Theater producer André Bishop

Theater producer André Bishop

A weeklong electronic journal.
Oct. 23 1997 3:30 AM

Theater producer André Bishop

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

       The final dress rehearsal of Ivanov went very well; the production took a "big leap." The wigs and facial hair finally arrived, and the actors didn't recognize each other at first! The Act 2 lighting was fixed--indeed all of Act 2 (a dreary party at a provincial country house) started playing well, and more importantly, the comedy started to play. It's going to be interesting to see if the audience can switch gears from drama to farce as easily as the play does. People hear "Chekhov" and I suppose they think gloom; there are parts of Ivanov that are as funny as any Feydeau farce.
       Kevin Kline was very real tonight, and built the character carefully and logically. Marian Seldes somewhat rethought her small role since last night and scored all her comedic points. The scene between Ivanov and his wife where he lashes out, calling her a "dirty Jew," was electrifying. The only mishap was that the famous gun shot at the end of the play didn't go off. So Ivanov's death didn't work--and this is the part that isn't supposed to be Feydeau!
       Gerry Gutierrez and I were pleased all in all, and we were happy that Bernard Gersten, my esteemed partner, felt as we did. Bernie and I visited the actors backstage, gave reassuring hugs to all, and spent some time with Kevin. Later that night I spoke to Gerry on the phone about the curtain call, and I think he'll stage a real one next week and just do a company bow for the first few previews. Gerry also reminded me to speak to Catherine Zuber about her excellent costume design (I haven't seen her, except in passing--not a good excuse, however). He also wanted to know what the staff members who were at the rehearsal thought of the production. Staff members at all theaters feel notoriously shy about speaking to directors afterward (they don't want to interfere, the director seems too busy, they want to get home, etc.), and I can't tell you how many brilliant directors go home thinking that everyone hated it, even if the opposite is true. I'm sure Catherine Zuber thinks I hate her costumes, even though I love them.
       Well, the first preview is about to be upon us. We are almost sold out, which means that a thousand people will show up. A major donor to the production is coming, as are various board members, so I will be really tense in a few hours. Can't wait. The night of the first preview is one of the few times that I can drink endless martinis and not feel a thing. Then I carefully brush my teeth--we all have our little rituals--then I saunter backstage to wish the actors well at "half hour" (usually 7:30 p.m.), giving off an air of sublime happiness and confidence. The good thing about first previews is that most of the audience knows that it is the first preview, and they are usually pretty receptive. Another good thing is that if something "needs work" or "isn't quite there yet," to use two favorite theater clichés, one can always point out that it's "only" the first preview and we have "lots of time," the actors were "nervous," and they need to "settle in" to their roles ... blah blah blah.
       What we want is really quite simple. We want the show to be good and the audience to like it.
       We'll soon see, won't we.

André Bishop is the artistic director of the Lincoln Center Theater in New York City.