Wednesday, May 16, 2012

100 saints | ron's notes

Ron's AD notes for 100 SAINTS YOU SHOULD KNOW give you a bit of insight into how he picks a season.

There are a lot of different reasons I might choose a show for Pacific Theatre. I suppose it might seem obvious - “The play’s the thing” - but often there’s more involved than just the appeal of the script. Especially around here.

I read this sparkling piece a few years back, and knew it would be a pretty decent fit for the right season at Pacific Theatre. Because one factor in building a season is variety, range, balance, shape: how would 100 Saints fit with the other shows in a particular year? We have one of the most loyal audiences anywhere, which means you’ll come back show after show to see what we’re up to. So there’s no room for the same old same old: if we can manage it, no back-to-back tragedies, just as we avoid a string of feel-good life-affirming musicals. When you write a play, it’s all about reversals: the story changes direction with every scene, your expectations are continually set up then confounded. So too with a season: Re:Union followed by A Christmas Carol followed by Danny followed by Doubt. And so on. So.... The first time 100 Saints fit perfectly in the unfolding story of a PT season turned out to be now.

But what brought it to the front of my mind for this season was more about the players than the play. Risking unprofessionalism, I’ll be honest: a year ago, at the last moments of finalizing our current season, I couldn’t decide between Kaitlin Williams and Kat Gauthier to play Sister James in Doubt. I was stuck: both were amazing in the role. Then came bad news: the show I had lined up to close our season became unavailable. A huge disappointment - until I realized that could open up a role for Kat or Kaitlin. A few hours later - at the dinner table in fact - 100 Saints drifted into my mind, and I saw Kat in the key role of Abby, clear as if she was on stage in front of me. I left the dinner table early, dug up the script to check out my intuition, and sure enough - it was a role written for her.

And just as quick, I knew I had a role for Rebecca deBoer, who had just previously let me know she’d again be available for the stage after having brought a couple of new humans into the world. Done.

The rest of the casting fell into place effortlessly: there was no scrambling, just the perfect PT actor for each role.

But here’s the best part. Until Monday, March 16, 2012, sometime between 10 AM and noon, I thought this was a pretty decent play with a superb cast. But as we listened to the table reading on the first day of rehearsals - the first time we’d heard all the actors together, and the whole story in one piece - I realized that this play was so much more than I had anticipated. I was shaken.

Some plays come off the page the first time you read them. Others really need to be embodied before they have their full effect. 100 Saints You Should Know is, for me, the second kind of play: a perfectly enjoyable read, to be sure, but once it comes to life in a company of actors... A potent, nuanced, affecting, thought-provoking, substantial play.

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