What, you are certainly asking yourself, does the staff of a non-profit, regional theatre like Geva do during the summers? There haven’t been any blog posts for several weeks, so where are they? Are they at the beach? Are they taking fascinating luxurious vacations through exotic lands? Are they sitting by a pool, waited on hand and foot, drinking from a tall icy glass garnished with an umbrella?
While we all find time for a little rest and relaxation for a short period during the summer, most days you’ll find the Geva staff all hard at work! Most of our production staff (the carpenters, painters, props builders, electricians, stitchers and craftspeople and stage managers that make the shows happen) is not contracted through the summer, and are working in other places around the country until August. Today, our education department is preparing materials and final lesson plans for the Summer Academy, a month-long workshop for select high school students focusing on the craft of theatre – this year, the youth will delve into Shakespeare’s rich poetry. Our company management team is kept busy, hosting the companies from our summer shows, as well as preparing for the fall season. Our box office and marketing department are getting the word out about Avenue Q and The Tribute Show to Sir Elton John and Billy Joel Through the Years, as well as our 40th Anniversary Season. The development staff is raising money to cover the costs of our productions (did you know that your ticket price only covers a portion of production costs?). And if you find me on a beach, I’m likely to be surrounded by library books and new plays to read. This is what has kept me from writing – there is so much rich reading to do!
In fact, yesterday, the creative team for Freud’s Last Session, our second show of the season, met for coffee, and to discuss the play, the two icons at the center of it, and how the play comes to life visually and aurally. The team is led by director Skip Greer (Geva’s artist in residence and director of education), and includes set designer Rob Koharchik, costume designer Ann Emo, lighting designer Derek Madonia and sound designer Dan Roach. How does a creative team envision the design of a play like this? We started with history, the facts that we can research which will help to guide our decisions. We discussed the beginnings of World War II, and what life was like in London on September 3, 1939, the day that Mark St. Germain chose for the fictional meeting between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis.
We looked at images of Freud and Lewis themselves – these two men who are icons in literature and science, and whom this play offers us a glimpse of their humanity. Both of these images to the right were taken in 1939, so this is a fairly accurate depiction of their age at the time of the play.
We inspected photos of Freud’s office, which is the play’s setting.Freud’s London study was inspired by his home office in Vienna, his home until nearly a year and a half before the play begins. So we compared the two offices, looking for the character in each room. While both offices contain Freud’s signature analysis couch (not pictured in this image from Vienna), note the difference in the two rooms. Freud’s daughter Anna tried to recreate his Vienna office in London which could account for its orderliness – it doesn’t have the cluttered, seemingly haphazard placement of objects of the Vienna study.
The creative team also talked about what happened on the radio that day, as British civilians waited for their Prime Minister to announce what everyone thought was inevitable – Britain’s entry into World War II. What did Chamberlain sound like, as he gave that speech? If you’ve seen the movie The King’s Speech, then you have an idea about what George VI said at this moment, and we discussed that as well.
And while it may not impact the look of this production, we couldn’t help but discuss what it is that has us all intrigued: on this day, less than three weeks from the day that the 83 year-old Freud took his own life, what would compel him to have this conversation with C.S. Lewis, a man whose beliefs Freud couldn’t have disagreed with more. And what would compel Lewis to make the difficult journey into London to meet with a man he had ridiculed in his latest book?
I’m just beginning my research on this production, and I’m bound to take a break from psychoanalysis and religion for a bit of the irreverent puppetry and dueling pianos on our stage this summer, but I’ll share more of the process for Freud’s Last Session and our other shows this season in the coming months. Until then…