Dan Caffrey says he wrote the stage-direction-free script of The Frog Prince as a sort of challenge to himself. “I tend to write plays that have a lot of spectacle and a lot of very specific stage directions,” he says. “[The Frog Prince] was written… to see if I could do that, if I could be really minimalist and just accomplish things with language and description rather than a bunch of action onstage.”
As it turns out, a script with no stage directions can easily become an audio play, and audio plays work pretty well for the new age of virtual theater, so the timing was right for The Frog Prince to find a home with Jarrott Productions this summer.
“We were definitely looking for something that we could do virtually, and we had already done one audio theater production,” artistic director David Jarrott says. “As a radio person in my former life, I’ve always enjoyed theater of the mind.” Jarrott loved Caffrey’s Frog Prince script and thought it was a perfect fit for a virtual audio production.
Caffrey’s script is based on the familiar fairy tale, but his version is a dark comedy that’s aimed squarely at an adult audience, and it’s also been updated for more modern sensibilities. “Growing up, I always read the fairy tale, like a lot of people did, and fell in love with it. Both The Frog Prince and The Frog Princess– this one kind of combines elements of both,” he says. “And then as I got older… and given a lot of the conversations we’ve been having the last few years, I started to realize that the frog prince is kind of an annoying character. The constant begging for a kiss, right? He’s what I like to call a sex pest. And so I thought it might be interesting to frame it through this kind of modern lens.”
Caffrey says he wasn’t really interested in trying to make that character into something heroic. “I really didn’t try to make him sympathetic,” he says. “I wanted to make him specific. I wanted him to be manipulative and creepy in a very specific way that I think speaks to this moment. And then looping in the cast and just having that be a very open and honest conversation I think really helped me.”
“It was a very collaborative process, which you don’t always get with a theater piece,” Jarrott says. “Theater makers talk about finding the joy of doing what they do, and if it doesn’t bring you joy then why are you doing it? And this truly has been one of the most joyous productions I’ve been associated with in over 65 years of productions.”
Jarrott says he’d love to someday produce a full stage version of this show with the same group of actors. Everyone was cast with an audio production in mind, but Jarrott thinks they’d be ideal for a live-action version as well, including Toby Minor, who plays the titular frog. “If you know Toby at all, you know that he’s a certifiable loon,” Jarrott says. “When we did our recording session, it was the only time we were all together in the same room, [with] all the Covid precautions and all that sort of thing… and Toby did this on purpose, I know. He made sure he was the last one to enter the recording studio, and when he did, he came in a frog costume. And it was like ‘Where did you get that?’ And he said, ‘From my closet.’”
Caffrey says working with the cast and crew of The Frog Prince has helped him stay centered during the Covid lockdown. “It’s just been a real pleasure to work with them,” he says. “Just to have this play and make it more and more imaginative during a time when it’s really hard to do theater has just been really good for my soul.”
‘The Frog Prince’ is available to stream at JarrotProductions.com throughout the month of August, or ‘Frogust’ as David Jarrott likes to say because he loves frog puns.