Third Time’s the Charm?

By Mark Rigney, playwright:

Conventional wisdom still insists that the only thing harder than getting a play produced is getting it produced a second time. In the case of Bears, the first two productions more or less dropped into my lap, but generating that coveted third production has proven to be a Herculean task.

Bears deals with the collisions between human civilization and humanity’s oldest friend, Mother Nature. In drafting the play, it struck me that dramatizing our ever shifting “climate change” landscape might be best done from a non-human perspective. Others seemed to agree: Bears quickly won favor at Northern Michigan University (it won the Panowksi Playwriting Prize), and then with a fledgling troupe in NYC, Sans A Productions, who staged the play off Broadway at 59e59 to very favorable reviews.

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photo (c) Ashlee Springer

I was already in my forties by the time all this transpired, and I knew better than to make assumptions. Even so, I figured that with Bears, I had written a theatrical slam dunk. The play had topical comedy, a small cast, and a fun conceit: actors who play bears but wear no makeup or any sort of bear costume. Besides, it had a terrific pedigree right out of the gate. Even so, and despite my best efforts, Bears has led an essentially quiet life.

The competition, of course, is fierce (as it should be). There’s no shortage of environmentally themed plays in the production pipeline, and this is heartening, especially as we advance toward our next presidential election with recent accords in Paris and China hanging, as if from high cliffs, on the outcome. It seems that science, even more than the arts, remains controversial.

All the more reason, then, for me (and others) to keep our focus on so-called “green” themes. Not to the point of exclusivity, of course––that would be stifling, the opposite of art––but the dramatis personae of the international political scene insists that we keep our voices raised. Not to bray, no (noisome complaint isn’t art, either), but to keep theater at the center of our society’s most healthy, most necessary debates.

I have no doubt that Bears will one day take the stage again, along with, I hope, a few of my other green-tinged plays (Nightjars and Burning Mona Lisa In the Reptile House among them, both available here at ITN). I look forward, too, to the continued efforts of others––playwright Chantal Bilodeau, for example, and her ongoing Arctic Cycle.

“Write about what bothers you,” that’s what I advise my (admittedly infrequent) students––and that’s where Bears came from. Very likely that’s where all worthy creative practice begins. And then sometimes, when we’re very fortunate, those projects get noticed. They find a home, or a second––or even a third.

Onward.

Learn more about Bears on Indie Theater Now.