When Michelle Schaunaman started acting again in 2017, she noticed something missing in the roles she was playing.
She would play the part of a woman in her 20s or even 40s, she said, but there weren’t any plays with characters her age (someone in their 30s) and none that spoke to her life circumstances – a young mother, dealing with a career change and a relationship.
So, she started writing, and out came “Inconsequential Dreams.”
Schaunaman said the story has echoes of her own life, as she was adjusting to moving back home to Aberdeen with her husband Nick, owner of Jimmy’s Pizza, and being a stay-at-home mom after working as an outreach coordinator for TESSA, a domestic violence shelter in Colorado Springs.
“Overall it’s about never being too late to follow your dreams and start something new,” she said.
Once “Inconsequential Dreams” was completed in 2019, she showed it first to Brian Schultz, associate artistic managing director at Aberdeen Community Theatre who organized a read-through of the script in the summer and then, after going back and forth with Schaunaman on some recommended changes, selected it as a Reader’s Theater piece in the fall. At this events, Schultz said, actors were selected who rehearsed the play a few times and then ran through the play live with an audience using minimal sets – a park bench or two and a bed large enough for four actors.
She was then encouraged to submit the script to the American Association of Community Theatre NewPlayFest.
To qualify for the contest, it has to be a script that hasn’t been fully produced.
“If they had fully staged it, it couldn’t be entered,” she said.
Judging for that contest is a four-tiered process, with the winning scripts selected to be fully produced. While her show didn’t make it past the second round in the national contest, Schaunaman said, she did get some feedback from the judges and found out a third judge had to be brought in to decide if the show would continue.
In reading comments from the judges, Schaunaman said, one concern was with the feasibility of costume changes between scenes. Judges thought they were impossible, she said.
Schultz also agreed that the transitions presented in the version of the play they roughed out in the staged reading were going to be a challenge.
But, Schaunaman took that feedback and came up with a solution.
After thinking about it, she added some text message exchanges that can be projected onto a screen for the audience while the characters are getting ready for the next scene.
Schaunaman said in talking to directors she’s found they like to workshop those types of challenges like the timing for costume changes, but with national contests, judges want polished shows that don’t have those unanswered questions.
Now armed with an updated script, Schaunaman said she decided to show it to other community theaters for feedback and reached out to a friend of hers who works with the Pierre Players Community Theatre and they selected it for a read through.
Schaunaman said what struck her at the reading of the script in Pierre is that her characters were presented almost identically to how they were presented in Aberdeen. The nuances within the dialogue also came through, she said. She took that as a sign that she had developed strong clear characters in the story.
“My hope behind the scenes is that they would love it and want to produce it, and they did,” she said, “They asked if they could put it on their schedule.”
In November, The Pierre Players Community Theatre announced “Inconsequential Dreams” as one of four productions planned 2023. “Inconsequential Dreams” will take the stage Sept. 15-17 and Sept. 21-23, with tickets on sale Sept. 5.
“Inconsequential Dreams” is one of two shows Schaunaman will have produced in 2023. She also wrote the script for “A Hollimark Christmas for Beth”, the November show for Aberdeen Community Theatre, which includes all the usual plot twists of a traditional Hallmark movie.
Alisa Bousa, president of the Pierre Players and director for “Inconsequential Dreams” said the initial read-through of the script in Pierre was two years ago, but it went really well.
“It really connected with the younger generation,” she said in a phone interview. “There was an excitement that day.”
Bousa said the play was then added to the list of scripts for consideration by a committee and some of the factors that stood out included that it was a new, locally written show. And, she said, it was a story she felt would resonate with the Pierre community and the diverse audience that attends their shows.
“I think all of us get to a point where we wonder if what we do matters,” she said. “Is our life inconsequential? It’s something I think a lot of people can relate to.”
Because this is a new show, Bousa said, she won’t have past set configurations she can look at for ideas. But, she said, that’ll give her an opportunity to visit with Schaunaman about her vision for for the set.