Second in a series by Muriel Smith on the behind-the-scenes making of “Bus Stop” running October 10 – November 9
So much more goes into putting on a play than I ever imagined! It’s exciting watching the auditions and then sitting in on the decision-making process, when the final cast is chosen. Interestingly, acting ability is not the only factor. But more on that later. For now, let’s take a peek at the production meeting.
The Business and Artistic Board members of Center Players and all the other volunteers who work magic behind the scenes are a unique kind of family. Each has his own life outside the theater, but when they get together to discuss an upcoming production, this backstage family is serious, sharing, enthusiastic, and business-like. Due to a very limited budget, they would rather borrow or build props and sets than dig into already well-worn wallets to get everything they need to create the perfect backdrop for the actors.
The Center Players’ next production, Bus Stop, will be on stage in October and November. (Get your tickets now, because I know this is going to be a sold-out run!) It is set in a Kansas roadside diner during a blizzard. The play focuses on the interactions between the bus driver and passengers who are stranded and the gals who work at the diner.
During the 60-minute production meeting, director Jeff Caplan ably moved things along as he spelled out the props and set needed for each of the acts. “We have a counter with shelves over it,” he said, “but it would be nice if we could get a sink with running water.” Turning to Tony Dentino and Joe Desaro, who help build sets for Center Players, he calmly asked, “Is that possible?” “Sure it is; we can do that,” they replied, and the pair launched into a discussion between themselves on how to make that possible.
“It’s a snowstorm, so we need snow and a howling wind,” Jeff continued, eyeing technical coordinator Mark Lamhut. “Any ideas?” “Let me think a bit,” Mark responded. “We’ll work on it, but it can be done.” “We’ve already got the snow,” chimed in Colleen DeFelice, the play’s producer, as well as long-time actress at Center Players and organized lady who can juggle more than five things at a time. Jeff crossed off these items, obviously confident that by the next set meeting, he’d hear how this was all going to happen.
“We need a table and chairs,” he continued, only to hear another volunteer pipe up he had a square table, or a round one if Jeff preferred, with wooden chairs that would fit the time and place. “I’ll take some photos and show you before I bring them in.” Stools for the counter? “I’ll get that!” Diner plates and cups? “I know where I can get them.” Posters and scenery calendars for the walls reflecting Montana in the 1950s? Yep, another volunteer came up with ideas for that. Magazines from the 50s? “I’ve got some Hot Rod Times,” was the response. A copy of a 1955 Kansas City Star newspaper? “You’ll have it if I have to print it up myself!”