This year’s Pick of the Vine has a lot of moving parts: ten scripts, eight actors, four directors, thirty-three costumes, numerous props, light cues, sound cues, and show cues, plus one frazzled stage manager to wrangle them all together. It’s a wonder when you consider the logistics involved. You need someone to design the set, someone to build it, someone to procure props, someone for costumes, someone to design lights, someone to design sound, and one or more producers to pull everyone into the same room and get them talking to each other. Then, you need to figure out what nights to schedule rehearsals for which plays to make the best use of everyone’s time. And that doesn’t include having to solve any problems that may arise along the way.
Holly coproduced season 8 of POV, and together we produced seasons 9, 10, 11, and 12. It’s a massive undertaking, but it’s a fantastic feeling when all the pieces finally mesh for the first time. All the actors are working separately on their respective plays, and no one sees how well the other ones are coming along until we finally have our first full run through. That’s an exciting evening for everyone involved. Everyone secretly hopes that their pieces stand out among the rest, but we’re all highly entertained by seeing the other one acts, too. In fact, it’s hard to get everyone backstage during the final week of rehearsals because we often want to be out front to watch a play we really enjoy.
That’s one thing you have to remember about actors: we also enjoy being in the audience. It’s not uncommon for me to sneak up into the tech booth to watch a couple seconds of a play I really enjoy (see Part IV, the Art of Peeking). There’s a lot of mutual admiration that goes on with something like Pick of the Vine, what with so many talented people in our ensemble, and we love to watch and listen to each other. Each of us has a favorite joke or moment in the show that we love hearing or seeing every night, and often it doesn’t involve ourselves.
One of mine is a moment I get to be onstage for: it’s watching the expression on Chad Skiles’s face change at the very last moment of Come and Take It. It tells pretty much everything you need to know about the relationship and lifelong history he has with his older brother in a split second. Another moment happens during Mamie and Martin Go To Bed, when Mary Margaret Lewis deadpans a line that makes the audience roar every single night. She’s a master, and she proves it in fourteen words.
You’re bound to find your own favorite moment when you come to see Pick of the Vine, and I hope it stays with you for a long time. You’ll be sitting so close to the actors that the moment might be something subtle and minute, or it might be something explosive and over the top.
You can’t sit in the tech booth, though. Sorry.