A catch up with the writing team from Festival 2010 show The Trouble With Doug, Will Aronson and Daniel Maté.
The Trouble With Doug is a modern comedic re-imagining of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, in which a happy, healthy 27-year-old man transforms—suddenly and inexplicably—into a giant slug. From this unlikely premise, a touching and universal story unfolds about a family dealing with change, and a young man facing the loss of everything he thought he was.
Doug was really well received at the Festival. What was it like presenting your show to industry at the Festival?
Our NAMT presentation was an exciting and rewarding experience from start to finish. It was a thrill, obviously, to have Victoria Clark as our director – we’d both long been fans of her performing work, and were delighted that she connected with the piece so effortlessly. With her help, we felt that we’d succeeded in arriving at a 45-minute version that delivered the heart and humor of the musical to the NAMT Members in attendance, and we were very gratified by the positive responses we received. People seemed to get and appreciate what we were going for, which, considering the musical’s somewhat unconventional subject matter, was both relieving and exciting.
Did anything change with the show after seeing at the Festival?
Yes. Trimming the show down to its essence for NAMT helped us identify what worked, and also helped us see where certain characters were not sufficiently fleshed out and where some of our plot devices needed fortifying, clarifying, or (in one case) replacing. A subsequent writers retreat at [NAMT member] Weston Playhouse in Vermont in April 2011 helped us solidify a list of planned changes and a general game plan for implementing them.
Doug was supposed to premiere at Florida Stage this season but unfortunately Florida Stage has closed. How has this sudden change affected your plans for developing Doug?
Well, it’s certainly confirmed for us that nothing can ever be counted on as certain in this industry, and that building relationships with as many organizations as possible is the way to go. We were pleased to re-meet many producers and artistic directors at this year’s NAMT Festival and begin some new conversations about the piece. While we were sad to lose the Florida production—and very sad to see a great regional company go down—we're still confident that ‘Dougger’ will find himself a nice home before too long.
You just had a fantastic time in the UK working with NAMT member Royal & Derngate. What was it like to bring Doug across the pond?
The two weeks we spent at Royal & Derngate exceeded our greatest expectations. R&D provided us with accommodations, space to work, a wonderful cast, a top-notch music director, and the dramaturgical and directorial expertise of artistic director Laurie Sansom – and they basically said, “take whatever time you need to rewrite your show as you see fit.” Without a built-in “presentation” component, we were truly free to use the time to overhaul the show’s book and upgrade aspects of the score. By the end of the two weeks, we had a completely revised version of the musical, one that we feel heightens what was already compelling about it while addressing our concerns about plot and character. And working in a UK theatre environment was a fun change of pace. Among other discoveries, we found that our story can speak to people in a different cultural context.
What are you hoping to happen next with Doug?
We feel great about the new script we returned with from England, and are ideally looking for a production track at a regional, UK, or New York theatre. Having been through several readings and workshops, we feel that the arc of show is finally in the shape we’ve always wanted it to be, and that adding in the physical element will help us take it to the next level. So we’re hoping that someone will believe in the piece strongly enough to take that sort of plunge with it.
In the best of all worlds, in two years, what will be the status of Doug?
At the risk of sounding evasive, we don't have a single defined destination in mind. There are so many logistical factors that go into producing musicals, most of which are beyond our comprehension. Obviously, as its creators, we entertain dreams of our piece reaching a very large audience, and having a long life on many, many stages. But our main and immediate hope, no matter the scale, scope, or trajectory of production(s), is that Doug will find its core audience, who will connect with it and love it as much as we do— an aspiration we feel is equal parts lofty and modest, and hopefully just right.