Rehearsals for Bus Stop in progress at Center Playhouse!
4th in a series on the behind-the-scenes making of “Bus Stop” running at Center Playhouse Oct 10 – Nov 9.
By Muriel Smith. Edited by Jan Thompson
It is three weeks into rehearsals for Center Players’ Bus Stop, and I finally got to sit in on my first session. It was amazing! It was the most exciting ‘people watching’ I’ve ever done.
A lot goes into laying a solid foundation before rehearsals start. Director Jeff Caplan read the entire script at least four times before making his final decisions about who would play each of the roles. Interestingly, he admitted he sometimes makes changes during the rehearsal sessions. “I read it first just to read it,” he explained, “then the second time to do the blocking – who goes where, what goes where.” The third time was so he could plan out the props, the sound effects, all the ‘little things’ nobody particularly notices but are so necessary for a smooth and accurate presentation. The fourth reading was simply to ensure he had gotten things the way he wanted. Guess that’s what makes a great director.
Also before the start of rehearsals, Jeff and producer Colleen DeFelice met to coordinate their thoughts and ideas for the final production. In the theater, both sat front row center. Well, actually, during the three hours of rehearsal I observed, Jeff paced back and forth – listening, often nodding his head, always thinking.
Before the cast got on stage, loose leaf books and pencils in hand, Jeff explained that the play is a cooperative effort. In addition to acting, he expected each actor to offer his own input and suggestions before he made the final decisions. However, it’s the cast who gave me the special ‘feel’ that is the difference between a group of people acting and talking on stage and a cast of well-honed, well-trained, enthusiastic actors who put their all into each role.
Seeing the actors take on their roles was really exciting for someone who hasn’t been on stage since playing the piano in a high school concert half a century ago. The play opens in a Kansas diner with owner Grace Hoylard (Brett Sabo) and waitress Elma Duckworth (Kate Barron) chatting about love, life, and the snowstorm, which eventually causes a bus with its driver and riders to be stranded there. Brett and Kate are delightful in their roles. After I attended the auditions, I wondered why a particular actor was accepted for a particular role rather than another. But seeing them pull together during this bare stage rehearsal convinced me that director Jeff Caplan had a knack for seeing something special in these two actresses that certainly wasn’t obvious to me at first.
I was mesmerized for the couple of hours I was at the rehearsal. I watched the actors (Brett Sabo and Kate Barron, as well as Joe Orlando, Tom Cox, Sheldon Fallon, and Jennifer Karmazin) go through their parts – moving, reading, emoting, flubbing, laughing, trying again, listening carefully to Jeff, Jeff conferring with producer Colleen, then all trying a particular sequence once again. They were intense, hardworking, energetic, and engaging.
Then, an hour or so into the rehearsal, something interesting happened. I suddenly noticed that while Jeff was directing his attention to two other actors, Brett and Kate moved closer together and began motioning and nodding. It was clear they were getting to know each other in their roles and establishing a team. Other actors practiced their blocking, (places where they were supposed to be on stage). When you see the play, note the look of shock on Kate’s face when Bo orders three raw hamburgers. You will be moved by Virgil’s fatherly advice and obvious love for his ‘adopted’ son, Bo.
Truth is, I can’t wait until I get to see the finished production!
Bus Stop, written by William Inge and directed by Jeff Caplan, opens at Center Playhouse, 35 South Street in Downtown Freehold, on October 10 with a pre-show dinner at the historic Tony’s Diner. The show runs for five weekends through November 9, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. There will be no performance on Halloween, October 31. There will be an additional matinee performance on Saturday, November 1 at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $25 for Adults and $23 for Seniors/Students, and include gourmet desserts and refreshments at intermission. Group rates for parties of 10 or more are available. The opening night gala, “Diner and a Show” is $65. Seating is limited, so call the box office at (732) 462-9093 or visit us online at www.CenterPlayers.org to purchase your tickets.
Muriel Smith is a guest blogger for Center Players. She grew up in Union, NJ and lived in Highlands for more than 40 years, working as a newspaper writer/editor before leaving home with her husband 15 years ago to live in an RV and visit every state in the Union before determining that Monmouth County is still the best place to live. She’s now settled comfortably in Freehold.