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“Nerding out in the Archives” from Michael Cotey

In Archives, Assistantship, Directing, Literary, Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 at 8:51 AM

ArchivesHostThis is Maria DeWeerdt. She’s the archivist at OSF and works in what I can only describe as Aladdin’s cave of treasures beneath the Thomas Theatre. Behind her you can see countless recordings of past OSF shows and just to the right of this pictured you’d see several large rolling racks filled with priceless, irreplaceable material like rehearsal reports, meeting notes, and old prompt books. This room is part dramaturge’s dream and part Pandora’s box of sheer nerding out.

Maria and I ran into each other accidentally as fellow FAIR cohort JaMeeka and I tried desperately to remember which of the countless unmarked doors we were shown during our tour led us to the Artistic Offices. She was someone I was hoping to track down because in January I’ll be remounting Equivocation, a show I did in graduate school and a show that premiered here initially. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to really get a glimpse into the original production of something I would be directing.

Now, being able to view the production would have been enough to satiate my curiosity (which I could in glorious Blu-Ray in a little station in Maria’s archive heaven, no less). But then Maria blew my freaking mind by bringing out two boxes stuffed with all sorts of goodies. There was the prompt book from the initial production, script changes issued during rehearsal, dramaturgical resources provided by the playwright, and Bill Rausch’s early notes and thoughts for his director. Never do you get to see this stuff! Usually it’s some shots from the production and, if you are lucky, some archival footage. What Maria provided me with was a glimpse into the genesis of this play.

Theatres are full of folks like Maria DeWeerdt: unsung heroes under the radar. Theatremaking is more than acting, directing and designing. In such a slippery and fleeting art as theatre where nothing is permanent, Maria is so important in helping us not forget not just the end product, but also the process that got those artists there.

I’ve already warned Maria that I’ve put together a short list of other amazing shows that I’m going to get my eyeballs on before I leave. One of the amazing perks of being at a theatre that honors its past as much as it looks ahead to the future!

(Shout-out to Kait Fairchild, Literary Coordinator and Script Manager, for sharing some of the drafts of Equivocation with me and alerting me to the fact that the archives existed in the first place)

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  1. I toured the Archives room this morning, and can’t say enough about the wonderful archival work Maria has done. She is a true curator, and so generous! Can’t wait to go back and dig into some understudy videos of past productions!!!

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