Partners in Theatre for Young Audiences: First Stage and Oregon Children’s Theatre

By Jennifer Hubbartt       
Theater is a collaborative art. Playwrights, directors, actors, choreographers, scenic designers, costumers, lighting and sound designers, and more need to come together to tell a story effectively and with artistic excellence. Theaters in different parts of the country will often join forces to develop a script, crafting a new tale to tell to a wider range of audiences.

Part of the cast of Gathering Blue which was a collaboration with OCT.
Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

First Stage has grown to become a national leader in new play development for Theater for Young Audiences, in part by forging national partnerships with other theaters to commission work. “Collaborating with other theaters puts more smart people together to ensure that we create an extraordinary piece of art to share with even more audiences,” said Jeff Frank, First Stage artistic director. 

Oregon Children’s Theater (OCT) has become a frequent collaborative partner of First Stage’s over the last decade. In this process, Frank and Stan Foote, OCT artistic director, will commission a playwright to develop a script for a new story they want to bring to stage. Over the course of months or even years, the artistic directors work with the playwright to develop the script that meets their collective vision for the play. Once a full draft of the play is complete, each theater will conduct workshops in their own communities, providing feedback to one another and shaping the script to the final version that is seen on stage today.
“First Stage and Oregon Children’s Theater are both committed to age-appropriate casting and to developing plays that celebrate the young person's point of view,” said Frank. “Stan and I both feed off each other's energy, so it just makes sense to work together on projects when we are able,” Frank continued. “As we develop a script collaboratively, we may not always agree on every point, but the productions are always the better for our discussions about each of those points.” 

Gossamer was the first collaboration between OCT
and First Stage. Photo by Mark Frohna.

GOOSEBUMPS THE MUSICAL: PHANTOM OF THE AUDITORIUM marks the third co-commission between First Stage and OCT, who opens their simultaneous world premiere on October 22. The two theaters also collaborated on the new play development of GOSSAMER (2008-2009 season), Lois Lowry’s own stage adaptation of her award-winning novel, and GATHERING BLUE (2012-2013 season), another Lowry novel adapted by Eric Coble.

“Collaborating on new works with Jeff, John (Maclay, First Stage associate artistic director) and First Stage over the last 10 years has been so valuable,” said Foote. “Our shared values, humor, and humanity unite us.” 

First Stage’s 30th anniversary season continues with four more world premiere plays, including ROBIN HOOD, also written by Maclay and Joe Foust; and WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE, written and directed by First Stage lead teacher and dramaturge Sheri Williams Pannell. The First Stage Foundry, our latest new play development initiative, will launch with our first new play reading on December 13. More details on the rest of our season are available at

Continue today’s adventure all season long! If you don’t already have a First Stage Family Package, find a volunteer in the lobby to learn how you can upgrade today’s tickets and save.

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