From initial concept to the final product, construction of an original play is a long and arduous process.
Over 18 months ago, Stratton Leopold approached Tom Coleman III with an idea for an original play. "Ken" is based on a short story by Arnold Sundaard published in the New Yorker in 1959. A year ago, the play debuted at Tybee Post Theater to sold-out audiences.
Sundaard's son, Steve, was a college roommate of Leopold's. "Ken" tells the true story of an adventurous train ride the elder Sundaard took in 1933 while a student at Yale Drama School. He was chosen to travel with the body of a fellow student returning back to Oregon for burial.
For three days this weekend, the original play from stalwarts of the Savannah community will enjoy a three-show revival presented by Savannah Community Theatre and Tybee Post Theater in a new partnership.
"The only purpose behind this production is to get it on tape," Coleman said, "because it is not on tape yet."
After contacting Post Theater executive director Melissa Turner about renting the building for a day, she invited Coleman and company out for a full run.
"I said, well, we've already done it. I am not sure if there are people in Savannah who would want to see it again; 1,200 people have seen it before," Coleman said. "Everyone in the cast was like, no, I have this friend, and I have that friend. People will come. We know people who didn't come before."
Most of the original cast has been reunited for the revival, which includes Eric McCrea, Jeffery Hall, Maia Strickland Collins, Malinda K. Smith and Tom Paris. Jake Roberts, who was a student at the time and has since left Savannah, will be replaced in the new production by Wendell Hester.
Coleman has been working tirelessly on "Ken" for the past year. They began with a staged reading, progressed to a full house and took comments from the audience afterward. Rewrites ensued for three months after. A limited production was staged, rewrites were made and that was followed by the full production in the summer of 2016.
While Coleman has spent decades as a director - he has over 400 shows on his resume - writing a new play has been a different experience. Originally, when Leopold approached him, Coleman thought the story would be better explored through film instead of the stage, due to the expansive nature of the story's settings.
But Leopold, who is producing the show, was persistent and wanted to see it on stage. It took Coleman months of time with the story to finally see it as a play, and throughout the various productions, he's revised the script time and again to end up with the best product.
"When you write something, you can't get your face far enough away from it to see the flaws and so I know what I do, if there is something missing," Coleman said. "I am filling it in in my head, so I don't realize that it's missing. With the audience, they would ask a question and I would go, wait a minute, it's in there. And they'd say, it isn't in there. It's in my brain. I have gone back in and fleshed out some of the characters.
"I've gone back to the son of the man who this show is about â€¦ I've been able to fill in a lot of those holes. There's some new narration of the show that explains some things that I don't think were there before," he said.
IF YOU GO
What: Stage production of "Ken"
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12-13; 3 p.m. Jan. 14
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horn Drive
Cost: $20 show only; $45 dinner theater (three-course pre-fixe dinner at The Sundae Cafe before show Jan. 12-13 and after show Jan. 14)