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  Culture Corner - Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance Blog
Guest blog by Doug Elliott, founding member of SPT Theatre Company and a producer of the Tales from the Writers’ Room series
posted: Monday, August 27, 2012  Post Comment

“You can’t do that!?!”

Is there any better incentive to rise to a challenge than the incredulity of the naysayer? Well, it’s part of the motivation behind SPT Theatre Company’s Tales from the Writers’ Room series… but only just a part. Writers’ Room, as we like to call if for short, will open its fifth season on September 14, 2012, at CSPS in Cedar Rapids.

Built on the television model, Writers’ Room features the original works of five area writers: Jason Alberty, David Martino, Mary Sullivan, Akwi Nji, and Adam Witte. Roughly every six weeks, these five work individually and together to create original sketches, monologues, and poetry around a theme determined by the SPT producers. Once a week during that time, they meet to review and discuss each other’s work, to find pieces for collaboration, or just to provide mutual support and encouragement. Depending on your era, think The Dick Van Dyke Show or 30 Rock.

About twenty pieces will usually come out of the writers’ room at the end of the six-week period, and the SPT producers winnow the list down to around twelve that will make it into the show. Placed in a preliminary order, the actors (usually five to six) and artistic director have one week to memorize and block the pieces.

On the Wednesday before the performance, live music is added. On Thursday, lighting and minimal theatrics are added to weave the individual pieces into an experience that will hopefully entertain and provoke the audience, and maybe even make sense. And along the way, pieces may be changed or cut, acting assignments may be altered, and the final order may look totally different from the preliminary one. After performances on Friday and Saturday, the material is put aside, and the process starts all over again.

And we all look at each other and say, “Hey, we did that!”

Being able to say that is an accomplishment unto itself—an incentive. But, there are other incentives that are key to SPT Theatre Company’s mission and our commitment to endeavors like The Writers Room. Among those are:

  • Providing opportunities for artists to make a living at their craft: SPT provides over 70 paying opportunities for writers, actors, musicians, and technicians through Writers Room.
  • Promoting the creation and presentation of original work: Over the course of a season, more than 100 original works will be written and the majority of those will be presented to live audiences, even if only twice.
  • Providing new experiences for area audiences: In addition to original work, the series also promotes young & emerging artists.
  • Contributing to a vibrant cultural community: Through a partnership with the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, SPT was one of the first organizations to provide live theatre in a recovering downtown Cedar Rapids in 2009. Now in partnership with Legion Arts, SPT is an active member of the NewBo community.

To purchase tickets to Tales from the Writers’ Room click here. For more information on SPT Theatre Company, visit the website at

--Doug Elliott is a founding member of SPT Theatre Company and a producer of the Tales from the Writers’ Room series.

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