Dallas — It’s an interesting feeling when you finally get to the point of producing your first show. The early conversations always focused on the shows we were going to do, not our marketing plans, or our budgets, or our five-year outlooks. It was always about the shows. It’s what we dreamed about all along.
When we stood in the lobby of the Bath House Cultural Center after Opening Night of Glengarry Glen Ross, we were both a little numb. We found ourselves on the periphery, watching as the audience and cast and crew hugged and laughed and celebrated. We were hugged, too. So many congratulations, it was a blur. It’s an odd and surreal feeling when this thing you’ve spent so long dreaming about, so long planning, so long wondering about … happens.
We were also exhausted.
But let’s talk about how we got there.
In previous columns, we’ve talked about all of the process that went into getting us to this point. Now, we were finally ready to actually produce our first show.
First step for us was to secure the production team. We knew from when we chose the season that Ashley would be directing the piece. Remember how we kept talking about the importance of the team? Well, we are also extremely lucky to have a resident costumer through our company manager, Jessie Wallace, and a resident electrician and master carpenter through our strategic development manager, Billy Betsill. With Ashley, Billy, and Jessie ready to move forward, we just had to fill a few holes to round out the team.
Ashley had worked with Ellen Mizener in the past and knew they had a strong working relationship and that Ellen brings a sharp and talented eye to each of her projects. Ellen was fresh off attaining her MFA, Theatre (focusing in Scenic Design) and had recently returned to Dallas. Ellen was excited at the concept and came on board. She had an up-and-coming lighting designer, Hudson Davis, who she loved working with, who we contracted next. We rounded out the team with a vibrant stage manager, Maddie Morris. Sound and props would fall on Ashley, as she had very specific ideas in mind for both. There we were — a team!
While all of this was happening, company manager Jessie was working double duty, also scheduling the auditions. We spent a lot of time focusing on how we wanted our auditions to run. We were wary of open calls, because none of us wanted our auditioners to have to sit for hours, should they all come at once (nor did we want to sit for hours if… no one showed up). With no history to use as reference, we decided to go with appointments. We found a great (free!) online appointment software (appointy), where auditioners could sign up on their own. Nice!
You can organize two types of auditions when producing a play: The prepared monologue audition and the cold reading audition. We wanted to use the method that would illuminate the best actors for the show. David Mamet has an incredibly specific language. It was important to us to audition using his words to make sure the actors can grasp and perform this dialogue.
We quickly filled up both nights of appointments and then had a waiting list! It was so thrilling to see the excitement within the community — and man were there some amazing auditions!
A few days after auditions, the show was officially cast. This was truly the “no turning back now” moment for us.
We started moving full speed ahead. We began rehearsals in mid-December at S.T.A.G.E., which is an amazing resource to anyone in town. We had a great team and a great cast, and now was the part we’d been waiting for! Rehearsals were a blast — it was fun and fast and electric. The cast seemed just as excited to work with us as we were to work with them.
The rehearsal process won’t be a surprise to many reading this article. We had a fairly traditional experience. Our biggest challenge was working around schedules in a fairly tight turnaround. We had three weeks to get the show up and ready, but within those three weeks were Christmas and New Year’s, and our cast members had travel plans… even our director had travel plans. It was through this experience that we really learned to key in and focus on time management. No minute of rehearsal could be wasted and there needed to be a clear plan in place for each evening, with a list of items to accomplish at that rehearsal. For the most part, we stuck to the plan, but there are always surprises. It was an interesting and exciting process, but even now it seems like a blur.
Once we were well-rehearsed and Christmas and New Year’s had passed, it was time to move in. Here is where our time management got tricky. Moving a set in is never an easy task and ours was painstakingly precise. A part of Ashley’s vision was only straight lines — which when you go into a 100-year-old space, is a tricky task at best. Our design team and crew really knocked it out of the park, but it took more time to execute than originally anticipated. Time management became even more important. We were double-tasking non-stop. Running scenes in the lobby while building onstage. Ending rehearsals and then staying late to paint walls, chairs, and the floor. It was only by the sheer force of our amazing production team and the IMPRINT team, and the patient flexibility of our cast members, that we were able to pull it all off.
Getting the cast onto the stage for the first run through was incredible. In one night, the show went from rehearsal to ready. We were going into tech week and sat down after one of our first run-throughs for notes, and everyone was smiling….Everyone was ready. We had five rehearsals left, and we were going to use them well. It felt good. We all felt it. Time to open.
Throughout tech week and through the closing of Glengarry, Joe had a habit of “annoying” Ashley with commenting on every moment, no matter how small, by saying it was “IMPRINT’s First this or First that…”
“It’s our first tech week!”
“It’s our first photo call!”
“It’s our first spilled bucket of paint!”
“It’s our first five-minute call!”
“It’s our first Opening Night!”
After everything...forming the group, the launch party, season announcement show, fundraising, auditions…here we were.
IMPRINT theatreworks was officially in business.
» Ashley H. White and Joe Messina are co-artistic directors of IMPRINT theatreworks
» Square One runs on the second Monday of the month
PREVIOUSLY IN SQUARE ONE