Jerry Rapier

Last December, as I was finalizing our 2017/18 season, I started thinking about the unique needs and opportunities of Jenifer Nii’s THE WEIRD PLAY and Austin Archer’s JUMP.

And then I started thinking about the exciting work I was seeing from Sackerson and Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory.

And then I started thinking how rewarding it has been for us over the years to co-produce work with KUER, Art Access and NOVA Chamber Music Series.

And then I started thinking about how rewarding these co-productions have been because they were focused on artistry and audience development rather than sharing production costs.

And then I talked to Dave/Alex/Morag of Sackerson and Scott/Andra of Flying Bobcat: “The productions are funded. What we want is your points-of-view. How would you like to come play with us?” And two co-productions were born. .

Jenifer Nii’s THE WEIRD PLAY (March 1-11) asks: Whom do you love? What do you love? And why? The play lives in the space between romance and devotion and is funded in part by a national grant that we can’t make public until early in the new year but we can tell you only ten plays nationwide have been so honored.

Austin Archer’s JUMP  (April 5-15) asks: How will you die? Will you see it coming? What if you’re given a second chance? The play explores the impact of survival on those we love and is funded in part by The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists.

See both plays for only $35 with the purchase of a Mini Season – simply click here.

I asked Jenifer/Alex/Dave/Morag/Austin/Scott/Andra to share their thoughts as we embark on these journeys in the new year. Read on and see you at the theatre!

Jerry Rapier, Plan-B Theatre

Jenifer Nii

“I’m a lucky lady. Plan-B is my creative home, and the core of my theatre family. It has given me every opportunity to grow and improve, which is exemplified by THE WEIRD PLAY.

This is the first production I’ve worked on with a theatre company other than Plan-B. When Jerry proposed the idea of a co-production, with Alex directing, I was at once really excited and really scared. I’m notoriously – and almost debilitatingly – averse to change, and this play was already a big risk for me. It’s different from anything I’ve ever done, putting into play every aspect of theatre I’ve been afraid of taking on. However, I soon realized what a great opportunity I’d been given to work with one of the most adventurous companies in town, one that has from its inception pushed past convention into the fantastic. And I realized how cool it would be to work with and learn from Sackerson, because THE WEIRD PLAY is my own attempt to step boldly and embrace risk. It’s gonna be a wild ride, and I’m excited to be in such great company. Plan-B has given me the chance to work on a wild project, with a different team, in an environment in which I feel both safe and free.” – Jenifer Nii, playwright, THE WEIRD PLAY (her 6th world premiere with Plan-B)

Dave Mortensen

“What interests me most about co-producing this show with Plan-B is the opportunity to mix creative pallettes. Plan-B has a long history of producing great work in this community. As a new player in the city I find it exciting to work within their space and production model. We’re given a glimpse into how they approach creating art and building an audience, and we get to share what insight we’ve gathered as well.” – Dave Mortensen, Sackerson

Morag Shepherd

“When I first heard Jenifer Nii’s THE WEIRD PLAY in the Plan-B Lab, I wanted to eat it. It’s the kind of theatre that I am interested in, and can stay with for a long time. So, the opportunity arose to co-produce it with Plan-B, I was more than thrilled. One of the things that Alex is good at doing is playing with a text – so THE WEIRD PLAY, combined with the talent of the actors and the Plan-B space, is such an opportunity for us, and I’m full of anticipation to see the result.” – Morag Shepherd, Sackerson

Alex Ungerman

“I could not be more excited to be working on Jenifer’s script. Sackerson focuses on new works, unconventional spaces, and bold audiences – and I feel like Jen’s script hits all three of these in really interesting ways.

This story is fresh and relevant – and although the style is symbolic and abstract, the themes in this show are firmly grounded in current social conversations that will resonate deeply with local audiences. No one in Utah produces new works with more skill and dexterity than Plan-B, and we feel really lucky to be co-producing a script that the Plan-B Lab has meticulously nurtured and developed.

While Sackerson has often worked in atypical staging locations in the past, co-producing this show with Plan-B allows us the unique opportunity to create an unconventional space inside the flexible Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner. Halee Rasmussen’s set design does a beautiful job creating a highly discrete space-within-the-space that is both claustrophobic and expansive.

Lastly, Jen’s script accomplishes something that both Plan-B and Sackerson ask from our audiences: risk-taking. This script ask a bold audience to actively interpret its rich symbolism and intricate complexity. The reward is a rich emotional journey.” – Alex Ungerman, Sackerson | Director, THE WEIRD PLAY

Austin Archer

“Former Davey Foundation grant winner Carleton Bluford brought me to tears with his play MAMA at Plan-B a few years before JUMP was selected for the same grant. It wasn’t just that Bluford is a dear friend and I was beaming with pride, it wasn’t just the beauty of his words and the lovely sentiment he showed for mothers everywhere (I mean it was those things), but the play closed with a song David Fetzer had written for his mother before his death, and that really was the blow that broke my emotional dam. I was moved by the reality of a living legacy for this kind and generous artist taken far too soon. I am so honored to have my play added to that living legacy, and I couldn’t be happier with the approach Plan-B is taking with it. Jerry’s decision to collaborate with Flying Bobcat was a genius move that I believe will really make the play take flight. Andra Harbold and Robert Scott Smith aren’t only friends of mine, they’re also a team I’ve previously worked with to create two devised pieces. We have a knowledge of each others’ artistic vocabulary. I trust their vision and their commitment to finding solutions through imagination and good old-fashioned play. If the few conversations I’ve had with them discussing ideas for the show are any indication they are going to blow this whole thing wide open and create something more bold and thrilling than anything I could have done on my own. And hopefully it will be a worthy addition to the legacy of David Fetzer!” – Austin Archer, Playwright, JUMP

Alexandra Harbold

Connessione. When Robert Scott Smith and I first began devising work together at The Leonardo, we were hunting for inspiration and working methods and happened upon Michael J. Gelb’s How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. The da Vinci principles have become a divining stick of sorts, a way for us to navigate and dig deeper into the layers of the work. When Jerry invited us to co-produce Austin’s JUMP, connessione, my totem animal of the principles, lit up strong and bright. Gelb defines connessione as “a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena (systems thinking).” This speaks to this powerful act of collaboration and co-producing work; suddenly, the patterns and possibilities come to the fore. Disparate points become constellations.

JUMP is sinuous and capable of effortless time travel. It stirs up questions of how we metabolize loss and grief, what it means to be yoked into someone else’s experience, interdependent – what it means to take the responsibility/burden/choice to take someone else’s wellbeing upon ourselves – or to step away when that weight becomes unbearable. The contracts of love we keep and break. Our dueling impulses to calculate/mitigate risk while hungering for an experience of absolute transcendence. Connessione.

Our thanks to Plan-B Theatre, the David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists and playwright Austin Archer.” – Alexandra Harbold, Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory | Co-Director, JUMP

Robert Scott Smith

“If you’d asked me five years ago where I’d see my career, I never would have expected to have a theatre company, or that I’d be an assistant professor, or that I would be a successful actor living in SLC. That was not the plan. However, five years ago when I first asked Alexandra Harbold to collaborate with me on the POP-UP@LEO series at The Leonardo, I’d secretly been dreaming of this type of work for what seemed like a lifetime. That invitation led to the creation of three devised original works: SENSES 5, LOVE (our first collaboration with Austin Archer), and MIND|MATTER. This newfound collaboration stirred up our curiosity about forming an ongoing creative partnership and ultimately inspired us to form our own company, Flying Bobcat. Something must be working because once again we find ourselves with another invitation to collaborate. I was thrilled when Jerry approached us to co-produce Austin’s new play JUMP with Plan-B. We jumped at the chance (see what I did there?). Jerry has not only reunited Flying Bobcat with the amazingly talented Austin Archer he has also given us a platform to share our work with Plan-B’s audience.

Jerry asked me, ‘Why would you want to do this with Plan-B specifically?” Just look at what they’ve done as a company and you’d have to be insane not to. It’s almost unbelievable to imagine that Plan-B is the only professional theatre company in the country producing full seasons of new works by local playwrights. Artists supporting other artists. This is what David Fetzer was doing all along. With JUMP it feels like the perfect collaboration of companies working in tandem to give flight to Austin’s play.” – Robert Scott Smith, Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory | Co-Director, JUMP