Imagine, if you will, landing a lead part in an uproariously funny play, looking over the script for a few days, then meeting the other members of the cast for the first time about half an hour before the first read through. Pretty standard fare for an actor, right? Now imagine performing that first read through in front of an audience.
That’s the situation Alison Monda, Ryan Holmberg, and Gerald Browning found themselves in on September 1st when they sat down in front of director Scot Whitney and about 60 other people in the Wine Cellar at the Water Street Café for their first official read through of Norm Foster’s The Love List.
Between now and the end of September, four to six hours a day, six days a week, will be spent in rehearsal, but on Thursday night, it was just the actors, their scripts, and Assistant Production Manager Kate Arvin reading out stage directions.
Harlequin Productions’ Managing Artistic Director Scot Whitney and his wife, Artistic Director Linda Whitney, started giving the public free access to read-throughs last year with the theater’s production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s just one more way of making “Real Live Theater” (Harlequin’s catchphrase) more accessible to the community. Attendance has been minimal at past events, but for The Love List, they teamed up with Water Street Café owner Jeff Taylor to offer food and beverages, and the anticipated ten to fifteen people ballooned to a capacity crowd. It was win-win for all parties, and Taylor and the Whitneys are already discussing possibilities for future joint ventures.
Good food aside, the big draw for many in attendance at Thursday night’s event was the play itself. Harlequin staged a highly successful production of The Love List in 2005, and Scot Whitney knew he wanted to bring it back to Olympia. He was just waiting for the right timing. And the right actors.
Enter Alison Monda. The 25 year old actress from Federal Way has appeared on the Harlequin stage four times over the past year and half, and Whitney recognized in her the comedic chops necessary to pull off the challenging role of Justine in The Love List. He was thinking ahead to 2013. Then, in mid-August, Whitney found himself with a serious problem. The actor slated to play the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac suffered a serious leg injury, and the entire production had to be scrapped. It was only a few short weeks before rehearsals were to begin, and Harlequin Productions was left without a final show for its 20th anniversary season.
Rather than panicking, Whitney realized the solution to his problem was right in front of him. He decided to substitute the contemporary comedy for the classic and needed only to cast the two male roles. Lacey resident Ryan Holmberg and Gerald Browning, who lives in Olympia, had both been cast in Cyrano and were invited, along with a select few others, to audition for the new show. Holmberg plays the part of Leon while Browning assumes the role of Bill. This is the first Harlequin show for both actors.
Following the announcement that Cyrano was being postponed, inevitable disappointment has been overshadowed by delight that a fan favorite is coming back. The Love List was a huge hit for Harlequin and played to full houses for its entire run in 2005. If the response of the 60 lucky people at the read through is any indication, the 2011 production should do just as well. The show, a comedy with adult themes and language, explores what happens when a middle aged man gets what he thinks he wants in the form of the perfect woman. It goes without saying that we should be careful what we wish for.
The Love List opens on September 29th and will run through October 22nd. It is the final show of Harlequin’s 2011 20th Anniversary Season.
Harlequin’s 2012 season will include:
Stardust Serenade – November/December 2011
The Seafarer – January/February 2012
Enchanted April – March/April 2012
My Old Lady – May 2012
Summer Session – June/July 2012
The Americans Across the Street – August/September 2012
Richard III – September/October 2012
Season subscriptions are on sale through the box office and on line at:
Individual tickets for The Love List are also available.