On Monday, Actors Theatre of Louisville will premiere Idris Goodwin’s “Six,” the second of three entries in this year’s New Play Project. The project — produced by the members of the Professional Training Company (formerly the Apprentice/Intern Co.) — also is an opportunity for Louisville to see exciting new work, free of charge.
To make it all even more interesting, the three plays in this year’s project are site-specific works, performed in non-traditional venues that must use space creatively.
Insider sat down with Goodwin and acting apprentice Nayib Felix to find out more about the concept.
While “Six” likely will be a great experience for the audience, at its heart, the New Play Project is designed to give the Professional Training Company a chance to use the new skills they are learning at Actors and apply them directly to a new production.
The play is performed by the apprentice actors, it’s directed by an apprentice director, and even the press is handled by a PR intern.
“Six” isn’t Goodwin’s first visit to Louisville. The playwright has had three previous works produced at Actors, including the 2012 Humana Festival offering “How We Got On,” and he also wrote an original work for StageOne Family Theatre called “And in this Corner Cassius Clay.”
“I also really like Louisville as a city, and I think they knew that — so they brought me back out,” said Goodwin of Actors Theatre. While we can’t completely evaluate that statement, he does name drop the Derby in one of his other plays, which suggests Possibility City made an impression on him.
When beginning work on “Six,” Goodwin wasn’t able to make a trip to Louisville to meet the actors he would be writing for, so instead, he used technology to get to know the company.
Actor Nayib Felix talked about that part of the process.
“We did a video first, just kind of talking about our experience, and he asked for a story, or a joke that we had,” he said. “The video was, like, five minutes long. Afterward, Idris sent us an email with more questions.”
One of those questions landed Felix the role of G-dub, a young rapper who only performs via live stream but is starting to gain a large following online.
“I’ve always loved rap, and it’s something I’m pursuing for myself and for my art, and that was one of the questions Idris asked — if we had any other talents or anything else we were looking into,” said Felix.
That talent ended up in the script, but “Six” isn’t Goodwin’s first experience using rap on stage.
“That was kind of the first writing I did, was hip-hop, and then I got into playwriting and spoken-word at the same time living in Chicago,” said Goodwin. “What I like about theater is the stage and the context offer the opportunity for all different kinds of performance styles.”
After meeting the performers via video, Goodwin’s plan for the play completely changed, revising it to include G-dub and incorporating other actors.
Those kinds of changes are part of the joy of working with actors, according to Goodwin. He said a script, especially a new script, is almost more like a first draft. Hearing the words out loud allows a playwright to better evaluate his work — revising and revising again.
“And then you hear it and you’re like, this is not right, I need to change it. You know what I mean, and then you come back again. Collaboration is always in your mind,” added Goodwin
Another unexpected part of that collaboration was the staging envisioned by director Jelani Cornick. While the script was originally constructed to happen in a single space, at one of the galleries in NuLu’s The Green Building, the production actually will take audience members on a journey through the building.
“The audience will have to move with us, and we have to find a very smooth way to get them to move,” said Felix. “So, we’ll see how that’s going to work.”
Figuring out how to make things work and how to create novel pieces of art are the sort of valuable experiences these productions offer the Professional Training Company, but they’re just one part of the rigorous training program the apprentices undertake during their nine months.
“It’s amazing. This program, the first two weeks we were here, we felt like we were here for a month and a half already,” Felix said. “We’re constantly busy, they constantly have us working, and I’m learning so much about just me as a person.”
“Six” opens Monday at The Green Building, 732 E. Market St. There are just four performances — at 7 and 9 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 16-17. Tickets are free, but these shows fill up fast.
Keep an ear to the ground for other works by the Professional Training Company, including one-person shows and the final production in this year’s New Play Project.