Bus Stop: Next Stop, Livermore! Part I

In Theatre on February 16, 2014 at 3:46 am

[Originally posted on my other blog, this post is one of several in which I chronicle the various rinky-dink aspects of American Theatre, from the very small community endeavors to the opulence of major Broadway productions. My theory is that, with only a few rare exceptions, there is always some aspect of every production — from Hamlet to Shrek the Musical — which is rinky-dink. If it’s not a problem with the writing, there’s a disconnect between Director, Designers, Management or Audience. It could be anything from the Producer pressuring the director to cast her daughter in the lead, to just plain terrible costumes. It delights me to tell you the truth about these things, because apparently I’m the only one who sees them. It’s equal parts therapeutic and just plain catty. I make no apologies. If you think your feelings might be hurt, fuck off in advance.]

On January 24, 2008 I heard Susan Steinberg of the Livermore Independent ask Dana Anderson (director of Bus Stop at Role Players Ensemble in Danville) if it would be possible to move Bus Stop to the new Bankhead Theatre in Livermore after it closes its Danville run. That’s how much she loves this production. Her review in the Independent (check archives for 1/24/08 here) is further proof of her love; sadly, she smothers the show with affection. The result is a plot and character play-by-play, effectively spoiling all the highlights for future audiences. I realize that many community papers review community theatre this way. I also realize that dogs lick their own asses. Neither of these truths makes me want to kiss the parties involved.

What’s interesting here is the question of moving the show to the Bankhead. The first thing it tells us is how little is known of theatre by nice ladies who write synopses for local papers. Perhaps Steinberg knows more: is there a financial trapdoor one can use to avoid the $2,000.00-per-night price tag that comes with doing a show at the Bankhead? I doubt it, but I will inquire.

I further doubt that Role Players Ensemble of Danville will be much interested in transferring their show to Livermore. A reliable source, who for professional and personal reasons chooses to remain anonymous, tells me that the Board of Role Players is very much interested in proving that Danville’s got Talent. So much so they are considering holding auditions for a Talent Show. Something tells me that Role Players and the Town of Danville will be too busy with that worthy endeavor to take any time off re-mounting Bus Stop in déclassé Livermore. Though one surmises Livermorians may know a bit more about bus stop diners and cowboys than do the effete elite of D-Town.

Just for fun, let’s look at what it would take for Role Players to actually produce a tour of Bus Stop to Livermore; I realize that this is highly unlikely. But this is exactly the kind of word problem I love to solve.

First there is the question of the people involved: does the cast want to go to Livermore? Or, better angle: who cannot go?

If all have pressing previous engagements, next question: would the director be willing to re-cast and re-stage the production?

If the answer is yes, would he want it exactly as it was, or would he be able to resist the temptation to tinker with things?

Would there even be time to tinker?

If the director does not want to re-cast and re-stage, is he okay with someone else directing the re-mount?

If he’s okay with it, how much of this production is still Role Players’? The set … the sound design maybe … But then, a Broadway Tour is accepted as not exactly the original but definitely the next best thing. We’ve all heard stories of tours where the performances were better than Broadway. Does this sound to me like something Role Players would still be interested in producing? No. So let’s pretend that most of the original Danville cast wants to go to Livermore, and the director is thrilled to re-mount the production.

[Thus ends Part I of this too too engaging saga. Please do comment if you’d like to read more. The rest is pure speculation, but potentially entertaining for those of you who, like me, have squirmed in your seats as you’ve been treated to productions mounted by people who — if they’re being paid to produce this stuff — really ought to know better.]

  1. […] wrote in another time and place. I share it here for reasons previously stated; if you haven't read Part I, that's where you should […]

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