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CTC’s Developmental Pathway for Production

Updated: Jan 15


By Jeremy Williams, Producing Director and Founder of CTC  


Have you ever felt the exhilaration of a new project, eager to witness it come to life? We all have those moments of enthusiasm, but as the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day." The same applies to creative endeavors, especially in the world of theater. Rushing from idea to production can often lead to chaos and disappointment. Allow me to illustrate this with a personal experience.


Learning from Experience

I vividly remember a project I was involved in as a young choreographer, a brand-new musical! The creators’ eagerness was palpable, and they quickly transitioned from presenting a couple of concert readings to a full-blown production. It was a leap of faith, but it turned out to be a leap too far. Not only was the material not ready, but the team itself wasn't prepared either. 


I joined the creative team after rehearsals had begun. The cast had self segregated into two groups: artists who had been part of the concert readings and new folks. There was a lot of distrust and no sense of ensemble. I brushed this off as being a new production and set out building ensemble through the physical worlds of the story. At my first production meeting, I asked for the design and dramaturgy packet. There wasn’t one. The team had assembled a few rough sketches of the set and costume designs and nothing more. No research, no renderings, nothing to build the visual world of the story. The distrust within the cast became a clear signal of much larger issues with the process: there was not a clear vision and there was not a person, or team, leading us to realize a vision. We had a score, libretto, and ideas from the creators. And 3-4 weeks to get it on its feet for its premiere.


It was a stressful rehearsal and tech process for most of the collaborators— with everyone having to make significant artistic compromises due to lack of planning and artistic development before the production stage. One of the many problems included the set being too large to load into the theatre. Remember, no drawings. So the set had to be cut apart in the loading dock of the venue, transforming it from a dynamic moving set to a static set— which didn’t fit on the stage. During tech, we were madly re-staging blocking, choreography and scene transitions. The lighting design didn’t work with the significant adjustments to the set so major changes to the light plot were required to see the actors on stage. The actors were confused about how to get on and off the stage with the constant change of the backstage layout and spent hours rehearsing without being able to see the music conductor because there was not enough room for the large band in a theatre without an orchestra pit. The list of barriers grew rather than reduced during our few precious tech days. 


No matter the level of artistic talent or hard work, nothing fit in this production! It was a disastrous opening and lackluster run which received mixed to poor critical and audience reviews. All of these barriers could, and should, have been solved long before the premiere. Sadly, the show was never produced again despite its original concept, powerful score, and relevant story. We lacked the necessary creative development as well as leadership to bring this ambitious vision to life. 


“I believe in serendipity, but I also believe there are times when you have to be the one who lines up everything so it can fall into place.”  

Susan Stroman, theatre director, choreographer, film director and performer.  


Embracing the Creative Journey

By previews I was crying in the lobby over the train-wreck that emerged onstage. A colleague was in the preview audience that night and found my hiding spot. She saw my tears and said the kindest thing: it’s not your fault. She was right, it wasn’t my responsibility. At that moment I decided to let go of my frustration and lean into learning.


So, what's the lesson here? Well, it's simple: creative projects, especially in the world of theater, need time to develop. Enjoying the journey and not rushing to the finish line can make all the difference. Through my work with CTC, we've envisioned a pathway that involves three primary phases, each with numerous steps along the way. At every phase, we emphasize creative development involving both artists and the audience because no production is truly complete without its audience.


“The basic problem in artistic endeavor is the tendency to split the artist from the audience and then try to send a message from one to the other…In meditative art, the artist embodies the viewer as well as the creator of the works. Vision is not separate from operation, and there is no fear of being clumsy or failing to achieve his aspiration.”

Chöygum Trungpa Rinpoche, “Dharma Art- Genuine Art” from True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art. Shambhala Press 2008.


I learned from the stressful production to not rush. It’s better to take your time, craft the work, and only move into production when your vision is ready and fully supported; to let the vision guide all operations. I also learned that to be successful, I must be vulnerable and welcome the audience into my process long before a production is complete. There is so much to learn along the way! My experience tells me to design for development over time in order to collectively achieve our shared visions. At CTC, we design for three phases of development: 

  • Phase 1: Research & Development 

  • Phase 2: Scoring, Sequencing & Scripting

  • Phase 3: Production


We call this our Developmental Pathway to ProductionIt’s a process with a set of tools that has been co-created by the producers and visionaries of CTC to support our collective approach to creating new works. We're excited to share it with you to support you in your own creative journey!


Creating the Pathway

In my role as the Producing Director at CTC, I am entrusted with bringing the vision of each project to life. Now it is my responsibility to ensure that all of the elements line up and fall into place. I design the pathway for production in collaboration with the lead visionaries and co-producers. Whether a project is in its early ideation stages or in the later phase of creative development, we always commence with the lead creators' dream vision, encompassing artistic outcomes and intended impact. Dreaming big, we embark on a journey to co-create theatrical magic and transformative storytelling. Our process involves delving into the details of advancing the vision to the next phase of development, but before that, we meticulously chart the full lifecycle of the project.


The artistic vision and intended impacts serve as guiding stars, directing the activities that build teams, foster partnerships, gather resources, and garner support for the project over time. Establishing a culture of learning, we set goals, pose central questions, and lay the foundation for feedback and evaluation, essential elements for the actualization of any visionary project.


Why this thorough approach? To echo Susan Stroman's wisdom, serendipity and magic are vital ingredients in crafting great works. Yet, they require meticulous alignment for seamless manifestation. Our Developmental Path to Production is a tool designed to empower project visionaries. It enables them to bring their visions to life in partnership with producing organizations, presenters, and communities over time.


Your Developmental Pathway to Production

This series will explore each phase of the pathway in detail to inspire and support you in bringing your vision to life! Each post will help you learn about your own project through three guiding questions: 

  • What’s your vision? 

  • Where are you in development? 

  • What do you need to move forward? 


I’ll be sharing lots of examples from our archive of more than 200 projects and taking a deep dive into the development and production process for the critically acclaimed and award winning The Woman Who Was Me. I've also included some of my favorite quotes from theatrical storytellers to spark your inspiration.



Let's enter the world of Research & Development as we start with Phase 1!

 

Up Next

Phase 1: Research & Development 

  • Playing to Learn

  • Embodied Research 

  • Theatrical Research 

  • Audience Research 

  • Learning to Play

"You cannot create results. You can only create conditions in which something might happen."

— Anne Bogart, A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre, Routledge 2003.


 

Elevate your craft, amplify your vision, strengthen your leadership capacity – your creative odyssey awaits!


Our Developmental Pathway to Production provides a framework for you and your team to journey from idea through full production. Receive tools that will revolutionize your creative producing process!


Learn how to create your own Developmental Pathway to Production in our upcoming online workshop, part of our 2024 workshop series, Artists Supporting Artists. Upon workshop completion, you'll emerge:

  • Empowered with the skills to design a developmental pathway for production

  • Inspired to explore innovative activities with your audience

  • With newly acquired tools & resources to effectively lead a creative process


Explore insightful and applicable themes in each session!

Session 1: The 3 Phases of Development & Production (02/12)

Session 2: Activities with Your Audience (02/19)

Session 3: Resource Planning (02/26)


Designed for maximum flexibility, our workshops fit seamlessly into your bustling artist schedule. Whether live on Zoom or OnDemand, materials remain accessible for a year post-workshop. Full series participants enjoy extended access through 2025!




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