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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

On Your Marks...Get Set...Wait

Well, its now official. Despite several weeks of incredible effort on the part of a whole host of people, the production of William Mastrosimone's Nanawatai! that I was supposed to direct has been postponed until possibly sometime later this summer or early fall. It was a difficult decision on the part of A Theatre Under The Influence to put off the show, but given the exhausting experience they just went through with their production of Sarah Kane's Blasted, it's really no surprise. They're burnt-out, and they need time to regroup before tackling another major project head-on.

Here's the story in a nutshell: Influence announced last summer that Nanawatai! was going to be on their season, and I immediately threw my hat into the ring to direct it; I first read it probably 12 years or so ago, when I was doing another Mastrosimone play in Spokane, and immediately thought it was a great script, but I just couldn't imagine HOW it could be realized (the centerpiece of the play is some representation of a Soviet T-72 tank -- onstage). So, I was truly excited about the fact that Influence, a company that specializes in underproduced works by noted playwrights didn't seem intimidated by this problem. As things turned out, another director was selected for the show, and I was asked to serve as dramaturg. So, since December I've been collecting information, and putting it together into something to present to the designers, director and eventually the cast.

About six weeks or so ago, I got a call from David Nochimson, Influence's Production Manager informing me that the director had bowed out and would I be willing to take over? Well, I thought about it for all of about six nanoseconds before agreeing. At that point the show had not been fully cast, and with the exception of an Assistant Director, none of the production staff positions had been filled. So, I immediately began the process of putting together a team, and completing casting -- which even as of last night I'm sorry to say wasn't 100% done. Costumers for example seem to be in very high demand and of the four or five I personally contacted, none were available.

Meanwhile, Influence was set to open another show, Blasted at their space on Capital Hill on the 20th of February, and that very same day the Seattle Fire Dept. decided to do their annual building inspection. Okay, some things needed to be fixed, and most were taken care of that day, but then they did a follow-up at 7:00 p.m. (the show was scheduled to start at 8!) and essentially told the folks, "either this stuff (major portions of the set for one) gets cleared up or we shut you down". So, mad scramble to comply -- which amazingly they did -- and the show opened.

Everything's cool, right? Well, after the Rhode Island rock club fire last year, fire departments across the country are getting antsy about public assembly issues, and Union Garage (where the show was performing) became one of the "casualties". SFD determined that unless substantial upgrades were made to the building (price tag= anywhere from $20K to $100K+) were not made immediately (!) occupancy for public assemblies would be limited to 49 people, and the back space (the larger of the two in the venue, where Blasted was performing) was off-limits.

Now, keep in mind this is a shoddy old garage owned by a landlord who has been nice enough in their way, but who has the tenants on a month-to-month lease, and despite offers of support from the City, County, and granting organizations, nobody in their right mind was going to sink the kind of cash into the building without some sort of long term committment (say 5 - 10 years) from the owner. So, the only options were: 1.) move the show to the significantly smaller front space; 2.) find another venue to move it to; or 3.) close the production half-way through its scheduled four-week run. Luckily Intiman Theater stepped up to the plate and offered their space for the show. Then, it was a matter of getting clearance from the stagehand's union (which is another whole story in itself), physically moving the entire production, and then getting word out to the press and community about the change.

Amazingly, and with more than a few roadbumps along the way, all this happened, and as we say in this biz, "The show must (did) go on." Blasted closed Saturday night and we disassembled the set Sunday afternoon.

Immediately before doing so, however, Influence held a company meeting, where they made the decision to postpone my show until a suitable venue could be found.

Certainly it was a disappointment to the cast, who were put in the unenviable position of showing up for what they expected to be their first rehearsal, only to be given the news that -- for the time being at least -- it would also be their last. Even with the burden of awaiting a decision removed from my shoulders, I still feel a little guilty about keeping them in the dark so long, but the fact of the matter was that WE were all in the dark for almost the same length of time. Things literally went down-to-the wire in terms of finding an alternate venue (even though it would have still meant pushing the show back about four weeks), but the Seattle Center ultimately threw the sabot that prompted Influence's decision by putting a hold on the venue we were considering that fell smack in the middle of our run.

Still, I have to admire and respect their willingness to see our side of the situation, and I got the impression after our meeting last night that many of them still feel committed to doing the show, whenever it happens. In fact, they even suggested that we get together periodically to read the script, and do some of the preliminary 'table work" before an actual schedule is re-established, which I have to admit made me feel very positive about their sense of professionalism and willingness to see the project through; it's one of the things that makes me proud to be a member of this community, and I hope, for all our sakes that we get another shot at it.

Keep your fingers (and eyes and toes and anything else) crossed.

Posted byCOMTE on 11:45 AM

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