Buyer & Cellar. Previews are over. Another openin’ of another show. This is the start of my 16th season here at 1812. With one or two exceptions, I’ve stage managed every production here since the end of 2002. Wow. It’s around this time in the process when I reflect on how we’ve gotten to this point, and how far we have to go. Rehearsals are just about ending and the run of performances is just about to begin.
So how does this show compare to others? Or more specifically, to other one-person shows I’ve worked on here at 1812?
I’ve SM'ed a couple of Jen Childs vehicles (by the way, I’d definitely buy that car) — Why I’m Scared of Dance and I Will Not Go Gently —that she wrote and created. So that was a big part of the rehearsal process— finessing the script, figuring out music, choreography, etc. On Buyer & Cellar, we started with an established script, and haven’t changed a word. So it has been more about creating the many characters that Dito van Reigersberg plays, figuring out the physical space while using very few set/prop pieces, and ultimately, helping Dito learn lines and feel the flow of the show.
The other new aspect of this production is the number of new people working on the show. We have a new production manager, Ben Levan, and a new technical director, Lance Kniskern. We have designers working on their first 1812 show— Maria Shaplin (lighting), Chris Haig (set), Chris Sannino (sound), with standouts Jill Keys returning as costume designer and Jen Burkhart on props. AND a new ASM (assistant stage manager), Julia Levis. AND Dan O’Neil is directing for us for the first time. So, lots of new and young (!) people. I feel like the old man up in the booth, watching over these youngsters as they do their thing. I find myself yelling at them to “get off my lawn!” as I shake my fist at them. But seriously, I’ve been pretty amazed at the work they’re all doing. They’ve all slipped into their roles at 1812 like they’ve been here for years.
One of the joys of working at 1812 is that, even during tech week, we work incredibly hard and for long hours, but we also laugh. A lot. I try to do my part to keep the proceedings light, injecting my own jokes and snark whenever possible. But when it’s time to get serious, we do. I try (and hopefully succeed) to keep the director, actor, and designers both happy and productive during this time, while moving the rehearsals along and helping form the show into what it wants to be.
We’re coming off a long two weeks of getting all the technical elements just right, and then five days of previews before the official opening. It can be a stressful time. The audiences arrive as the final piece of the show. Will they laugh? Will they be engaged? Will they get it? Previews for almost all 1812 shows are endlessly fascinating for this reason. This show has been no different. Will they laugh? Yes. Yes, they will.