“Treehouse” will make its world premiere on August 10 at Cottage Theatre as part of the American Association of Community Theatre’s 2018 NewPlayFest. Director Tera Wibrew answered questions about her debut at Cottage Theatre and why people should see the show.
What’s your history with Cottage Theatre?
This is my first Cottage Theatre show. I’ve seen a lot of shows there and worked with people who worked there but this is my first time directing there. I’m the associate producer at Oregon contemporary theatre and have been directing professionally since 2013. I’ve been directing, generally, since I was about 15-years-old so I’ve been at it a little bit now. My masters is actually focused on new play development.
Traditionally, Cottage Theatre asks directors to pitch a play off season and that’s generally how they build their season of shows. However, “Treehouse” is a new play and so how did Cottage Theatre develop that process to find a director?
What happened was they applied and were accepted as one of the organization to participate (in a program that paired new plays with theatres) so at the time when directors normally pitch, they didn’t know that this was the script they would be producing. You had to pitch why you were the person to directo a world premiere. Once they knew this was the play, they shared the script with the finalist pool and asked for a small pitch on the initial vision and take on the show.
What’s your 15-second elevator pitch when describing what this show is about?
I describe it as a young man who is 17 who is convinced he’s his 53-year-old self trapped in his 17-year-old body and he is pushed to relive, because of traumas in his life, the extraordinary spring and summer going into his senior year of high school where he and his friends and family figure out honesty and love and Shakespeare and how it is we are able to understand ourselves and those we love when we look at it through grown up eyes.
Cottage Theatre, this season, has done very recognizable shows that are part of the cultural fabric—Crucible, Legally Blonde, Shrek—so directors have a catalog to look at in terms of other productions of the same show. This is a new play by a newer playwright. Were there challenges in not having the same references more well-known shows have?
I think it’s a different set of opportunities that come with working on a script like this. You don’t have other work you can reference to problem solve but it means you have complete creative control on how to solve problems and there’s no standard to be compared to. We don’t have to worry about roles being played by famous actors, we get to start fresh and it’s an opportunity that is undervalued.
Were there challenges in casting due to the difference in age physically versus age in the narrative?
He’s a young man who is convinced he is his 53-year-old-self trapped in his 17-year-old body so finding a young person that could handle both of those extremes who understands what it means in some ways what it is to be an adult and be as playful as teenagers are, is a bit of a challenge. That being said, we had a tremendous amount of talent show up to audition and there are universal truths regardless of your age.
What should people be on the lookout for in this play?
For anyone who is a literary nerd, there are tons of references in the script and the set and set dressing so keep an eye out for that.
Why should people come down and see it?
It’s really important to support new work and Cottage Theatre is taking a tremendous risk and an exciting one to show a new show to a community that’s more use to shows they’ve heard of before. It’s beautifully written and a risk I think people will be happy they took. It’s important that they support local theatre and get the chance to jump into this story with us before anyone else gets to.
*Photo by Emily Bly