Leave it to Marissa to find the tie-in between all the Big Days….
You’ve rented the venue, you’ve taken care of every detail, you’ve dealt with unexpected crises, and now the crowd is filing in, excited to witness the fruition of your plans…
Wait. Am I talking about planning a wedding — or producing a play?
Both of these things have been much on my mind of late. As my fellow Theater Pub bloggers Ashley Cowan and Will Leschber have reminded you, they’re getting married on June 20. Two days after I attend their wedding, I’ll be officiating at the wedding of two other dear friends, Rachel Sadler and Will Knox-Davies. (Their second date was at Theater Pub!) The day after that, rehearsals for my production of Pleiades start. It’s going to be a crazy weekend.
Doing the pre-production for Pleiades as Rachel and Ashley do the “pre-production” for their weddings has made me realize just how similar the two processes are. Here are what I see as the biggest parallels.
The proposal: It must be scary to ask someone to marry you. In this day and age, though, a marriage proposal is rarely a complete surprise — often the couple has discussed marriage before the official proposal takes place, and conventional wisdom says that you shouldn’t ask anyone to marry you unless you’re sure they’ll say yes. Asking Katja Rivera to direct Pleiades was scary, too — she was my first choice director, and I had no idea whether or not she’d say yes. I knew she liked the script, but would she want to direct it — devoting months of her life to my play, with very little compensation? Sure, it’s not a “till death do us part” commitment like marriage, but I still felt like I was asking a lot of her.
The venue: After Katja agreed to direct Pleiades, I knew that the next step would be to find and rent a theater. From there, lots of other things (e.g. our production schedule) would fall into place. We quickly learned that we had to be flexible. For a long time, I was attached to the idea of opening the show in July (Pleiades takes place over Fourth of July weekend, and my birthday is July 5), but theaters just didn’t seem to have July availability. We ended up booking the Phoenix Theatre for a four-week run in August, and are very happy with the way things ended up — but it meant that I had to get rid of some of my pet, preconceived notions. Similarly, the top wedding venues get booked months in advance, and the first step after the engagement takes place is to pick a date and book a venue. I assume that brides and grooms have to be flexible, too, when it comes to locations and venues.
The collaboration: Wedding planning can stress out a lot of couples. There are so many decisions to be made, and what happens when you and your sweetheart disagree about an important aspect of your wedding? You want a sophisticated evening wedding in the city — he wants a folksy outdoor wedding in the countryside. Does this mean the marriage is doomed? At the same time, collaborating and compromising during the wedding planning process can bring a couple closer together. And if you both agree on something without needing to argue about it — well, that just proves that you’re truly meant to be together, right? After Katja and I watched two nights of auditions, we were pleased to discover that we had very similar ideas of which actors we wanted to cast in which roles. Sometimes, writers and directors have very different conceptions of which actor is right for a role — and if that had happened with Pleiades, I think I would have experienced a soul-searching moment of “is this collaboration doomed?” Discovering that Katja and I had a similar perspective on the play and its characters, though, confirmed my belief that she’s the right person for me to work with on this project.
There are some big differences between producing a play and planning a wedding, of course. I envy my wedding-planning friends the fact that weddings are a bigger part of our culture than theater is — and thus, there are more resources, handbooks, websites, etc. available to engaged couples than to aspiring theater producers. Also, most wedding expenses are typically covered by the married couple and their families — but if you’re a self-producing playwright, there’s a stigma around putting your own money into the play, as well as a stigma around having Mommy and Daddy give you the money to produce a play. Both weddings and plays require smart budgeting, but theater requires fundraising to a much greater extent.
My mom tells me that after successfully planning her wedding on a short time frame (6 months from proposal to ceremony), she felt like she could do anything. The odd thing about planning a wedding, though, is that you really only get one shot at it — unless you plan to divorce and remarry someday, and who goes into a marriage thinking that it won’t last forever? Whereas, one of the things that’s sustaining me through the difficulties of producing Pleiades is the understanding that every lesson I learn, every mistake I make, will make producing the next play that much easier. And maybe, if I ever find myself in the position of planning a wedding, my theater-production experience will make that easier for me, too.
Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright, producer, and arts writer. She sends all her love and best wishes to Ashley, Will, Rachel and Will as they get married this month — and wishes a happy 30th anniversary to her mom and dad. Find out more about Marissa’s play Pleiades at pleiadessf.wordpress.com.