Thursday, March 31, 2016

Notes from Annie's Garden: The Grand Adventure of Repertory Theater

By Anne Keefe
Associate Artist

It’s always fascinating to try something new, even when the concept is really old.

Sitting in the first read thru of ART and RED yesterday and imagining being able to experience both of these beautiful plays in the same week made me think of one my very first jobs in a professional theater.

I was 22, right out of college and working at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. Situated on the Princeton campus, this enormous theater accommodated in excess of 1000 people. The Artistic Director was Arthur Lithgow, father of John and it was a Rep (Repertory) Company. We did a six show season, mostly classics and they rotated – in Rep. That is to say, one could experience a 10:30am fully mounted production of Macbeth – usually full of bussed in students, and then come back that evening at 8pm to see a fully mounted production of say, Mice and Men. We would sometimes have 3 or 4 productions in rotation, so it was never dull. Traditionally regional theaters do a run of four to five weeks of the same play, much as we do in Westport (though over a shorter period of time).

The traditional Rep Company operates like McCarter used to, a format that is now not nearly as common. I think the main reasons are time and space and probably given the strains on most nonprofits, you would have to include money! Doing Art and Red in rep will mean our terrific technical crew will be not only building two high quality sets in the time they would usually use to build one. Once they are built and the actors join the process, we will be working out the technical kinks prior to opening on two complete shows – each with their own sets, costumes, props, lighting cues and sound cues – rather than one. And then, almost every day, our wonderful technical crew will be switching the sets you see on the stage from a gorgeous modern apartment to a grubby artist’s studio. All this to give our audience the opportunity to experience these two shows – two shows that ‘speak to each other’ in a way, about the business of making and owning art. Mark Lamos has assembled TWO spectacular casts and rehearsals for both have begun today in earnest. So after a long winter, the Playhouse is waking up and gearing up for a grand experiment.

I hope you will take advantage of this ‘grand adventure’ and join us for both Art and Red (Art plays on the even days, Red on the odd). And when you do, imagine how the work of all the theater professionals working at your Playhouse contributed to the process we will all share. See you in the lobby!

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