Geva’s next production, Next to Normal, has its official opening on Saturday, January 12. But it won’t be the first opening of this production, with this cast. Why not? This show is a co-production with the Alliance Theatre, in Atlanta, and was performed there this past fall. In general a co-production means that two or more theatres work together to produce a show, sharing the cast, the designs and the expenses for the production. But how does a co-production really work?
Like any partnership, each co-production is slightly different, and every co-production takes negotiation and constant communication (remind you of any relationship you know?). It’s crucial, according to Geva’s production director Matthew Reinert, to ensure that you’ve found the right producing partner. Do your organizations share the same production values? Are the stages compatible? Do you both have the same goals and expectations?
For this particular co-production, artistic director Mark Cuddy began by working with the artistic director at the Alliance, Susan Booth. They decided that the production would begin in Atlanta and move to Rochester. Then, together they chose a director, Scott Schwartz, and all three collaborated on the selection of the design team (choreographer Michael Jenkinson, scenic designer Kevin Rigdon, costume designer Sydney Roberts, lighting designer Mike Baldassari and sound designer Clay Benning). With the design team in place, casting began, and Cuddy, Booth and Schwartz all needed to agree on casting choices. While these decisions were underway, Geva’s production director Matthew Reinert and the Alliance’s general manager Max Leventhal negotiated the budgets – details like which expenses would be shared between theatres, how much would be spent in each design area and how much would each theatre contribute to every budget line had to be hammered out before anything could move forward.
So, the money is agreed upon, the cast and creative team set. Done, right?
Not quite. Now the real work begins.
The designers now had the task of creating a look that would work in both spaces, and the theatres, while similar, are not the exact same footprint. The Alliance stage is taller and narrower than Geva’s stage, which had to be taken into account – especially when creating a two-story house onstage!
The musical began rehearsals in Atlanta, and Geva staff kept track of the progress through rehearsal notes sent by the Alliance’s stage management team. Geva’s musical director Don Kot began learning the score and working with the local professional musicians who would form the band here in Rochester. When the show opened in Atlanta in the middle of October, Mark Cuddy, Don Kot, stage manager Veronica Aglow, technical director Jason Hawks, associate sound designer Ian Hildredth, wardrobe manager Ana Vallejo and production assistant Stephie Kesselring all flew to Atlanta to see the production, and to prepare for the transition from Atlanta to Rochester. While the scenery and the cast would remain the same for both theatres, the band and the crew for the show would shift, so the production team needed to know how to prepare for the January production at Geva.
The production in Atlanta ended in mid-November, and the scenery was packed into a truck and driven to Rochester. As soon as the set for A Christmas Carol was safely in storage, Geva’s scene shop began re-building the Next to Normal set – which involved taking apart the entire stage apron to prepare the trap room under the stage. And after a two-month hiatus, the cast reassembled in Rochester on New Year’s Day for brush up rehearsals. Today marked the beginning of technical rehearsals onstage, once again combining all of the tools of the stage – lighting, sound, scenery, projection, and the talents of the cast and crew to share this remarkable story with Rochester audiences. Performances begin on Tuesday, January 8th, and the show officially opens on January 12th.
Two cities, two theatres, one electrifying show.