The Weight

I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin’ about half past dead;
I just need some place where I can lay my head.
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, and “No!”, was all he said.

How do Chris Coleman, Allen Nause, Olga Sanchez,* or any other artistic director with a full season do it?

Which is to say, I’ve been a producer off and on since 1990, really forgotten how many shows I’ve helmed (of other writers works as well, not just mine), and every time I forget how much stuff goes into a show, how many phone calls, e-mails, meetings, late nights working on press. The director does the really heavy lifting of pulling the show together and making it work on stage, but the producer is there to focus on publicity, logistics, and coordination. And problem solving, if necessary. Frankly, it’s exhausting. Not so much because it’s such hard work but because it demands one be constantly present, paying attention and staying on top of details, large and small.

That said, “Dead of Winter” has gone well. We’ve struggled with the press–there are so many shows up and running or opening in Portland that everyone’s been competing for ink–but we have excellent word-of-mouth, and I think we’ll finish strong. This weekend looks to be filling up, and the final weekend tends to be solid because it’s the last chance to see the show. The cast and crew are having a good time, and audiences are enjoying themselves. As am I, though I’m wearing down.

Once the show closes, I can kind of breathe for awhile, focus on writing and submitting plays. In April, “Waiting on Sean Flynn” opens in Detroit, and in May “Rain,” a short piece I wrote for Rude Guerrilla Theatre Company’s “Seven Deadly Sins” show, opens, but “Flynn” is an established piece and “Rain” probably won’t require more than a couple line tweaks arising out of production. I’ll be producing again in June–TBA at this point–and that’s more than enough, but I just think of those folks who are looking down the road, opening one show while they’re starting production of another and programming next year’s season, and my eyes glaze. I get the thousand-yard stare. The phone rings and I just look at it, thinking: who are you? This time? What do you want from me?

That’s what producing will do to you. The trick–the real trick, I think–is maintaining your passion for the project while retaining a sense of humor and staying human with your fellow artists and audience. Then the burden becomes a gift. But I still marvel at the long-term, full-time producer. I know they have staffs to do much of what I do, but they also have obligations that extend far beyond mine.

I suspect, at this point, they do it partly out of compulsion, partly out of obligation, and partly, one hopes, out of love.
Take a load off Fannie, take a load for free;
Take a load off Fannie, And…and…and….
You can put the load right on me.

*For readers outside Portland, the aforementioned are the artistic directors of, respectively, Portland Center Stage, Artists Repertory Theatre, and Miracle Theatre Company.

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