Sometimes, a road trip is more than just a road trip.
Charly Evon Simpson returns to Chautauqua this season to workshop her play, it’s not a trip, it’s a journey, a story about friendship, self discovery and being Black. CTC will host the play’s first reading before it premieres at Round House Theater in Maryland next spring.
The first New Play Workshop reading of the 2020 Chautauqua Theater Company season will take place at 8:15 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 15, 2020, on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch.
Though a NPW play would traditionally be performed in Bratton Theater in front of an audience, CTC’s shift into the virtual world for the 2020 season necessitates a virtual performance, something which presented unique challenges for Simpson, director Nicole A. Watson and every person involved.
“There are many moments in the play that are difficult to really capture on Zoom,” Simpson said. “It required some re-thinking and, at times, specific rewriting to make the play work in this new format.”
CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba spoke highly of the play, and is excited to see it come alive during the first reading.
“This is such a beautiful play on the page, (and) what I’m most looking forward to is seeing it brought to life and giving our audience a chance to witness Charly’s magical world brought to life by these extraordinary actors,” Borba said.
According to Simpson’s website, it’s not a trip, it’s a journey tells the tale of a girl named June and three of her friends who have been convinced to “ditch New York City (and their cellphones) for an impromptu road trip to the Grand Canyon. As the four wildly different women travel through the wondrous and not-so-wondrous sights of the United States, they must come together to contend with being Black, female-identifying, and American … all at the same time. An intimate play with vast ambitions, it’s not a trip, it’s a journey is about road trips, friendships, and finding the difference between surviving and thriving.”
An award-winning playwright, Simpson’s other works include Behind the Sheet, Jump, form of a girl unknown and more; Jump was Simpson’s first play workshopped with CTC in 2018 , and went on to premiere at PlayMakers Repertory Company in January 2019. The play is a story about a family struggling with the loss of a loved one, partially inspired by Jumpers, an article in The New Yorker about those who attempt suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
it’s not a trip, it’s a journey is directed by Watson, associate artistic director of Roundhouse Theater, in her debut with Chautauqua.
Each year, the CTC New Play Workshops, made possible by the Roe Green Foundation, takes plays in the final stages of writing and polishes and perfects them before they premiere.
“Our goal with the NPWs is to produce the plays in ways that help the writer test the play,” Borba said. “Stretch it, work it, so that when it moves on to a full production, as this one will at Roundhouse Theater in 2021, the play begins further down the road in the rehearsal process.”
Though the online nature of the performance has been difficult, Simpson appreciated the challenge and enjoyed her collaboration with CTC.
“It was a joy to work with this group of people,” Simpson said. “Watching the play come to life, even as we all sat in our homes, in different parts of the country, was a gift.”