This was the culmination of a years-long journey that included re-concepting, writing, rewriting, stumbles and successes. It is the perfect illustration of the Chicago Theatre Workshop process.
Irvine Welsh, the famed Scottish author of the cult novel Trainspotting, had cooked up a new screenplay. Tom Mullen, Artistic Director of Chicago Theatre Workshop, had previously done a well-received stage adaptation of Trainspotting.
So to perform a reading of this new screenplay, Irvine, now a local to Chicago, contacted Tom. After some very early collaborations, the two, along with Irvine’s writing partner Don De Grazia, changed the screenplay to a play. The main plot of the script revolved around a writing contest. Tom had the idea to make the contest a musical one instead, and to incorporate live music into the show, with the performers doing live renditions of the songs for the contest within the play.
This would make for a much more immediate, more engaging stage experience, with higher stakes and more vibrant opportunities for performance.
The collaborative scriptwriting experience would set the stage for the show’s entire run. After initial script revisions were complete and table readings had taken place, it was time to get Creatives on its feet.
Executive producers Susan and Helen Jack joined the CTW team to start guide the journey with a commercial eye.
This necessitated assembling a group of performers ready to take on an entirely new challenge in the Chicago theatre scene—that of a true workshop. The workshop environment is atypical for most theatres; it requires actors to service a piece, not their egos. With an inventive, adaptable cast in place, the show was constantly refined during early rehearsals, with a smattering of cuts and additions being made, as necessary.
Creatives premiered at the Edge Theatre on February 16, 2017. The first live performance would differ greatly from the show’s Chicago close a month later. Throughout its run, Chicago Theatre Workshop aggregated audience feedback to help determine what was, and, perhaps more importantly, what was not working in the show.
This audience input was crucial in Creatives’ overall development. Listening nightly to audiences helped to shape the show, lending an array of viewpoints that it might otherwise go without.
And as each performance was refined, with more feedback incorporated into each production, the show began to take a stronger shape.
Credit: Tyler Fayose Photography
The success of Creatives led to a very rare opportunity: the chance for a showcase spot at the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it was nominated as Best New Musical by Edinburgh Musical Theatre Review.
And the show’s evolution wasn’t finished there. Creatives continued to mature, using insight from the show’s completely new audiences to further form the production.
The show’s four-week run in Scotland was done with a combined cast of Chicagoans and Brits and on limited turnaround time. This is not just the type of project CTW is unafraid to take on; it’s exactly the type of project upon which we thrive.
Creatives will return to Chicago, for an intense staged reading of a new draft that post-Edinburgh. This will include performers both from the original show and entirely new ones. Taking what they’ve learned from month-long runs on both sides of the Atlantic, Tom, Irvine, Don, Suzie, Laurence and Helen and the whole creative team will continue to grow what is now an important piece of theatre about today’s political climate.