The Lab "will provide approximately 390 hours of development time in 2009 and offer a shifting menu of developmental activities, including actor-driven work, work that may include on-going development but no audience component, and work that is shared in-house," according to ASF. "The Lab provides an opportunity to support commissioned projects as well as to serve as an incubator for new ideas. Key to its operation is integration with current programming and scheduling."
OSF approached Polly K. Carl, Ph.D., producing artistic director of the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis (who recently announced she will move to Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago) and one of the nation's experts in the field of new play development, about three years ago to create a model on how best to develop new work at OSF.
Carl and OSF performed an in-depth study, evaluating previous models used at OSF in the development of OSF's Huck Finn Project, an adaptation by head of company development Scott Kaiser for the School Visit Program, and playwright Octavio Solis' Gibraltar. Both processes used the repertory schedule and the OSF acting ensemble to create new work.
Through the efforts of Carl, OSF also received a $50,000 gift from an individual donor to launch the Lab in 2009.
The Lab will be cast from the existing actor pool and will launch with ten actors. The participating 2009 actors are Richard Howard, Jeffrey King, Gregory Linington, Derrick Lee Weeden, Terri McMahon, Vilma Silva, Catherine E. Coulson, Miriam A. Laube, Ryan Anderson and Tyrone Wilson. The Black Swan Lab parallels the schedule of All's Well That Ends Well (playing in the New Theatre), so actors in the Lab are also performing in shows that may include Death and the King's Horseman, Equivocation, The Servant of two Masters, Henry VIII and Dead Man's Cell Phone.
The ensemble will help to create the structure of the Lab, and will have the opportunity to contribute actor-generated projects.
Other projects may include development of an on-site project by Michael Rohd; workshopping of American Night, a commission of the American Revolutions: the United States History Project for the 2010 season; future American Revolutions projects; work on Ping Chong's adaptation of Kurosawa's Throne of Blood for the 2010 season; original plays by Melanie Marnich and Lisa Loomer; and further development of Mixing Texts/Nexthetics work that began in 2007 at OSF.
The name of the Lab refers to the Black Swan, a third theatre space at OSF that opened in 1977 under the leadership of then artistic director Jerry Turner. The venue offered the opportunity to produce riskier work than was produced on the Angus Bowmer and Elizabethan stages. Prior to its opening as a theatre space, it was used by company artists to develop new and unfamiliar work that was produced largely for in-house audiences.
Since the opening of the New Theatre in 2002, the Black Swan has been used for rehearsals and education events.