May 25, 2007

Present Laughter takes a break

A few weeks back I told you about our commencement changeover. Boston University's College of Fine Arts holds their graduation ceremonies on the stage of the Boston University Theatre. Scheduling is a little tricky this time of year, we need to get our production up and running before our subscribers go away on summer vacation, so it all happens during the first weekend of performances.

This year we were lucky enough to get some time lapse video of the entire process. Thanks to staffers Ken Porter who recorded the footage and Ben Emerson who edited it and added the sound track. You get to see the entire strike, graduation set up, graduation, and the Present Laughter restore.

This first video shows the first six hours (11pm - 5am) of the endeavor - following the performance on Saturday Evening May 19th. We move the scenery, lighting and props out of the way to make room for the chairs and risers for the onstage graduation party of over 200.

The second video is on Sunday, May 20th, and includes setting the lighting levels, checking sound, setting up all the diplomas and the ceremony itself. It covers an 8 hr period from 10am - 6pm.

The last video shows the "strike" of the graduation set up and the "restore" of Present Laughter. This video covers another 8 hrs on May 20th - from 6pm to 2am. Lighting, Sound, Props, and Paints all came in 6 hrs later at 8 AM on May 21st to restore the set mounted lighting, speakers, buzzers and phones, furniture and props, and touch up the few nicks and bruises caused by the move out and in.

A total of 38 hours elapsed from the curtain of Saturday's performance to the start of Monday's rehearsal, and we finished each step of the process a few hours early. Thanks to all of the Huntington staffers who planned and executed such an amazing turnaround.

Did I mention that the first time we put the show in it took 6 DAYS?

May 23, 2007

Present Laughter Photos

Tonight is opening night, with all of it's traditions and events. We'll report on those and bring you some pictures from the parties in future posts. In the meanwhile please enjoy some more of our production photos, these by T. Charles Erickson.

Under a portrait of himself as a much younger actor, aging matinee idol Garry Essendine (Victor Garber) dissuades his ex-wife Liz (Lisa Banes) from lecturing him about cutting back on romancing the women who fall at his feet.

Ingénue Daphne Stillington (Holley Fain) inserts herself into Garry's life at an inopportune time.

Crazed fan and playwright Roland Maule (2007 Tony Award nominee Brooks Ashmanskas, left) explains to Garry Essendine (Victor Garber) how he can be helpful to the actor's private and professional lives.

Victor Garber as Garry Essendine in the Huntington Theatre Company's production of Present Laughter, directed by Nicholas Martin and running through June 17 at the Huntington's B.U. Theatre.

Crazed fan and playwright Roland Maule (2007 Tony Award nominee Brooks Ashmanskas) is delighted to be in Garry Essendine's house.

Garry Essendine (Victor Garber) is vexed by the constant mail he receives, despite his loyal secretary Monica (Sarah Hudnut) keeping tabs on the correspondence.

Joanna (Pamela J. Gray), the young seductress who has invaded Garry Essendine's (Victor Garber) close-knit circle of friends, pay an unexpected visit

The night before he's to sail to Africa on a six-month theatre tour, aging matinee idol Garry Essendine (Victor Garber) is exhausted by the demands of life including ex-wife Liz (Lisa Barnes).

May 19, 2007

"This is quite a little peek behind the scenes..."

Our first preview last night opened with an exciting and well received performance. We had a huge house tonight, you can see the audience members mezz and balcony taking a break during intermission, but good seats remain for next week's performances. Click on the buy tickets link on the sidebar to purchase tickets right now. Check the sidebar for discount deals as well.

Here is a (very nice, I think) video with Victor Garber, Director Nicholas Martin, and the cast of Present Laughter talking about, and rehearsing, the play. Enjoy!

More Present Laughter reading material here and more video here. For all Present Laughter content click here.

The Norton results are in (5/22). Read the comments at Awards Season for our winners!

Wrap it up...

Prior to last night's first preview performance the production staff hosted an end of the season "wrap" party. It's the time of year when a number of our staff head off to other jobs for the summer, and some leave us more permanently. Wrapping up their full time careers with the Huntington this season are charge scenic artist Roberto Gallo and audio supervisor Ben Emerson. We'll miss them, and their talents, and hope that they will both visit often.

Here are a few photos from the party:

There was food and drink, conversation and music, and a few very competitive rounds of "Paint Shop Croquet". Managing Director Michael Maso and Tech Director Dan Ramirez had a particularly physical match that was (perhaps fortunately) rudely interrupted by a power outage in one of our buildings.

The three hour loss of power not only ended the match but (quite unfortunately) brought down our entire computer network and phone systems for a few hours. Both of our Box Offices (at the BU Theatre and Calderwood Pavilion) lost connection to the ticketing software and had to switch to manual mode for last night's performances. They did a great job, all things considered, and curtains rose only a few minutes late - not at all unusual on a rainy night.

I'd like to give a shout out to all of the staff who helped deal with the variety of problems created by the black out. Extra kudos to Joey Riddle, Penny Hanson, Ben Carroll and their staff at the box office. House Managers David Newcomb (BU Theatre) and Austin Nathaniel (Calderwood) and their FOH staff also helped out with ticketing and security issues. A big thanks to production staff Brian Pratt, Dan Ramirez, Brian Sears, Ben Sigda, and Dan Olesky who ran temporary back up power to the servers from another building. Thanks also to the electricians from Boston University Maintenance Services who brought us back online by fixing the power. It was a race to see who could get power to the computer network first and the race ended with a tie... the lights came on just as temp power was hooked up. Congrats to both teams!

Subscriber Bonus - Campbell Scott

There are many benefits to being a subscriber such as saving up to 25% on single ticket prices and getting first go at tickets to special Huntington Events. Today's news is of one of those special events; Campbell Scott will star in a limited run of Ronan Noone's The Atheist

I quote from our latest issue of Spotlight;

The Atheist
by Ronan Noone
Directed by Justin Waldman
Starring Campbell Scott

14 Performances Only
September 12-30, 2007
at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre
in the Standford Calderwood Pavilion
at the Boston Center for the Arts.

EVERY GOOD NEWS STORY NEEDS A GOOD STORYTELLER. Augustine Early, a crooked journalist, has made an art of clawing his way up the professional ladder. When he turns the Mayor’s tawdry predilections into front page news, the scandal threatens to undo the one person he thought was immune – Augustine himself. A searing and hilarious new play about catching the perfect frontpage headline, whatever the cost.

Actor and director Campbell Scott (whose numerous film credits include The Secret Lives of Dentists and Roger Dodger, as well as the title role in Hamlet for the Huntington) performed a reading of this one-man show during the Huntington’s 2006 Breaking Ground Festival of New Plays, before The Atheist premiered in both New York and London earlier this year. The Atheist is written by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Ronan Noone, whose play Brendan is also part of the Huntington’s 2007-2008 Season, and will be directed by Huntington Artistic Associate Justin Waldman.

I was lucky to be at the 2006 reading and I am really looking forward to seeing Campbell in this play again. It is a great night of theatre.

May 18, 2007

Final Dress - Thursday

We had two - count 'em - two dress rehearsals today. It was nice to see the play as a whole today with no stops for tech along the way. The first run, this afternoon, was also when our photographer T. Charles Erickson took the production photos. You'll get to see those starting Monday - and it will then be clear why we hire Charlie - his photos are amazing. The slightly fuzzy ones here are mine.

This evening we played to a nice crowd of nearly 200 friends and family cheering everyone along, including Huntington favorite Michael T. Weiss, the parents of actor Brooks Ashmanskas, the parents of costume director Nancy Brennan (thanks for coming all the way from the west coast to visit us), our Front of House crew, and many other staffers.

We've had costumes (by designer Mariann Verheyen) on stage now for the past three days - and they are looking incredible. I had to head off to a meeting during photo dress so I only got you a few shots of Act I. When we get Charlie's photos I'll do a costume feature. For now I'll just give you a little taste.

Here we have three of Gary Essendine's dressing gowns; a paisley, a deco print, and (of course) an animal print. No self respecting thesp could possibly tour Africa without their stripes, now could they? As you can see he's not the only one who wears them. Above we have Holly Fain, who plays the ingenue, Daphne Stillington, who stayed the night. On the right is Victor Garber (playing Gary Essendine), and below is Victor again, with Brooks Ashmanskas playing Roland Maule. These fabrics are beautiful, playful, and work so well with both the character and the scenery.

The next two are a close ups of both Brooks and Lisa Banes, who plays Gary's ex-wife Liz Essendine.

I love the combination of the striped sweater (with alternate stripes on the v-neck and the subtle knitted striped at 90 degrees for even more texture), print bow tie, and shoes. It's a hoot! In case you're wondering - the character Roland Maule is something of a nut, and he is ALWAYS in motion, hence the blurry foot above. Brooks got applause on his first exit this evening.

Lisa wears a simple striped silk fabric. The stripe, however, takes on new shapes and patterns in the dress. The clothes, in general, make great use of simple graphics - much like the deco murals on the wall. It's amazing what happens to stripes, polka dots, and prints, when they are cut, draped and pleated in different combinations on the human form.

I'll leave you with another image of the set - before the run we took a few 'glamour shots'. Can you spot the differences from the pictures from a few days ago?

Click on the photos to see enlargements. I've added a few Present Laughter links here. Enjoy - see you at the theatre soon!

May 15, 2007

Awards Season

I was going to write a bit about today's Tony nominations - but our trusty media maven, John Michael Kennedy beat me to it - and did it much more graciously than I could have. So I'll cut and paste from his email today to staff and board members (and add a few photos - please have patience while they download - I'm working on replacing them with smaller files):

It’s that time of year when Huntington productions, artists, and friends are nominated for regional and national awards. And the 2007 awards season has been bountiful! Here are the details of the upcoming 2007 Tony Awards, the upcoming 2007 Elliot Norton Awards, and a recap of this spring's 2007 IRNE Awards.

The Tonys!

At the 2007 Tony Awards announcement this morning, August Wilson’s “Radio Golf,” which Huntington patrons saw first before it hit Broadway, was nominated four times including Best Play, Best Scenic Design and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for Anthony Chisholm (right) and “Gem of the Ocean” alumnus John Earl Jelks.

Brooks Ashmanskas, who stars in our upcoming production of “Present Laughter” and was featured in the Huntington’s “Amphitryon” was nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for “Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me.” (take a look at the video in the previous post).

Nicholas Martin’s Broadway production of “Butley,” seen first at the Huntington, was recognized with a nomination for Dana Ivey (left) as Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play.

“Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway,” which we present in its first post-New York run June 13-July 1 at the Calderwood Pavilion, was nominated for Best Special Theatrical Event.

“Bad Dates” star Julie White (left) received a nomination Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for “The Little Dog Laughed.” Two other Huntington acting alumnae Debra Monk (“Laughing Wild” - right), and Mary Louise Wilson (“The Rivals” - below left) were nominated for “Curtains” and “Grey Gardens,” respectively.

Director Scott Ellis, nominated for his work on “Curtains,” will helm our fall production of “Streamers.”

Congratulations to all the nominees, and be sure cheer them on during the CBS-TV broadcast on Sun., June 10.

The Nortons!

Three Huntington productions are nominated for seven 2007 Elliot Norton Awards including:

Best Play (Radio Golf and Mauritius);

Best Actor in a Play (Michael Aronov in Mauritius and James A. Williams in Radio Golf);

Best Actress in a Play (Marin Ireland in Mauritius);

Best Director (Nicholas Martin for Love’s Labour’s Lost - photo below);

Best Scenic Design for Mauritius (Eugene Lee, who receives a lifetime honor at the event).

The Boston Theater Critics Association presents the Nortons, which are Boston’s version of the Tony Awards. They take place Mon., May 21 at 7pm at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

Tickets are available online here or call 800 233-3123.

Congratulations to all our nominees!

The IRNEs!

The Huntington’s production of Mauritius (photo right and below) was one of the big winners at the 25th annual Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Awards held March 19, 2007 at the BCA. The world premiere play by

Theresa Rebeck won several times in the large theatre company category including Best New Play, Best Drama or Comedy, Best Set Design (for Eugene Lee) and Best Actress (for Marin Ireland).

Other Huntington winners included Anthony Chisolm (Best Supporting Actor for Radio Golf), Geneva Carr (Best Supporting Actress for Rabbit Hole) and Erin Una Chainani (Best Costume Design for Les Liaisons Dangereuses - photo right).

Congratulations to all our winners!

(photo credits - top to bottom: Anthony Chisholm, Photo -; Dana Ivey, Photo -; Kiki & Herb, Photo by Joe Oppedisano; Julie White in Bad Dates, Photo by T. Charles Erickson; Debra Monk in Laughing Wild, Photo by Carol Rosegg; Mary Louise Wilson in The Rivals, Photo by T. Charles Erickson; The Cast of Love's Labour's Lost, Photo by T. Charles Erickson; Michael Aranov and Marin Ireland in Mauritius, Photo by Eric Antoniou; James Gale and Robert Dorfman in Mauritius, Photo by Eric Antoniou; Michael T. Weiss and Tasha Lawrence in Les Liaisons Dangereuses , Photo by T. Charles Erickson. Whew. Click on the images for a larger version. Please credit photos if you use them elsewhere.)

Video stories from the Cast

Victor Garber and Brooks Ashmanskas talk about what they do backstage before a performance.

PS> Congrats to Brooks for his Tony Award Nomination for Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical ("Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me"). Many of our Huntington friends also received nods - I'll post more on that later.

May 13, 2007

Present Laughter Tech rehearsals begin

We're making great progress today in our first ten hours of rehearsal onstage for Present Laughter. Director Nicholas Martin reviews some changes in blocking as we set light cues, adjust sound levels, and do things over and over and over again until we have them just/nearly right. Justin Waldman, assistant director, also looks on helping Nicky with notes and blocking.

I don't have clearance today to take photos of the actors (union rules and all that) so here are a few shots of the set and a detail of a few of the murals. As I mentioned in a previous post - all of the woodwork is painted.

Enjoy -

It was a great day of work - we got ALL the way through the play (VERY unusual for the first day) and we'll come back on Tuesday and start over again, adding costumes, wigs and make up in the evening. The wardrobe crew, having performed daring, multiple quick changes at lightning speeds on Well and Persephone will find Present Laughter deservedly a little more relaxing. Wednesday we'll do some notes and have another dress rehearsal. More notes on Thursday followed by an invited dress rehearsal (100 or so friends and family by invitation). And Friday brings another round of work notes and tweaks followed by the first preview performance.

Even Dead Gus, whom you may remember from his ACT II appearance in Persephone, was on hand today. He was busted for vagrancy out on the BCA Plaza after the show closed last weekend. Seems we forgot to put him in the truck. They didn't want Gus at Suffolk (no dummies allowed) and the Medical Examiner's office was baffled (he's not human) so after spending a week in the fridge he made his way back to the Huntington. His sentence? Five technical rehearsals and 34 performances of Present Laughter in this backstage lockup. Who knows where he'll end up next.

Ok - only some of that last bit is true. We get a little punchy this late on a Sunday night.

Misc news - Boston Theatre Marathon is in the Wimberly next Sunday (May 20), produced by Boston Playwrights' Theatre. 51 Plays in 10 Hours by 51 New England Theatre Companies, including one by the Huntington. It's a huge event in Boston Theatre, and is a benefit for the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund.

SpeakEasy Stage opens Parade this week at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. It's the first production in the three seasons to use an alternate seating configuration in the Roberts. We set three of the configurations up during construction back in 2004 and this one (facing Warren Ave) is my favorite. It's nice to see it again.

Present Preview Press

My plans to bring you a little more backstage content this week were thwarted by unforeseen events. I'll get to some more of that this coming week as we tech the show. First preview is just days away now (Friday - May 18). The set is in and is remarkably finished (see photo below), and it looks AMAZING (congrats to designer Alexander Dodge and all of the staff who made it happen). We'll be working long long days from now until opening on May 23rd to bring you what is shaping up to be a stellar production.

In the meanwhile - we had a press session with a few of the cast last Tuesday. Articles are starting to appear and as I get the links I will add them here.

For Starters: Maverick Arts, Playbill, Boston Globe, In Newsweekly

You can also look forward to some Present Laughter video. We'll have a chat with Victor Garber and director Nicholas Martin, and some rehearsal footage as well. Check back soon.

May 8, 2007

Hail Hail - Radio Golf

The gangs all here!

There's a lot of love from theatres all over the country (Yale Rep, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Rep, Center Stage, Huntington Theatre Company, the Goodman Theatre, The McCarter Theatre) pouring towards the Cort Theatre on Broadway tonight for the Opening of Radio Golf.

Best wishes and congratulations to all of our Radio Golf friends tonight! Break a leg!

addendum: Here's a photo from the Broadway Opening Night Party

Kenny Leon, Anthony Chisholm, Tonya Pinkins, James A. Williams and Harry Lennix. See this and more opening night photos from here. For Broadway tickets and information visit

May 7, 2007

Bye Bye Pigeons

Sunday's rehearsal for Present Laughter let go a little early so that Artistic Director Nicholas Martin could head to the South End to catch the final performance of Persephone. It was a great closing performance, congrats to the cast and crew for a wonderful run, and we hope to see all of you back soon.

This great image of Seth Fisher and Melinda Lopez is an illustration from the New Yorker Magazine, which accompanies this article by John Lahr.

Present Laughter star Victor Garber took advantage of the early release and headed off to NYC to catch the opening of Deuce by Terrence McNally, starring Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes. Also present at the opening night festivities were Huntington favorites Nathan Lane (Butley), Andrea Martin (The Rose Tattoo), Debra Monk (Laughing Wild), Dick Latessa (The Cherry Orchard), Mary Louise Wilson (The Rivals) and more. Click this link for photos from the Theatre Mania article. If I were a betting man I might wager that a few of these folks will be at an opening in Boston in the very near future.

Back to Persephone and pigeons:

I found out on Sunday that all of the birds had been named by the end of the run. Here's a note from Cole Genuardi, props run, with the details.

Hi Todd,

The pigeons started out with each being named after an alcoholic beverage: Rum & Coke, Cosmo, Margarita, Vodka Tonic, Cape Codder, Manhattan, Fuzzy Navel, etc. They really were named at random at first. Then as they started to get beat up a little from being dropped, they started to be identifiable and their personalities showed through. In the end there was the following:

Scarface - this one lost its eyes and beak really early on so its face was just a mass of bloody feathers

One-eye Willy - the first one to lose one eye

Bird-brain - he had a hollow head

Special Child - his head exploded off so many times that he just looked really odd by the end of the run. and he had an awkward tilt to his head.

Leaky- this one kept developing holes and leaking sand everywhere.

Yes, we had fun with the pigeons on this show!


May 3, 2007

See for yourself

The last few posts, in addition to showing you what we're up to this week, are what you might call a teaser. They are a real glimpse of what you will see going on, the production of Present Laughter under construction, if you come to our open house this Saturday. I'd advise making use of public transportation, it's a busy day in the neighborhood. I'll be there and would love to meet you. Here's the text of our recent announcement:


Huntington Theatre Company opens its doors for free to the general public for an Open House celebration featuring behind-the-scenes tours of its Boston University Theatre mainstage.

Saturday, May 5, 2007 from 12 noon – 3 p.m.

B.U. Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. T: Orange Line (Mass Ave.); Green Line (E: Symphony) Bus: #1, 39, 43, 55, 170, 192, 195

(BOSTON) – In celebration of its 25th Anniversary Season, the Huntington Theatre Company hosts an Open House event on Saturday, May 5 from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at its Boston University Theatre main stage, 264 Huntington Avenue in Boston.

The Open House (the first in several years) includes behind-the-scenes opportunities for adults and children alike to explore the inner workings of the theatre. Stand on stage and see the theatre from an actor’s standpoint. Visit the scenery and paint shops where the Huntington’s award-winning sets are made. Tour the costume shop and watch how a designer’s vision goes from sketch to wearable art. And marvel at the intricate riggings that make sets and lights move and change.

Activities include technical demonstrations, a raffle for restaurant and cultural prizes, and a Costume Photo Corner where visitors can wear clothes from some of the Huntington’s best-known productions of the past few years. Members of the Huntington’s staff also will be on hand to talk about the 2007-2008 Season, which was recently announced.

Constructing Curves

Our shops are very busy these days cranking out the beautiful scenery (see model photo above) for Present Laughter, designed by Huntington favorite Alexander Dodge (Love's Labour's Lost, The Rivals, Butley, A Month in the Country, Heartbreak House). Nicholas Martin and Alexander both have a predeliction towards the grace and style of a curve and you may remember that with the exception of Butley each of Alex's designs for the Huntington featured some form of a graceful arc.

Curved scenery is, in short, more challenging to build than, say squares or rectangles. Our carpenters have become experts.

Why so much steel? A couple of reasons: One is that it's actually easier to bend than wood, and it tends to hold it's shape. The other is something called BU Graduation. We get to install this show twice. We'll put the set in next week for tech and dress rehearsals, and our first two preview performances. Then on Saturday evening - May 19th, following the performance, we'll take it all away and set up the stage for the graduatuation ceremonies of BU's College of Fine Arts. Following the graduation on Sunday afternoon we put it all back in. There is a rehearsal on Monday afternoon - and then a preview performance. It's a fast, crazy ordeal - no more than 36 or so hours between the end of Saturday's performance, Sunday's Graduation, and Monday's rehearsal. Care packages welcome! The set, therefore is built quite ruggedly and made to come apart (and go back together) very quickly.

I won't do much more narrating - just take a look around. If you have a question about what is going on in the pictures - send me a question via the comment link below.

Pictured are Master Carpenter Larry Dersch (on stairs), Stage Carpenter Pat Austin (welding, tan shirt), Carpenter Milosz Gassan (welding, blue shirt) and Shop Foreman Brian Sears (chatting with Larry on the stairs).

Burled Oak and Polka Dots

There has also been a lot going on in the Paint shop. Charge Scenic Artist Roberto Gallo (right) and his staff have been producing some amazing faux finish work. We're not surprised at the quality of their work, but still it is amazing to look at. The set also features several murals - some of them painted directly on the walls as Roberto is doing here, and some hung on the wall as artwork. These murals took about four weeks to paint. They were stored safely away yesterday as I was taking photos - I'll save them for another day.

All of the walls are paneled with burled white oak, or at least they are painted to look like burled oak. The panels are taped off in sections that will each be treated slightly differently (lighter and darker) to bring greater texture to the set and break up the large expanse of walls.

The floor is a high gloss black tile. This picture shows a few stacks of them ready to install.

There's no less going on in the costume shop - and I'll bring you more of that next week as the clothes get closer to the finished product. I'll give a quick shout out to Bloomingdale's (Chestnut Hill), who are helping us out by providing some the clothing for the character of Gary Essendine played by Victor Garber.

The skirt pictured here was sent out to be pleated - we put it on the form yesterday when it came back so costume designer Mariann Verheyen (Love's Labour's Lost, The Mikado) could take a look. The patterns are created by the dots, the pleats and the way it was draped. They are really fascinating to look at, though not entirely planned, and really give this garment some life. I can't wait to see what happens when it's on someone and moving.

I think all of the women will have a hat or two. Our master Craftsperson, Denise Wallace, who also teaches millinery, has begun the process of building these. It all starts by creating the shape on a form, pictured left. I'll bring you a few more photos of these next week as they take shape.