June 30, 2019
Day 36: Nothing like the last minute to get anything done.
Including thanking people. I got to mention some people last night but I want to pick up where I left off and make sure that I give a shout out to a few of the others who have made this Festival fly:
SallyCade Holmes, our line producer. She has been with Play on since the beginning, when we needed someone to produce the development workshops in NY. She has been an incredible resource, and with her can-do attitude has cleared every obstacle along the way. Oh, and she was part of the production team that won a Tony for Hadestown;
Ada Karamanyan, our casting director, who held Taylor and me accountable to our desire to cast this festival as wide and deep as possible. We challenged ourselves and others to think outside of the usual prescribed casting boxes when it comes to Shakespeare. It mattered not to me whether someone had great Shakespeare chops, for I wanted to demonstrate that these translations allow everyone to join in the conversation with Shakespeare. Shakespeare is a global enterprise, and so therefore, the world on stage should represent that. PERIOD.
And last but not least, Matt Hagemeier, our assistant festival producer. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without him. He and Taylor (and SallyCade and a whole host of others) knew each other from their U/Evansville days. Taylor knew that Matt had prior film festival experience which he figured would come in handy. And oh boy did it! Over and over and over again. He was the data guy; he was the electronic playbill guy; he was the photographer guy; oh, and he was the “rig up the fan” system guy. There were days, especially in the middle of the festival when I think he was command central. Always with a smile. Never irritated. (Even when I would bug him 14 times a day about posting my blog.) I wish for him a long rest. He was definitely the heart of this festival.
This morning, I spend time with Summer Martin, the Play on Shakespeare general manager, and all-around general awesome human being. She joined the POS team last year, right before we announced this Festival. And she hasn’t fled the scene. Yet. Oh, there has been plenty of shenanigans for her to gnash her teeth about – I mean, think about what working for me would do to your emotional state of being! But she exudes grace and an uncanny ability to stay focused on the task at hand. She’s spent the five weeks on the east coast with her family and every 10 days or so came up to look over the books.
She is our moral compass. Every company needs a Summer. And I rely on her to give me that look. You know the one, when you are about to do something that smacks of hypocrisy and goes against everything you say you believe in honoring. And you want your friends to just support you and help pick up the pieces afterwards. When it’s about your business, however, you really want Summer to give you that look before you do the wrong thing that will take twice as long to recover from.
Today is the last day of the Festival. I’m beyond worn out. The introvert is desperate for some down time. It’s not actually about lack of sleep – oh, there is that too, of course – but it took me awhile to realize that it’s about the lack of the alone time that I need to recharge. I hope I remember this for the next time. Oh dear god, did I just say that outloud?
All things have been wrapped up quite nicely. The hospitality suite at 440 has been completely dismantled. We are winding down quickly. It feels weird not marching down 3rd avenue to 440 for a production meeting at 9:30. Today’s the Pride Parade, and I know it’s the biggest one in forever, and I want to be there but I can’t summon the reserves to be in the midst of that big a crowd. Which makes me sad. And I’m missing my girl, which makes me sadder.
It turns out Two Noble Kinsmen is a very funny play. And it’s a different kind of funny than the early comedies that Shakespeare writes. This one doesn’t have people saying and doing cruel things to each other, but rather dramatizes the cruelty that’s part of life. What is it fate or an accident that kills Arcite? I think it was that dopey Theseus, who, like Leontes, just kept wavering.
Every reading was staged differently and this one stayed true to form. At one point, the action calls for six couples to dance together, and even with a cast of 13, we didn’t have the bodies to embody that. And so…out came the sock puppets. It was HILARIOUS! And a perfect solution.
In the talkback, playwright Tim Slover proposed an interesting idea about a smash up between Midsummer and Two Noble. Both take place in the Athenian forest; both have Theseus and Hippolyta as characters (with Hippoltya still haven’t not much to say, harrumph); and two young men fighting over the same women (in this case, who doesn’t really want either one, but agrees in order to save the life of one of them).
But the real discovery is that of the Jailer’s Daughter, who wears out her wits over unrequited love. Both heartbreaking and funny. There was a discussion afterwards about whether Shakespeare of John Fletcher wrote that part. I don’t know enough about John Fletcher but there was a softness to the character that I don’t find in Shakespeare’s women. Hm. Could Play on Fletcher be far behind?
And then there is the post-Festival party at Linen Hall from 5-7. I hope there will be many photos posted on social media. All I kept thinking about was why didn’t I get my hair cut last week. I was delirious by that point and could only smile like Malvolio.
I wrote a letter to rally the company about two weeks ago. I knew how tired they were, and that we were entering the week with those long, dark plays. And so I wanted to acknowledge that.
In the note, I said that I am not superfluously effusive but I feel things deeply. I know that I don’t express my gratitude and thank enough to people. So I want the following on record:
A Love Letter to my Campaign Manager, aka Taylor Bailey:
I have been given many artistic gifts over the course of my career: Henry Woronicz extended my original internship at OSF in 1994; Libby Appel gave me the opportunity to run the OSF literary department; Bill Rauch gave me the Black Swan Lab and said ‘yes’ to Play on; the Hitz Foundation gave me the support that I needed to believe in myself.
And Taylor Chase Bailey gave me everything else.
There is a saying that one should never trust a man with three first names. But TCB is more trustworthier than Texas is wide.
I’d always known this project was going to be controversial and so the job description that went out in the summer of 2015 was very vague: Assistant for a Literary project. Or something super vague like that. It was only when I talked to the three finalists during a phone conversation that I revealed what I had in mind. Taylor’s first thought was, “I’m going to lose friends over this.” But, being the intrepid type that he is, he wasn’t deterred.
I brought him out to OSF and put him through all the paces, and there are a lot of paces at OSF. And he saw a great production of PERICLES. And he and I finally met in the attic of this apartment that OSF had recently purchased. I can’t remember why we had to meet there and not in my office, but I do remember thinking that we were meeting at an undisclosed location as if we were involved in some covert operation.
There were many things about him that I found appealing. I did like that he was from Texas. And that he went to the University of Evansville, which seems to grow great theater artists. And that he worked for many different theater companies in Chicago. But what sealed the deal was that he worked for several years at the Apple Genius Bar, and I thought, “if he can handle all those cranky people, then he certainly can handle me.”
He told me that he wanted to get out of Chicago and be in a more natural and beautiful environment. Well, we certainly have that in Ashland. And as we shook on the deal, I told him that he wasn’t to fall in love with Ashland, the OSF, or me, because this program was going to end on December 31, 2018. I didn’t see that it would have much future. He accepted the terms.
We used to joke in the early days that we were running a campaign, that in four years we hoped to have won over more people than we annoyed, and that seemed like a good goal. Perhaps politicians are never not running for office, because we’re still at it five years later.
Taylor has been my sounding board; he holds the ethical center of the organization; and he is a damn fine producer. He puts together amazing teams of artists, and he is generous and kind and loyal to his friends. These are all good things.
I talked with him more than two years ago about my dream, and he has worked tirelessly since to make it happen. He took on the role of Producer of the Festival, and set every system up, and hired some of the finest people I have ever had the privilege to work with. He has a great eye and great taste, and he knew how I would like this to be set up. I didn’t have to do a damn thing except come in every day and do my best “queen” wave.
He’s a keeper, as we say.
People have been asking me all week about my experience of hearing 39 readings. And what are we going to do next? It’s hard to reflect while you are in the moment and so a lot of it is a blur right now. I also ended up being more involved in the details of script work and some casting, and I wasn’t as involved in the artistic process as I had hoped. It wasn’t a realistic hope, I am aware of that, but I had a romantic notion about it. I remember that’s what I didn’t love about being a producer at OSF. You actually don’t get that engaged with the art that you were passionate to produce. Ironic, eh?
What I’m going to do next is not sit for a week. Gar! My butt hurts!
After that, we have a lot of ideas about what to do next. We will probably get into the publishing game. And we want to get these translations produced everywhere in as many different situations as possible.
Actor Jordan Baker dropped an interesting idea into my ear last night after The Tempest reading: she wanted us to be sequestered somewhere out of the city and have a Shakespeare summer camp for actors. I have to say that has some appeal.
Until next time…..