To date, all but five of Finegan’s 74 produced plays have been written to commission.
These works have garnered various accolades and enjoyed extensive international touring (17 countries) and festival inclusion (80 seasons: see, Outcomes), but have all started in the same simple fashion – with a conversation, between director/producer and writer.
– Often a target age group is identified (with the majority of commissioned works being for young audiences), while sometimes a theme, component or provocation is collectively identified or offered up.
– Sometimes (as with commissions for Casula Powerhouse in Sydney and Riverland Youth Theatre in regional SA), young people have been engaged as dramaturges and assessors of the work in development.
– Sometimes (as with Kaiser Permanente in Portland/Denver, and Tas Theatre Company in Hobart) a social issue is identified – though this is always then incorporated into the work narratively, not didactically.
– Sometimes (as with La Jolla Theater in San Diego or Stompin in Launceston), a venue which will house the play (a car, a string of town halls) acts as context.
– Sometimes (as with Hawaii’s Honolulu Theatre for Youth and Hobart’s Terrapin Puppet Theatre), a shared cultural touchstone – in this instance the psychology of living on an island – is the glue which unites a co-commission.
– Sometimes (as with Slingsby’s ‘Man Covets Bird’) it is an existing picture which sparks a new imagining.
– And sometimes (as with many commissions) it is nothing at all – just an appreciation of each other as artists, and the invitation to see what story might come into existence once first words begin to appear.
From this point, a first draft is created, and a creative development then occurs. This involves Finegan travelling to the company’s city or town, and the creative ensemble (director, composer, designer, actors, anyone the company wishes to invite) sharing a table for a week of dramaturgical appraising of the fledgling play. This conversation is always exciting, and always different.
Further drafts are then written back in Hobart, Tasmania (in a lovely cottage that sits on a hillside beneath a mountain and above an ocean, in a home that holds a wife and young son as well). Throughout, an ongoing conversation occurs over Skype and email, the notion of collaboration thankfully not impeded by geography.
And then (once both commissioner and writer are happy with the story that has emerged) the handover occurs, and rehearsals begin. Usually at this point, Finegan steps away, and lets the rehearsals be what they are, and the explorations go where they may – so long as the words themselves are not changed without discussion, all else deserves the most rigorous of investigations.
And then on opening night (or opening 10am, as is so often the case with children’s theatre premieres), Finegan returns and sits beside the creative team and among the creative audience – and together we all witness what has come to be, the fruit of shared artistic labours.
If this process is one you or your company wishes to discuss, please head to the contact page. I’m always very happy to imagine new stories, with new collaborators.