in the kitchen.

2: So do I, that’s not the point, the point is—

1: I thought that was our thing.

2: Kitchen dancing is amazing, I love it, just like I love to see readings and showings of new work, but at a festival it’s more special, it’s an event, and with these other people doing it with us there’s communion that comes with that. We are going to have around 100 artists working at WaterTower over the weekend of the Detour Festival. That’s a party!

1: Okay, I see what you mean. And?

2: And it gives the audience a weekend to experience and celebrate all sorts of new work and these artists in one big swoop!

1: And?

2: Because live theatre only exists with an audience present, no artist can truly create their work without an audience present. The audience who comes on to Detour is part of the creation of these art works and their presence will live within them as they go on!

1: And?

2: (2 smacks 1 across the face)

1: What was that for?

2: Action.

1: (Rolls eyes). Okay, then. What do you think that the artists themselves get out of a festival?

2: We’re connecting theatre creators with each other during this festival. We are cross pollinating our space with artists of different disciplines, mixing local and nationally known artists together, and bringing together work that might be in conversation. We should have named it the Dialogue Festival because our hope has been that the artists will see each other’s work, connect, socialize, and be inspired by each other and our festival audience.

1: Well—

2: There’s just something, in my experience, so refreshing about going to a new work festival. The plays are so alive with the spirit of newness, the performances are full of adrenaline and excitement. You talk about the work and what you thought of it between each performance, it’s thrilling. Every single thing that happens at Detour will be new, an experiment of sorts, and everyone in the room gets to be part of that laboratory.

1: So is it a party or a laboratory?

2: It’s a festival.

1: …

2: Festivals traditionally are celebrations of something like a harvest, right? This festival is about artists producing a new crop of work. But there’s also rehearsals leading up to these showings and the showings themselves that are helping the artists grow these works. The audience is getting a sneak peak of them before they have world premieres, and celebrating the fact that we as a community are producing exciting new work now.

1: Why do you keep calling it new work?

2: Because this isn’t really just a new play festival. We are also supporting new devised work, dance, documentary theatre, performance art, and music. The most exciting theatre doesn’t necessarily start with the written world.

1: And why did you name it Detour?

2: “As far as ‘detours’ are concerned, they’re always more interesting than the main road” –Mary Kelly. We are veering off from our main road and doing something a little more interesting. The work at the Detour Festival isn’t going to be as polished, finished, or produced as the work we do on our mainstage, but it will be live, exciting, and some of it will be remarkable theatrical experiences that could never be reproduced. And some of it might lead to work that ends up on our mainstage, people can see it now and see how it grows into a full production later!

1: But will there be ice cream?

2: (Smiles) There might be, we’re working on it.

(1 smacks 2 across the face)

2: What was that for?

1: Rule of 3. Like they do in plays.

2: Right. I guess I asked for that.  

(David Bowie’s Let’s Dance plays)

2: Shall we get back to the festival?) 

(1 finishes her glass of wine and they get up and go back to the dance floor)


End of Play



» An Artistic Director Prepares runs on the last Friday of the month in TheaterJones.






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Detour: The Play!
In her latest An Artistic Director Prepares column, Joanie Schultz debuts a new play at a festival, about a new play festival.
by Joanie Schultz

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