The process of creating Solitaire: An Original Play was developed by Justin M. Schlabach when he practiced theatre in Spokane, Washington. This method was discovered when he worked with Old Orchard Theatre on their production of Hog Heaven and further developed it in a second production titled On the Subway.
Solitaire: An Original Play started with a premise: Create a theatrical production from the ground up exploring depression through the metaphor of the classic card game Solitaire. The premise was born while Schlabach was playing solitaire in December 2015. He noticed that many aspects of the game seemed to emulate life. However, it wasn’t until May 2015 when he stumbled upon Brad Paisley’s song “Whiskey Lullaby” that depression became the apt choice for a subject.
Using this launching point, Schlabach and the ensemble members met several times a week to discuss depression, its effects on the individual, and how to find the light in this subject of darkness. The ensemble also brought what is called Source Material, anything that inspired them in regards to the premise. The Source Material could be articles, items, books, quotations, pictures, etc. In addition, songs were brought in to demonstrate the Yin and Yang (Struggle and Light) of depression. For example, songs brought by Schlabach were “Whiskey Lullaby” by Brad Paisley for the struggle juxtaposed with “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles to show the light. Not all materials were used in the play, but the idea was to bring as much to the table as possible so choices could be made.
Once there was adequate Source Material, Schlabach conducted improvisation exercises to pull theatrical ways of presenting the material. Schlabach selected activities that could be tailored to the material already collected and learned by the ensemble. As was the case with the Source Material, not everything discovered in improvisation was used, but it provided choices to select in creating a script to present to an audience. Carefully matching elements from the process, Schlabach wrote a script in 20 days to give to the ensemble as dialogue, character arches, and narrative. From this script, the ensemble was cast as their respective characters and blocking began to create the story you will see in this performance.