New Work in Progress: Trails

At the end of the summer, Broadway Rose Theatre Company is opening Trails, written by Christy Hall, Jeff Thomson and Jordan Mann. We chatted with Dan Murphy, the Managing Director at Broadway Rose, to learn more about the theatre’s history producing new works and how this show is expanding upon that history.

After a dozen years of silence, an unexpected meeting between childhood friends Mike and Seth leads the pair to fulfill a promise made in their youth: to hike the Appalachian Trail together. As they traverse the 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, powerful memories surface, leading the men to confront their past, themselves, and the haunting secret that kept them apart for so long.

What is Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s history of producing new works and how does this production of Trails fit into your theatre’s mission?
From our very first season 26 years ago we have been producing new work. Sharon Maroney, artistic director, wrote an original musical based on a children’s book entitled The 3 Little Pigs & Freud, the telling of the story of the three pigs as told from the wolf’s perspective to his therapist. Over the years we have produced original children’s musicals as well as several jukebox musicals now licensed through Select Entertainment. Some NAMT Festival selections include I Love You Because, Band Geeks!Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Drowsy Chaperone, and in 2011 we produced the world premiere of Ripper with book, music, and lyrics by Duane Nelsen (Festival 2009).

We are committed to maintaining a variety of contemporary pieces as well as the classics. While producing such quintessential musicals as Hello Dolly! and My Fair Lady, we balance our seasons with second and third presentations of new musicals such as Pete ‘n Keely, Adrift in Macao, Fly By Night,and now Trails.

How did Trails first find its way to Broadway Rose and what about the piece inspired you to produce it?
I have been a reader for NAMT for the many years and on the Festival selection committee for two of those. I have also been a reader for the Village Theatre for seven years. Trails came across my desk as part of the Village Originals program. Sharon and I were totally enthralled with the story and music.  Subsequently a reading was presented at Village and then made its way to their main stage the following season, which we tracked closely and put it on our short list.

What has the development process looked like as you work with the writers to prepare for production?
As soon as the show was licensed for production, we immediately took it off our short list and put it in our upcoming season. The writing team, Christy Hall, Jordan Mann, and Jeff Thomson, have made themselves available to us for any questions or clarifications, including a change of key for one of the songs that fits now beautifully in the voice of the actress cast. All three will be joining us for the opening weekend in September.

What have been some of the joys and challenges of including more new works in your season planning?
The challenge of bringing new works to our theatre is the common audience concern, “I’ve never heard of it,” to which I reply, “Oklahoma was new once and somebody bought a ticket.” A number of years ago we were in a bit of a pickle financially and had in our season The Sound of Music and The Drowsy Chaperone. No one had heard of The Drowsy Chaperone and we were very close to substituting a better-known work to help with the box office. However, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to make the switch knowing that audiences would love the show, and we were right. It didn’t quite break even, but we swept award season that year and earned even more artistic credibility. As a result, people have come to expect the unexpected, and the cultivation of that audience is beginning to pay off.  

Why should everyone plan a trip to Oregon to check out Trails and your season at Broadway Rose?
Not only is the greater Portland area beautiful and Oregon filled with various offerings, but being able to come and see a terrific show like Trails on top of all that would be the cherry on top of your trip.  It made it to our short list and upon seeing it, it will make it to yours too.

For more information about Trails visit the Broadway Rose website.

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