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dogAdam Burke is sipping an iced coffee one afternoon in March while, ironically, talking about his love of coffee and how this grand idea came to be.
 
As Burke, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s artistic director, recalls, it was spring of 2015 when he sat down at an Uptown coffee shop with Chip Decker, Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte’s artistic director, when they first discussed the idea of creating two simultaneously running, intertwined plays.
 
It was a cool idea, certainly. But could the two theatres make it happen?
 
First, the pair would have to not only find a willing playwright but, rather, one who had a track record of writing great scripts for both adults and children. Then, if Burke and Decker could find that special playwright, could the theatres find the funding to even hire the playwright and produce the shows?
 
“I immediately thought of someone who’d be interested,” Linda Reynolds, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s director of advancement, said. “The project not only provided collaboration between the two theatres, but it was also a fabulous learning opportunity about how a project like this could be developed, which is valuable for our two theatres as well as the larger field of theatre in general. Fortunately for us, our donor embraced the project and stepped up in a big way to completely fund Children’s Theatre of Charlotte's involvement. He also encouraged us to document the process, which allowed us to engage both theatre and psychology professionals from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the project.”
 
With the donor on board to support the endeavor, now Burke and Decker had to figure out how to actually do it.
 
 “It was back and forth, building this idea and saying, ‘What if it was this? What if it was that?’ Rarely have two theatres in the same city partnered like this to produce two simultaneously running shows from two different perspectives," Burke said. “Everything Actor’s Theatre does is everything we wouldn’t do. But the parents of our audience members frequent Actor’s Theatre. So, we wanted to work with that to meet the needs of each theatre.”
 
And there’s a reason for that. Children don’t write children’s theatre scripts, so finding a playwright who could get inside the minds of children isn’t the easiest ask.
 
 “The further we get from that age, the harder it is to understand what it is to be that age,” Burke said. “We have our own adult responses to events. I’m not sure we can ever accurately perceive the viewpoints of a 4-year-old. We try to, though.”
 
The hunt for the playwright was on.
 
“We thought about inviting playwrights to apply and go through a vetting process,” Burke said. “But it’s hard to find a playwright who has successfully written for both audiences.”
 
About the time when Decker and Burke had their initial conversation about the project, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte produced Jackie & Me. The renowned playwright Steven Dietz wrote the play about the baseball legend Jackie Robinson, and Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte had also produced several of Dietz’s shows, including Yankee Tavern and Becky’s New Car.
 
“What if, “Decker said, “we just ask him?”
 
But would Dietz say yes to a long-term, complex project like this?
 
Well, it couldn’t hurt to ask, right?
 
Stay tuned for part two of this story! We’ll release the second part of this three-part story in our weekly e-mail newsletter first on June 13. Sign up to receive that newsletter here.

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