Charley Sandage is a songwriter and retired educator. His songwriting credits include the extensive “Arkansas Stories” project, a series inspired by events in Arkansas history, out of which “A Little War in Little Rock” evolved. He has taught history and speech and developed documents at Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), where he has often written songs for TV productions. He holds a BSE from Henderson State College and an MA and Ed.D from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
How long have you been working on this script?
I probably started making notes on it ten years ago.
Where did the idea come from?
For about twenty years, I've been writing songs about events in Arkansas History as part of a project we (most cleverly) call "Arkansas Stories." This story started out to be one of those, but it soon became clear one song wouldn't get the job done. The Brooks-Baxter War was such a bizarre event, at the juncture of so many defining issues, it just seemed to grow every time I pulled it out to work on it.
What iterations of the script have occurred (prior readings/revisions)?
Since David Eshelman first turned our tentative "scenarios" and "possible character lists" into the first coherent script draft, I'd say five or six. That's really hard to calculate because once that first one was on the table, David and Charlie Crow and I pretty much continuously hammered on it for a few months.
How has it changed over time?
A few characters came and went. Mostly, the challenge has been to give the audience enough historical context to understand what was really happening in Arkansas during one month 142 years ago, but do it in an engaging way.
What is your goal for this particular workshop - what would you like to see happen with your script during the weeks of working on it here?
We just want to see it take a couple of giant steps toward being "producible," meaningful, and enjoyable. I know the professionals at TheatreSquared can do this for us-or with us.
How do you think the Arkansas New Play Fest compares to other new play development workshops that you have been part of in the past?
This is my first experience of this kind. I had no idea, when this started, what would be involved, but at each point I've clearly seen that we needed to do the next thing we were being guided to do. A musical is so complex that you have to see it, hear it, watch it grow, over time.
Why are development workshops important for new plays?
"Important" doesn't cover it,especially in this case. Charlie Crow and I are songwriters who wanted this story told. We had some sense of how it might work on stage, but not only did we lack the resources to carry out this process, we didn't know what the process might be. We had to have someone - it turned out to be Bob Ford - to point us in the right direction. We had to have someone - it turned out to be David Eshelman, from Arkansas Tech - to devote the time and skill necessary to produce a script that could actually be worked with. Now, with this workshop, the "work" has a chance to become something more than some words and tunes and ideas.