The Open Hand – From the Director

Calvin MacLeanThe production of The Open Hand is a World Premiere. The CBT commissioned playwright Robert Caisley in 2014 to work with the students in UT’s MFA programs in a new and exciting addition to our joint artistic/educational mission. Working with a playwright on a new play has always been enjoyable for me and it has always been my ambition for CBT to produce and develop new plays. The presence of an MFA program in Acting provides a rare opportunity: to commission a playwright to work with our students over an extended period of time on the development of a new play written expressly for them. Several years ago, Rob and I met with the students in their first year of study to discuss ideas, run some improvisations on potential scenes, and research issues associated with a play on the theme of generosity. That was all there was at first: the topic, some improvisations, and some research. Rob took away this material and a familiarity with the talents of our first-year acting students back to his home in Idaho to write a draft of this new play. I worked with him over the next six months, reading scenes, discussing possible events, and suggesting certain casting possibilities.  When he returned to UT’s campus in the MFA students’ second year of study, we read the draft, discussed our responses with Rob, who then worked up new drafts of scenes for us to read and discuss. Finally, by last summer (2015), a production draft was submitted to the CBT for me to begin work with the designers – also students in the MFA program in Design. The rehearsal period has provided new opportunities for revision and exploration. We now present this extended process before an audience, and these students will have enjoyed the experience of designing the first production, of being the original cast, and of finding much of themselves in the characters, action, and stage environment of a new play.

An exciting time for us. We hope you enjoy it.