WEMU is proud to partner with Sadaf Ali's CTAT 334 class on this year's semester long student reporting projects. Nathan Johnson produced this report on The Thurston Players.
From Script to the Stage: The Thurston Players Evolution of Original Script Writing
The Thurston Players saw ticket sales soar with their latest production "Higher and Higher". Now they're busy working on celebrating their 45th anniversary with another unique performance. While many theater groups exist in the city of Ann Arbor, the Thurston Players are dedicated to crafting original stories and characters. This puts a lot of pressure on creating new scripts and songs every year.
With performances dating back to 1974, the Thurston Players started with only a handful of Thurston’s faculty and staff. Their first production, “The Great Cat-B”, managed to fill Clague Elementary School’s auditorium to the brim. Phil Zaret, one of the first writers for the Thurston Players, has been an active member for 36 years, and can easily recall his first experience with the group.
Thrust into great responsibility, Phil began to write his first musical, leading to a lesson in script writing Phil would bring with him to his later work.
In addition to the need for new scripts and ideas, more members of the community were joining the Thurston Players at a rapid rate, including child actors that required special attention during practice. With more participants at their disposal, what was once a few meetings to determine basic plot points became a month of organization and preparation.
Initially, only writers made their mark in the process of producing the script. Now, regardless of age and position, all of the Thurston Player’s cast and crew can participate in the first stage of scriptwriting, where members introduce concepts and ideas for that year’s performance. This change, according to Dick Vail, another long-time active member currently leading set design, came from a sudden need for collaboration and division of the script.
Even when tasked with set building and coordination, Dick was never excluded from the script writing process. In order to look at the scripts needs realistically, it was up to Dick and the writers to come up with reasonable props and scenery for the show.
In addition to making sure the plot was realistic towards set design, the Thurston Players also had to distribute scenes amongst multiple writers in order to meet the demand of a larger cast. After this division is made, a specialized group within the Thurston Players begin to make their mark on the scripts process.
With final revisions made and writers preparing for choreography and music numbers, everything comes to an end around March, when the pens are down and the curtains are up. Many writers, including Phil Zaret and Dick Vail, assist in painting and creating the backdrops with other crew members, and when showtime arrives, their work comes to life on stage for the entire community to enjoy.
As it is with all of the Thuston Players productions, with all endings come new beginnings. Year after year, this small community comes together, performing work that you won’t see anywhere else. To learn more about the Thurston Players past and upcoming performances, you can find more on their website: www.thurstonplayers.org.
Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.