“I thought they did a really great job,” Houser said. “Given the constraints of that stage, it’s such a small stage with no wing space and no fly space, to do all those scene changes, it’s quite remarkable how much of the play they got.”
Houser flew in from California to attend the shows and a reception at Arts Richmond following Sunday’s matinee. There he explained the play is meant to be performed on a larger stage.
“Obviously, its intended for a larger seating theater,” he said. “I think authors always see it opening in this huge arena, but when it comes to the reality of it, there’s a lot of scenes there to do and a lot of scene changes that have to be done with some precision to keep the audience from laughing at the people doing the changes instead of at the lines.
“But they did a great job, and it’s quite amazing how much talent they have in this small town, and it’s even more amazing how much the community supports live theater. Live theater is not exactly on the ascendancy list in many places in the country that I know about, and to have a vital theater community in this small town is quite impressive. I really like it. I hope it helps to revitalize the city.”
Bill Cleveland played the lead role of Jerry Sanderling. He won the heart of many in the audience with the scintillating sexual tension he portrayed while interacting with the female lead character, Katie Bennett, and the warmth and frivolity of his interaction with Sara Hillert as she portrayed his daughter, Chrissy.
“He was very kind last night before we went on, and told us that he understands that what happens on stage isn’t necessarily what happens in the author’s head when he’s writing the play,” Cleveland said. “He really emphasized that a play is open to the interpretation of the performers and the director, and did his absolute best to let us know we didn’t have to please him, that pleasing the audience is the most important thing.”
“You want to do a better job,” Donna Young said. She portrayed the conflicted sex-pot female lead, Katie Bennett, with a polished performance. “You want him to see his work and be impressed, so really it kind of raises the bar.”
“I think it’s interesting when an author is present at a performance of one of their plays,” director of the show and theatre Mark Cobelson said. “It really gives them a chance to share their vision of what the play is, because what happens on stage is never quite what they envisioned when they wrote the play.”
He said it offers an advantage for the audience as well.
“For an audience, it’s fun for them to be able to meet the author and get some feedback on the way the play is put together,” he said. “It’s a great way to get a better understanding of the process that a play takes in being produced.”
He was conscious of the constraints of the stage that Houser mentioned.
“The fact that we had to do all the scene changes really kind of broke it up and got in the way of his dialogue flowing the way it would on a larger stage,” he said. “But Robert understood that, and he was very supportive of the job we did in bringing his material to life.”
“What a treasure it is to live in a small town and to be able to experience our neighbors’ and friends’ extensions of themselves on stage,” audience-member Leslie Fetner said. “There is such value in allowing freedom of expression in children and adults alike, and Richmond Community Theatre and Arts Richmond are instrumental in fostering such a creative environment ... Bravo for all involved in making this kind of personal and community exposure and expansion possible. We need more of it.”
”I thought it was really terrific and wonderful to have a chance to have the author of the play here with us,” Fetner’s date, Glenn Fox said. “It is fortuitous and brilliant that we can have somebody so skilled to bring an uplifting play with all the tragedy, comedy and push-pull of real life, and show it to you in the end, and it comes out with a happy ending for the enjoyment of all.”