Friday, April 13, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

April 13, 2012

by David Dreyfoos
Director of Production

It was a typical day just like any other at the Playhouse, back at the beginning of 2011, when Managing Director Michael Ross and Artistic Director Mark Lamos asked me to think about doing a co-production of Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine’s Into the Woods with Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE. This was an intriguing idea and one that had not been done yet in my tenure at the Playhouse. If this was possible, we knew that the show would originate in Baltimore because of the particulars of how the two theaters’ performance schedules differed.  Now, you might be thinking, well that doesn’t sound so difficult or maybe, that sounds like a monumental task. The result actually lands somewhere in the middle, but still slightly favors the latter of the two thoughts.

Scenic Artist Michael Minahan works on a backdrop for Into the Woods

The place to start the thinking process is with budget, which in turn controls every detail of the exploration. The questions start to percolate. What does the theater look like in Baltimore? How does it differ from the Playhouse? This is a big show, so how many cast members will be needed? How many musicians? How many crew people and wardrobe people? Will it all be built at CENTERSTAGE or will the Playhouse have to build something? Where will we rehearse in New York City or Baltimore? There are quite a few miles between Baltimore and Westport, so how do we make this work? How will we truck the set from Baltimore to Westport? And the list of questions goes on and on.

Lauren Kennedy, Erik Liberman & Danielle Ferland in Into the Woods.
Note the completed backdrop!
Photo by Richard Anderson.

One of the first steps was to settle on the cast size, number of musicians, and the rehearsal location. As I began to put numbers into a spreadsheet, I also began to work with my counterpart in Baltimore, Mike Schleifer. Mike and I discussed the budgets for all aspects of the production and began to hammer out certain assumptions like; we know we will be rehearsing in New York, how many trips of props, costumes, and set pieces are physically possible in a week given our budget? The determination was there would two trips per week. Another—Baltimore would build the set and costumes and subsequently they would be sent to the Playhouse after the production closes in Baltimore. As these assumptions were vetted and built it into the budget we began to see a more comprehensive view of the production to come. 

Stay tuned for the next post about the inner-workings of our co-production with CENTERSTAGE.

Click here to view a brief promotional video for Into the Woods.  Performances begin in Westport on May 1st.

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