Festival Show Update: STU FOR SILVERTON

This month, we check in with Peter Duchan and Breedlove, the writers of 2014 Festival show Stu For Silverton, as they prepared for a reading of the show at NAMT member Theater Latte Da last month. 
Based on the true story of America’s first transgender mayor and the town that elected him, Stu for Silverton celebrates a new American folk hero from Silverton, Oregon. This heartwarming, all-American new musical blends Our Town and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, testing the boundaries of tolerance as a small community adjusts to big changes.
The summer leading up to last year’s Festival you did some major reworking of the book to Stu for Silverton.  What were those changes?
We’re quite fortunate that the real story of Stu Rasmussen and Silverton provides a strong emotional climax. Everything we’ve written builds to that beautiful, true moment of counter-protest staged by the community. Our challenge all along has been creating the right set up for it, giving the audience the information they need for the moment to really land effectively–and not giving them information that muddies the storytelling and weakens that emotional impact. Prior to NAMT, we made a number of changes, particularly to the first act: a new song/sequence to open the show, a new song to introduce Stu’s girlfriend Vic, a new sequence we hoped would explore the tug of war Stu feels between his hometown and the exploration of his identity that occurs in Portland. So, lots of new stuff, much of which we performed at the NAMT Festival.


How did the presentation in the Festival help you discover further changes to make to the show?
The Festival experience was definitely helpful and energized us to make further revisions. We were lucky to have smart, engaged actors in the room, a number of whom graciously offered us their honest reactions during the process. (Annaleigh Ashford, in particular, is a friend of ours, and a smart budding director in her own right, and she gave us some great, generous notes, a number of which we’ve incorporated.) We also met with producers and other theatermakers, gathering reactions and ideas quite helpful to our revisions. The result: we’ve made a number of changes, including writing ANOTHER new song to introduce Vic, as well as reworking the support group sequence, among other things. We learned a ton.


What was the response to the show like after the Festival? 
We were thrilled with the response! We worked really hard to shape an abridged, 45-minute Festival draft that would give the audience a fun taste of the show and, hopefully, leave them wanting more. We got a lot of positive reaction from NAMT members. When Theatre Latte Da offered us this workshop, we jumped at the chance to work on the show out of town, out of sight.


You are now preparing for readings of the full script at NAMT member Theater Latte Da in Minneapolis this week. How has it been working on the show again and hearing the full version? It’s still ongoing. We had two days off from rehearsal yesterday and the day before…and we didn’t even leave the hotel. Tons of new pages going in today (5/9/15). Lots more to do. But that’s why we’re here. It’s a real luxury to have an actual week or so to workshop the piece. 29-hour readings tend to feel rushed and don’t always have great developmental benefit. The goal here has been to sharpen and strengthen the writing and we seem to have the time to actually tackle that. Even if it means late nights and lack of exposure to sunshine. We’ve been told the Minneapolis audiences are smart and generous, so we’re looking forward to sharing our show with them.

What else is in the works for Stu or what are you hoping for next? 
At this moment, we’re completely focused on the writing. At the end of this workshop, we’ll begin a conversation about next steps–but, right now, it’s all about getting it on the page in a form we feel does justice to this story.

Why should people swing by Minneapolis to check in on Stu, Vic and the town of Silverton? 
The trans conversation has grown louder and more present even since our NAMT Festival performance in October. The visibility of the trans community has certainly increased and our culture seems to be working on trying to understand what exactly trans means. There’s no singular, common trans experience. It would be incredibly challenging—and perhaps impossible—to convey all of those experiences in one piece of theater. The beauty of our story is that we’re not trying to represent every trans person–we’re trying to tell the story of Stu Rasmussen and the community of Silverton, Oregon. We happen to find this particular story quite moving and fascinating, and we’re hopeful the audience will too.

For more information about Stu For Silverton‘s reading last month at Theatre Latte Da, please click here


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