As promised, we're back to tell you more about our chosen play for the 2019 Pittsburgh New Works Festival! The Setup was written by PJ Roup of Plum, Pennsylvania, and we feel very fortunate to not only be able to produce his play, but also to partner with him in bringing this comedy to life. I was fortunate enough to correspond with him over the last week, as he graciously introduced himself and his work:
Casey: Welcome to the Bobcat Players! As I'm sure you know, we're incredibly excited to produce our first choice play--and even more excited to be able to interact with the man behind the words on a regular basis. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
PJ: I'm the owner of Dreamscape Creative, a Pittsburgh-based video production company. I've directed and acted for both stage and film for years now, and am a founding member of Ghost Light Productions. Beyond the excitement of New Works, I'm also thrilled to announce my screenplay, Toby’s Tree, is an Official Selection for the 2019 Massachusetts Independent Film Festival.
Casey: It's a big year for your writing--congratulations! How does it feel to have your play produced locally?
PJ: The Setup is actually the first stage play I have ever written, so to have it not only recognized, but premiered here in my hometown is sort of a dream come true. I hadn't had an opportunity to workshop it before I submitted, so our table read for New Works was the first time I heard the words spoken aloud and I was blown away by the talent at the table.
Casey: That's great to hear. So what was your inspiration for the piece?
PJ: I know this is going to sound weird, but there was just one piece of dialogue that popped into my head while I was driving that made me laugh out loud. At a red light, I dictated it into my phone so I wouldn't forget it, and when I got home I started to write. That bit of dialogue occurs in the middle of the play, so I basically built the play around that 30-second exchange.
Casey: Wow! Now, since you've held both titles previously, how does the role of playwright differ from the role of director? Is it hard to change roles after experiencing the other?
PJ: To me, they are similar. The main difference is that when I write, I am essentially using my keyboard to direct these imaginary people and they do exactly as I want them to, so I am completely unconstrained. When I am directing another playwright's work, I have to work with what's on the page and what my actors give me to build the vision. That being said, there is something very rewarding in each of them. For The Setup, I told Shelly and Patti that I was willing to let them make it their own, but they were steadfast in wanting to really bring my vision to the stage. So far, it seems like we're on the same page with everything, so I am excited to see it take shape in the coming weeks.
Casey: We've briefly touched on your previous theatre experience. How has the Pittsburgh New Works Festival process differ?
PJ: The multi-company collaboration that is the PNWF is really something special. The fact that these companies from all over the region can vie for particular plays and actors, but then come together to make this beautiful six-week showcase of new plays seems almost preposterous, but it works.
Casey: What would you say to encourage audiences to attend?
PJ: Personally, I have been telling all of my friends that they would be dead to me if they didn't come, but in the broader sense, I think that supporting the arts is vital. This town is brimming with talent - artists, musicians, actors, authors - all of whom add something to the culture of Pittsburgh. When you can, you should support that. Go to galleries, concerts, plays. Live performance is a once-and-done moment. It's fed and changed by those who attend through laughter, smiles, tears, applause, and energy. Be a part of that.
I really couldn't have said it better myself. So if you'd like to see The Setup--and trust me, you definitely should--you can join us at the Genesius Theater at Duquesne University September 5-14. And don't worry--we'll be providing more details about ticket information in our next blog entry, as well as announcing our cast!