The Royale at Alley Repertory Theater: Take 2

Co-director of The Royale, John Wicks, talks about Alley Repertory Theater’s postponement of the production, moving it from October ’21 to March of 2022.

The pandemic has affected theater for nearly two years now. It affected Alley Repertory Theater firsthand back in October of 2021. Due to COVID-19, we needed to initially postpone our production of The Royale by Marco Ramirez. This was personally hard for me to accept. It was difficult for the company with our hands forced in a direction with minimal options, postponement being what we considered the strongest move. I have since had time to reflect and alter my perspective on the situation, arriving at some self-satiating conclusions.

What affected me most and caused the most disappointment in the postponement of not only the play, but what I believe would have been – and will be this March – a pivotal moment in Boise theatre. The moment I’m referring to is one that concerns itself with inclusivity, equity and diversity in a way that has never been addressed in the Treasure Valley through theatre. The disappointment of having to wait for this personal dream moment was seemingly insurmountable at first. However, I have found that the extra preparation time will do service to the pivoting moment that we would not be able to do without it.

The Royale was always supposed to be a difficult project. The nature of it has never been done in this community for a reason. A story about a Black boxer supported by an almost entirely all Black cast. A rich, dense story. A fast-paced and musically motivated script, and interwoven elements moving in rhythm made for a more difficult directing experience than I anticipated. I was unable to focus on the important aspects of telling this very important story.

So, here is what you might’ve missed out on, but will now be able to experience because of the postponement:

The Royale: Digging in

First of all, casting The Royale was always going to be difficult; however, we knew it was possible. We successfully did that part. It was still very difficult to find the right actors to play these very sensational roles given the presence of Black actors in Boise being limited. We experienced some difficulty scheduling. This prevented us from achieving some of the basic goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion we stand by. In this, we realized the bonding of a shared cast experience and a written agreement between actor and company is an experience that is vital to our DEI efforts.

The input of professionals, historians, and academics in the rehearsal space will be adequately scheduled. This will enhance the conversation of the play and race. Our cast and crew will be prepared to intelligently speak on the topics of the play in a way they might not have been able to otherwise.

This is a show that had been familiarized and rehearsed almost to performance. The majority of that cast returns this spring. With a week longer to rehearse, we will be able to hone in on all those interwoven, moving elements that are so difficult to navigate. We will be able to focus strongly on the details and the conversation of the play more so than before. It will be a more rehearsed and prepared performance overall.

The Royale: March 10 thru March 20

There are many positives to the sad reality of postponement due to COVID. There are very many aspects of this production that audiences would not have been able to experience without the postponement. To be perfectly honest, we will now be able to give the story the time, effort, and work it deserves. And we will also be able to give the pivotal moment more power. We give it more room to pivot our community.

We plan to come full force. And we are prepared to present a piece the likes of which Boise has never witnessed before. This is an important piece of work we will not back down from. Stories like this one can be told in our community. Come this March we will show the entire Boise Theater community that what has not been done out of a fear it cannot be done is rooted in a false pretense.

Postponement in October of 2021 has only provided us a better opportunity to make change in our community and bring greater justice to the story of The Royale. This pivotal moment is the most important aspect of this production for me. Massive change starts on a communal scale. If we can tell Black stories, here in Boise, with our resources, then we can tell these stories in Seattle, Chicago, D.C,, Kansas City, and all over the country.

John Wicks is the Director of Humbly Fresh at Alley Rep. He hails from the College of Idaho, where he studied acting. John considers himself a jack of many trades, a master of none: Writer, BLM activist, Actor, and Director.