Here’s the pitch: Claire is an unpaid intern at the Forever Christmastown, a holiday-based theme park in the style of a ren faire in rural Bastrop County, Texas. She’s excited for this job because she’s been told her entire life that Santa is her father. Unfortunately, the Forever Christmastown is known more for problems with wild boars and accidents, and while an Alamo-inspired play seems to be the key to bringing audience members to the park, it’s a viral miracle that brings forth a Santa-worshipping, uh, cult-like group of followers. Pretty soon, things spin out of control.
Currently, characters include Chewy the Elf, Santa Tyler, Mrs. Claus, Crispy the Snowman, Comet and Blitzen, and Santacolytes. Future drafts will add a bit more to the population.
Now, one thing making theatre from scratch with a group of teenagers teaches you is how to avoid the sunk-cost fallacy. I spent the first couple weeks devising around a different play, and I had to pivot when the words on the page felt dead, and I think about how the temptation would have been to keep throwing energy at a project that was falling apart. Deadlines have a way of doing that, particularly when the stakes are high, at least artistically.
If you’re reading this blog for advice on creating work with young actors, then please take that – one of the keys to making thing happen is to be conscious of the sunk-cost fallacy, be wary of it, and find ways to test yourself. I have my own tricks when I need to figure out if I’m putting money into a lemon – find out what works for you.
I have a handful of productions going up in various corners of the country, and it’s truly delightful. Even as we’re delaying Small Steps, the work for young people finds homes. Last week, I had a conversation with a director producing The Apocalypse Project whose students had a handful of suggestions for ways to edit and evolve the text. When I was younger and more insecure, I don’t think my ego could have handled that, but I’d asked for their thoughts. Some edits are specific to the group, some will wind up canon, and others I pushed back on, but it felt exciting to collaborate from such distances.