Friday, March 23, 2012
TAKING THE SHOW ON THE ROAD
I’m back in rehearsal.
I’m never back in rehearsal.
I’m always just in rehearsal (except when I’m not) for the next project that I’m going to speed along to the stage – the producer-version of the father at a shotgun wedding – carefully keeping the script between my two barrels…
But, as of late last week, I’m back in rehearsal for my play “Our Greatest Year” (with S. Henkle) about one couple’s relationship and the 2007 Cleveland professional sports year.
I’m back because in late-March we’re taking the show, fittingly, to Cleveland for a limited run hosted by John Carroll University at the fantastic Dobama Theatre.
Woo-hoo, right? (not to be confused with Wahoo which is a troubling Cleveland thing in its own right…)
I wrote this play in 3 weeks. We rehearsed it for 2 and put it up for 4 performances last June.
Now, I’ve been living with it for nearly a year. We’ll have more rehearsal time than we did originally, as well as a comparable run.
My director, Anna Brenner, started the actors – and, consequently, me – by asking how their thoughts on the play, the characters, etc. had changed since our first foray.
As a writer – and I’ll just speak for myself – you always think you can tear down the whole script – or not.
So, I’m aware that the play’s got its flaws (…yeah, like if supreme awesomeness is a flaw…) but the nature of the play – it’s a blend of live stage action and projected motion comics – makes it a difficult revision (as the words can be changed and changed or not infinitely easier than the images).
With the writing, we can nip and tuck and tweak and recontextualize, but we pretty much need to go to war with the ammo we got. Returning to the show is, then, more complicated for me as the producer. In four weeks I’m taking two writers, two actors and a director to a city where I haven’t lived in fifteen years, know relatively few people and have (relatively) no clue who the theater-going community is or how to reach them (relatively).
So, I’m back in rehearsal thinking about audience. Not in the way that a writer thinks about an audience as the theoretical people who will be receiving this work, but the practical audience – the people who will be in the practical seats – my least favorite thing to think about when producing a show in NYC. I’m thinking about audience. Audience, audience, audience.
And it’s actually kinda fun…
In NY, I often have the feeling that I know every one of the 200-or-so people I have a fighting chance of getting to see my show. In fact, the fact that I know them is the primary reason I have a fighting chance to get them. That’s how independent stuff works here.
Cleveland – and this may be the single most shocking statement I will ever write – has certain advantages over NY. It has family, friends and family friends, many of whom have never had the chance to see the work we’ve been doing out here. There are the 200-or-so JCU students who will be encouraged/required to attend. But, beyond that, the audience question is wide-open.
There is no one yet who has refused to attend. There is no marketing strategy (yet) that has blown up in my face. There have yet to be modestly attended shows or lukewarm receptions (clearly the fault of them and not us) or thousands and thousands of dollars thrown with gusto from the nearest open window… Not. Just. Yet.
So, I’m back in rehearsal feeling, I guess, what one hopes one feels when one is back: I’m excited and hopeful … however suspiciously. I love the show and the cast and think we have a fighter’s chance of performing this for actual people. Hopefully many of them. Now, if only Bernie Kosar would return my emails requesting his attendance…
Hey – ho – way to go – Ohio.
You can learn more about this production at www.OurGreatestYear.com.
- Robert Attenweiler