Jen Childs and I were sitting in the balcony of Plays & Players during the run of The Carols last season when she told me that she'd been thinking for a year or two about this Barbra Streisand play by Jonathan Tolins. I'd heard of it when Michael Urie did it in New York in 2013, and I said it sounded like fun. We talked more about what actors we'd love to see in a one-person show (and I think we had another glass of whiskey), and when I got home I immediately ordered a copy to read. When it came, I found it to be both funnier and also more moving than I was expecting. But the first thing that jumped out at me was how gay the play felt. Of course it's about Barbra Streisand, and the character telling the story is gay. But to me the play is gay on a deeper level than that. The rhythm of the way Alex speaks, the references he makes, the way he combines total respect for pop culture with total irreverence - it all feels very familiar to me. And I think we all knew how important it would be to get the right actor for the play!
Jen, Emily Kleimo, and I auditioned a lot of actors for this play. There were Philly actors that we knew we were interested in, there were guys who came to our open call to audition, and there were guys who've done the role before at other theatres around the country who wanted to be seen for it (an entertaining show that doesn't need a lot of actors or scenery gets very popular very quickly). As we watched auditions and video submissions, it became clear that we needed not just someone who is a good actor, but also someone who is super funny, who can keep the audience engaged for 90 minutes, and who can live effortlessly in the witty/sassy/eye-rolling/fan-girling/gay narration of the story.
We found our Alex in Dito van Reigersberg. Dito is a very funny, very physical performer - he's a co-founder and company member of Pig Iron Theatre Company. And he can definitely hold an audience in the palm of his hand - I first became aware of Dito's work when I saw him as Martha Graham Cracker at L'Etage 8 years ago, and I've been a fan ever since. But most importantly, Dito brought tenderness and depth (as well as humor) to a scene that we'd asked him to prepare between Alex and his boyfriend. As we worked together on that scene, I knew we'd be in good hands with him telling this story.
So now we're in our second week of rehearsals, and I'm so excited for people to come see what we've been working on— more to come!
(Buyer & Cellar runs October 5th thru 29th. Tickets are available here.)