It was only in mid-March that Nottage and her director and co-conceiver, Miranda Haymon, initially brought their collaborators together online — a much shorter development process than most Off Broadway shows. By necessity, the project has evolved somewhat on the fly.
To Paige Evans, Signature’s artistic director, it is all “a grand experiment.”
“It’s highly collaborative, highly multidisciplinary. And it’s devised theater,” she said. “And so that’s a very different approach for everyone.”
But, she noted, Signature lately has embraced artists, like the composer Dave Malloy and the ensemble the Mad Ones, whose work doesn’t fit its usual model. “The Watering Hole” belongs to that same trajectory, she said.
Haymon, who uses the pronoun they, said the project has pushed against traditional production rigidities in favor of a more organic approach.
“Part of the deep collaboration with the Signature,” they said, two weeks before the first audiences were due to arrive, “is that we really had to say, ‘Sorry, we know A, B and C about this piece, but we do not know T through Z. Is that enough?’ Then they’d say, ‘Can you at least tell us D, E, F?’ And we’d say, ‘OK, OK, OK, we can tell you D and E, maybe F.’
“I mean, dude, to be totally honest, there’s still Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z that we do not know.”
What is universal about the process is the teaming up of people who are new to one another yet have to bond fast to get the work done — what the playwright-performer Ryan J. Haddad called the experience of “Hello, I love you, we just met” that is intrinsic to theater making.