I spent most of Friday on the phone and the Internet trying to locate director David Dubin and members of cast and crew of The Island Repertory Theatre Company's production of "Six For The Show," Fire Island's first one-act play festival. It was touch and go for most of the day. One moment it was a go, the next it was a no-go. Cast and crew members were having a hard time getting out of New York City. About 2:30 pm everything seemed to indicate a go. People were finding their way out to The Island. I assumed that those I hadn't heard from were not going to have a problem getting to our performing space at The Island Club in Fire Island Pines.

About three o'clock, one cast member e-mailed that he would not be there that night. People were already on their way to dress rehearsal, so I decided to show up at five o'clock and see what could be done.

It was decided that we would drop one of the plays and director Dubin and another actor would fill in (scripts in hands) for the missing absent one. After all, the audience would still see six out of the seven one-acts that made up the evening. Besides, actor/comedian Shlomoh Sherman  was making his acting debut with the company at that performance, as was Dubin.

At 6:30 pm, one and a half hours before curtain, another disaster struck when two other actors called to say that they would not be available to perform that evening. On top of that, our stage manager would not be there, either. What to do! Be still, my aged heart!

At that point only five of the seven plays would be able to be performed and, rather than cancel the performance, I decided to give away the tickets and go for it --  something we could not really afford to do. But, I'm of the old school, trained to believe that "the show must always go on." I have even performed with people whose loved ones had passed away hours before curtain. They came to the theatre, did the show and went back to the wake. The day my father passed away in 1986, I decided to stay in Cherry Grove and open in an Arts Project of Cherry Grove show called "Grove Fever" that was directed by Ted Drach.

We all love our Island Club space and Rep members traditionally work as a family.  Because it also serves as a disco later on in the evening, we must set up and break down stage set and audience seating every night. The breakdown must take no more than twenty minutes and it's essential that everyone involved in the show lend a hand. With several people absent, Friday's quick changeover was particularly difficult but it did happen. (Carrying chairs up a flight of stairs at my age is not exactly doctor's orders, but, hell, I'm an old gypsy at heart.)

The show was received well by the audience and I think everyone involved was glad that we had decided to go on. After all, the (free) price was right! I was particularly happy that we had made the effort, because playwright Franco D'Alessandro showed up with two friends to see his play, "Who's On Top," which was being performed in the festival. One of the remarkable things about this production is that we have all had the privilege of working with the writers of the plays we were performing.

The next day, I woke up exhausted from the previous night's effort (hey, I'm 67!) and dragged my ass to The Pines to try and sell tickets for the Saturday night show. After a nap, I got my stuff together and left for the theatre. Unfortunately, house manager Big Nacho Man was attending a family reunion upstate and also not available to help. He is an important member of the team and I felt a bumpy night was in store. I was right. . .

The Island Repertory Theatre Company is (except for paid stage manager and technical director) an all-volunteer effort. In our fourth season (our second at the Island Club) we had accomplished miracles by mounting two major productions that had been well-received both artistically and by the audience. In the second production, some of our actors had roles in world premiere productions -- quite a distinction.

We serve our actors well by carefully nurturing good performances out of them and publicizing their names and photos in local papers, New York City publications and on the Internet (the star treatment, if you will). For that reason, it is a good showcase and many theatre people attend our plays. However, what we do need from all involved is cooperation in facilitating quick set up and breakdown. Everybody helps with everything -- an aspect that not everyone is thrilled with. However, asking ten people to set up four chairs each does not seem unreasonable. We don't stand by and watch; we do it along with everybody else.

Although the Saturday night show went reasonably well (playwrights Tony Finstrom and John Van Ness Philip had come to see their respective plays), the energy and willingness was just not there to facilitate a satisfactory setup and breakdown and I knew that it was time to cancel the last two weeks of the run. Board Chairman Richard Fenn, administrative director Peter Downes and I had talked about that possibility the week before, but at the time I was unwilling to do so even though the show was losing approximately two hundred and fifty dollars per week -- not unusual in true non-profit theatre situations. We had actually done better than we thought we would this summer and I felt that it was important to complete the run. I fought for longer runs for the shows, because I felt it was important for our actors to do enough performances to grow in their roles. After all, we are an acting company.

However, Saturday night convinced me that it was time. . . I think if the blackout had not sapped so much of our energy, we would have been fine. But it did . . . so, I announced the closing to everyone and that was it . . . To paraphrase something they say at Bingo Night at the Community House in Cherry Grove: "No set up, no show."

The Island Repertory Company is a dream come true. We had a spectacular season. Our first production "The Boys In The Band" (photo right) was filled with awesome performances by some members of our acting company and drew accolades beyond our wildest dreams. So, too, "Six For The Show," Fire Island's first one-act play festival and our first attempt at doing original works.

Not everybody who comes out here is interested in attending legitimate theatre plays that demand a certain amount of concentration from the audience. We've always known that and designed our company with that in mind. We project that our losses will be supported by contributions. I would love to eventually find corporate sponsors and give away the tickets a la Shakespeare in the Park in New York City. It will happen. Just wait and see . . .

When Peter Downes, Richard Fenn and I decided to found Island Rep, we agreed that we wanted it to be a model theatre company. We have learned a lot from our first full summer theatre season. Hopefully, next year we will have more volunteers to work on our backstage production and house staffs and lighten the work load. But all involved should expect to be asked to help do what has to be done. That's just the way it is. Getting involved is not everybody's cup of tea. . . you gotta love it.

We have a four-year track record now. We have shown the community what we can do. If you take this stuff seriously and would like to join our acting ensemble or production staff, please get in touch. Send e-mail to: IslandRepCG@aol.com.

Although "Six For The Show's" run was cut short, we have decided to tally up the ballots that we have and give jury and audience awards based on three performances. Since only five plays were performed last Friday night, the audience was not invited to fill out ballots.

The winners of both one-act play festival audience and jury awards will be announced at an event in mid-September at The Island Club on September 13th. We hope you'll attend and meet the winning playwrights, members of Island Rep's  board of directors, acting ensemble and volunteer staff.

We're already working on next summer's play schedule. So, if you think you want to get involved in any capacity, please let us know. We are in contact with each other through the winter.


Photos by Judy Freedman



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