This weekend at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center (SVCAC) was the opening performances of Artist Repertory Theatre of Simi's (ARTS) Production of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. This is not a review of that production. There are reviews already (here and here) and probably more to come celebrating their fantastic production. But the reason for this post is to celebrate ARTS and the SVCAC for doing something special that I have not seen many theaters do. I will explain in a minute but first an important preface.
The show has many impressive feats by the actors. What many people never realize, or truly appreciate, is the impressive feats done by the crew. In smaller theaters the hardest spots to fill (other than seats) tends to be crew members. No glory, no pay, it takes a selfless servant to the arts, a true lover of theatre to ply their trade behind the curtains and out of the spotlight. In this show, tech contributions are just as important, if not more so than usual.
The show consists of quick scene changes, often done on the "stage within the stage" located behind the actors. The audience is transported to cottages, castles, churches, winter wonderlands, green fields, pubs, and even another theater. Mind you, this is all done in mere seconds, by an army of technicians.
The actor who plays the D'Ysquith family (that's right, one guy plays 9 different family members) requires a dozen, lightning quick changes (almost all under a minute.) The tech crew is responsible for these changes as well. The wigs, the dressing, the undressing, the shoe changes, all props and accouterments in a frantic whirlwind of clothes that leaves the audience with a feeling of prestidigitation. Tech doubles as dressers for other characters as well.
Finally, I get to the point; because of all this hard work- it was amazing to see these men and women who spent 2 and a half hours running around in the dark finally get the final bow of the production. That's right! The Final Bow. After the customary nod to the booth and orchestra, the center curtain opens to reveal the crew members center stage for their opportunity to bask in the well deserved applause.
Sure this sometimes happens at closing performances at some theaters, but ARTS's production celebrates these unsung heroes nightly. It's touching and respectful, to both the art-form and the people who bleed for it.
It could be due to the director's long standing relationship with the crew. Director Will Shupe is a jack of all trades, Actor, Singer, Director, Set Designer, Stage Builder- he has literally done it all. In this production he makes sure that everyone who worked hard to bring this fabulous show to life gets their chance to be appreciated.
There's an old saying that without tech, actors would just be screaming their words in the dark. There would be no set, no lights, no mics and in this case... no costumes. This crew not only deserves the chance to relish this bow, they deserve to be the ones getting the standing ovation, and I for one am glad they are.
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder runs at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center until July 14th.