7,000 Cotton Balls


“The only thing I care about in the first production is that the stage is covered with cotton balls.” – Morgan McGuire, Playwright – Tanner and the cotton.

The event of the play centers around an act of vandalism. Two students have placed a lot of cotton balls and signs that read “Cotton Picker” in front of a dorm whose residents are predominantly African American. That is the inciting incident that kicks off the action of the play. To have its impact – theatrically we want to see this. Seeing it strengthens the audience’s ability to engage in the ongoing discussion about the intention behind the event and the actions required to hold the students accountable.

7,000 Cotton Balls fell from the sky! They covered the stage floor and steps of the dorm. It was quite impactful. Moments like this illustrate the value of a full production in the development of a script. We are able to feel the impact of a theatcbp_6222tannercbpick-2rical moment that the story turns on. There are many ways to address something. And over the next couple of productions I am sure that the
cotton ball drop will be finessed or done in a different way to match the ideas of the physical productions at the other schools. But seeing it – helps strengthen the commitment to the impact the act has and the need to see it for the success of the argument that motivates the play.



Also, the play takes place today so there is a lot of technology used by the students. They live stream the protest and FaceTime with family members. This technology was utilized in the production very effectively. The production also built off of this element to include slides of images of civil rights protests from Fifty years ago – and today. These images lifted the play out of a discussion of one incident on one campus to being part of a national discussion.

The development process of a play is always much greater through getting to realize the physical life of the play. Moving it beyond the ‘reading’. I am so grateful to our partner schools that commit to the process of fully producing a play that it is yet to be written. The commitment of everyone – director, actor, designer, crew, stage managers, all -give the play and playwright the  security and foundation to be able to grow as much as possible. Each artist’s investment strengthens the play and lives in it as it grows.

I look forward to watching the development of all aspects of Tanner and the Cotton. It is off to a very good start!

Talk with you soon.