Production team reunites for Fodor’s world premiere

Jessie Cadle | Staff Writer

There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are six ways the world premiere of the play Fifty Ways ties to playwright Kate Fodor’s previous world premiere.

Six people who opened Fodor’s February 2012 world premiere of Rx in New York City are now at Chautauqua for the world premiere of Fifty Ways: playwright Fodor; director Ethan McSweeny; set designer Lee Savage; production stage manager Jenn Rae Moore; assistant stage manager Bales Karlin; and sound designer Lindsay Jones.

“In a way, it’s not ‘Why are so many people from Rx working on Fifty Ways,’ but ‘Why are so many people from Chautauqua working on Rx,’ ” McSweeny said. “That comes directly out of work we’ve done with Kate here.”

McSweeny, who directed the world premieres of three of Fodor’s four plays, is Chautauqua Theater Company’s resident director. Moore has been CTC stage manager for the past eight seasons, and all of the six from February’s premiere but Jones have worked at Chautauqua in the past.

The connection between Fodor and Chautauqua is incredibly strong.

Though it is Fodor’s first world premiere in Chautauqua, CTC has debuted both 100 Saints You Should Know and Rx as part of the New Play Workshops. Fodor is also the first recipient of a play commission from CTC and Chautauqua Writers’ Center, with the financial support of the John C. Court Family Foundation.

The play, which shows at 8 p.m. tonight at Bratton Theater and runs through July 29, follows a married couple, played by CTC Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch and guest artist actor Michael Gaston, as they struggle through a rapidly deteriorating marriage.

Benesch and Gaston have worked together for more than 20 years, and many of the crew have been working together professionally or in CTC for almost a decade.

Having six production team members returning, and many more who have worked together on various other projects, makes the process smoother and more relaxed, McSweeny said.

“It’s like Team Fodor, isn’t it?” he said. “We’re able to anticipate one another’s moves better.”

Throughout the rehearsal process for Fifty Ways, ‘Team Fodor’ has worked like a well-oiled machine to make a strong opening night.

During a technical rehearsal last week, the production crew sat in a darkened Bratton Theater to perfect the play’s technical transitions. McSweeny made a request, but sound master Jones was two steps ahead of him, smoothing over a transition with the addition of a few seconds of song.

Moore started the scene transition again from the top, Karlin nodded from the stage and the lights went down.

“The nice thing about working with people you’ve worked with before is you have a vocabulary, and a comfort level and a familiarity that is really great,” Savage said. “You can build upon what you did before and keep pushing each other.”

“The challenge is to keep challenging each other and not get complacent or redundant,” he said.

Another difficulty lies in remembering that just because one has worked with a designer or director before, they cannot read your mind, McSweeny said. Clear, honest communication is necessary, and becoming presumptuous is a peril.

But trust is at the core of their joint work.

“Selecting a design team is as important as casting the actors,” McSweeny said. “I tend to think of theater making as an extended family.”

Following the trail of biographies of each actor and member of the production team, they are all connected in some way. Almost all of them have worked with one another in some professional capacity.

“The theater world is infinitely small,” McSweeny said. “I’m comforted by the fact that I know I’ll see everyone again.”

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