They started out as a five-person touring repertoire company. Lauren Nichols, artistic director at all for One, remembers booking shows for churches and a variety of other audiences for the company that would evolve into all for One Productions.
In 2000, the actors and actresses of all for One (afO) gathered around Nichols' kitchen table and created the game plan. Instead of travelling to a variety of venues, they wanted to have a more permanent home base, so that they could present fully-staged works.
“Harvey Cocks was very instrumental in helping us get started,” Nichols explained. Much of their material, up until this point, had been written by members of afO. But as they embraced a permanent base, Nichols said, they were willing to look at more material. Cocks had a script that he recommended – and afO did it.
Nichols, who had always considered herself an actress, was shocked when Cocks suggested that she become a director. “(He said) he'd play grandpa if (I) would direct it,” she reminisced. The play was “You Can't Take it With You,” and she found that she enjoyed the experience. “I love it, love it, love it,” she exclaimed.
Since that time, afO has presented 45 fully-staged theatrical productions, 35 of which Nichols has directed. From a company of five people in 1992, the list of actors, helpers, and other people who help produce the shows has grown. “I have well over 200 names of people who help out,” she said.
A lot of the material that afO presents is written in-house. Nichols explained that there are four playwrights, besides herself, who create material for afO. But the process of writing a play is a lot of work. It can take 18 months just to get the new script from idea form into stage-ready material.
As an example, Nichols mentioned Sam Ward, who will be appearing as the Biblical King David in a production this coming year. “My friend Sam first approached me with the idea of a one-man show at least three years ago,” she explained. Ward, with Nichols' blessing, went on to write the dialogue and music for the show that features one actor and a backup rock band. “It's half storytelling, half rock concert,” she explained.
But, before David comes to the stage, afO will be present an original play that Nichols wrote for afO: “A Mighty Fortress.”
“My husband dared me to do it,” Nichols laughed, when asked what inspired her to write this play. Nichols started reading about the German monk and father of the Protestant Reformation and wrote “A Mighty Fortress.”
This one-man show is an exploration of the time during which Luther hid at Wartburg Castle following his trial at the Edict of Worms. According to the website Luther.de, Luther was “declared an outlaw wanted dead or alive.” It was definitely a dangerous point in his life, as the website notes: “anyone could kill him without threat of prosecution.”
In addition to this being the 25-year anniversary of afO's existence, 2017 also marks the 500-year anniversary of Luther's initial protest, in 1517. The significance of both events is not lost on Nichols.
“I wanted to do something special for this production … (to help the audience get the context of ) how very dangerous (Luther's position) was,” she explained. A three-person prologue, written especially for afO's anniversary presentation, gets the message across.
Although there have been many favorite moments Nichols has had with the production company, she said the best part has been the wonderful working relationship she has with all her fellow workers. “Nearly every cast becomes like a family,” she said.
“We pray together, share together for at least six weeks… on opening night, in the green room, in the almost dark with this big circle of actors and assistants and everyone who has worked so hard together… every show is a joy.”
A Mighty Fortress
What: A Mighty Fortress, a play about Martin Luther presented by all for One (rated G, best suited for middle-school viewers and up)
Where: PPG ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St., Fort Wayne
When: Friday-Sunday and Sept. 22-24, Friday/Saturday 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Cost: early bird tickets (purchased through today) $17 adult, $14 seniors (age 60 or older), $11 for students and for groups of 10 or more
Purchased at the door: $20 adult, $17 seniors, $11 students
Information: allforonefw.org/currentproduction/ for tickets, call 422-4226 Monday-Friday noon-6 p.m, & Saturday 12-4 p.m. (day of show only)