This month we caught up with Brett Ryback, the writer of Joe Schmoe Saves the World, which was featured in our 2016 Festival. This summer Brett will be workshopping Joe Schmoe… at Indiana University Bloomington. We reached out to find out where the show is now, and what he hopes is next for the show.
What did you discover about the show after presenting it last October, and what work have you done on the piece since then?
What an innocent time it was back in October! I knew the show dealt with important issues, but truth be told there was a part of me—the part that thought Hillary Clinton would be our president—that thought a show about women pushing back against being silenced, and the urgent need for artists to speak out in a political world might feel unnecessary. And then November happened. So the largest discovery has been how timely this piece turned out to be.
From a more technical standpoint, the work I’ve done since then has been to further condense the script. I’ve continued to find places where fat can be trimmed, additional parallels can be made between the two story lines, and scenes can be condensed in order to heighten the dramatic drive of the show.
You’ll be presenting Joe Schmoe… at Indiana University Bloomington’s Premiere Musicals workshop this summer—can you tell us a little about the program and what makes it a great next step in the show’s journey?
It’s a great opportunity and I’m so grateful to get to work on this show with them. It’s a three-week, all-expenses-paid residency, during which time we’ve been given a lot of free reign to explore the piece in whatever ways we felt would be useful. We cast the show from their extremely talented pool of BFA and MFA actors, and will have four presentations at the end of the three weeks (August 16-19).
My director and I have decided to use the time to stage as much of the show as we can. Up until this point we’ve only done readings of the piece, so seeing it function on its feet is an incredibly useful next step for us—particularly to find out how the two worlds (America and Iran) function in spatial relationship to one another.
What about this upcoming opportunity are you most excited about?
The most exciting part of this opportunity is that we’ll get to work with a projection designer. There’s a huge visual component to the storytelling and we have been craving a chance to see exactly how it will work. In every prior reading we’ve had to use large chunks of stage direction to describe the visual effects, and now we will get to see them played out. I think it’s going to be hugely illuminating, and I can’t wait to see it come together.
What do you hope is next for Joe Schmoe…, and how can NAMT members who are interested in the show’s future development get involved now?
We are now looking for an opportunity to produce the show. Our hope is that this staged workshop can serve as pre-rehearsal work in preparation for a full production. If any NAMT members have the means (individually or collectively) to mount such a production, we would love to talk to them. We are inviting area theatres and producers to see the show (a few have already said yes!), and for anyone who can’t make it but would be interested to see it we will have an archival video. Any members who are interested can get in touch directly with me, and I’d be happy to tell them more.