It all started a few years ago, when Mike Draper and RAYGUN wanted to publish a book. "When we looked at the publishing landscape (marketing, distribution, etc.), we realized that WE could probably do all of that better than a publishing company," says Mike.
"It was the first cue to us that we knew our market better than outside companies, and that we should take control of the process. Our confidence has grown since then, and we wanted to take the same approach to theatre."
"Scott (Siepker) was the perfect person to approach," Draper continues, "because he has a similar sensibility as us -- MIDWESTERN and ENTERTAINMENT. He can blend the serious with the humorous, which is exactly what I was looking for. Then Kristin could provide guidance on bringing the project to life. So a balance of content input and technical input made this project come together well."
Not a T-shirt
So why is a guy better known for making pithy comments on people's clothing taking on a theatrical project like No Coast?
"When I first opened the store, people would say, 'why open a real store, the internet is where it's at!' But I LIKE having a store. I like the interaction with humans."
Obviously, with Scott Siepker involved, this could easily have been an online video like many of Scott's "Iowa Nice Guy" pieces. But Mike wanted this project to be more immediate and interactive.
"Videos are fun to do," says Mike, "but there is NOTHING COMPARABLE to hearing a live audience laugh at funny content, or respond in real time. Even for the audience, there is nothing like it, you laugh harder at a live standup act than one on the internet. No matter how digital stuff gets, people still want that real experience. The high of being in it and seeing it will really open some eyes, and, I hope, make people want to go out and make more of it."
"So, short answer: I wanted to make a play!"
A long road to here
Getting from an idea to a produced play is quite a large task, especially for something purely original. And while No Coast has been "in the making" for a while now, it became a serious objective over the last year or so, with significant work going into the production. And, as Mike knows, creation is a never-ending process.
"There have been close to 36 re-writes in total, seriously. Big issues, small issues. We want this to entertain, to move, and so when we listened to it in read-through, any parts that were dragging or not clicking properly were cut and adapted."
"I had the final say on writing, but RAYGUN has gotten me used to group input and realizing that if something isn't carrying its weight, it needs to be adjusted or cut. The version that we're publishing for sale actually has a few new things that won't be in the first version of the play -- just words here and there. As Picasso said: 'a piece of work is never finished, but abandoned.' At a certain point, we had to stop working on it and start memorizing lines!"
The beginning of more
Scott Seipker and Kristin Larson stared Goldfinch Theatre Company in early 2014, with a production of Macbeth. Last year, Goldfinch produced the 7-11 Theatre Project here in Des Moines. Kristin continues with the history of Goldfinch with No Coast and its journey to now.
"We were hoping to create quality theatre and compensate theatre artists for their work. Scott and I are taking the development of Goldfinch slowly, and working on projects as we can at this point. Mike and Scott started talking about Mike's script over 6 months ago, and development and work commenced. Developing original works in Iowa is a real plus, and something we'd like to be a part of more in the future. Wouldn't it be great to see more playwrights emerging from Iowa?"
Mike also wants to emphasize the local talent, and hope this will encourage that same development.
"I tell people that if they look at RAYGUN, they'll see dozens of people from Iowa creating a fun, nationally (regionally, at least?) well known brand. We don't need to IMPORT talent to Des Moines, we need to inspire and cultivate and motivate the talent that is already present. I want this play, like the store, to show people that there is a lot more possible here than what they think!"
No Coast is presented by Goldfinch Theatre Company. Performances run for two weekends beginning Friday February 10 at the Viking Theatre at Grand View University.