In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Spinning Tree Theatre’s production of FULL GALLOP through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past “Inside” articles click here.
By Andrew Grayman-Parkhurst
The first question I’m often asked by patrons is, “How did you find this show?” With Full Gallop, the story is perhaps a bit more interesting than the standard, “We read plays and musicals as well as articles and reviews of plays and musicals all year long. This one grabbed us and didn’t let go.”
Shortly after we landed in Kansas City from New York in 2010, we started to hear about Full Gallop. This was especially true after Spinning Tree’s second production, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. It is another one-woman show and, perhaps because it was just our second show, people assumed we were going to produce just one-woman shows. We heard all about The Belle of Amherst, Golde’s Balcony and others. But when respected peers (including the former artistic director of the ballet company and a well-respected radio talk show host) mentioned Full Gallop, they would not only express their passion that Kansas City needed a production of this marvelous play, but they would also mention Cheryl Weaver. No, not mention. Insist upon.
Artistic Director Michael Grayman-Parkhurst and I read the play and respected it immensely. The playwriting is uniquely credited as “by Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson.” This showed us that the established playwright (Hampton) truly collaborated with the actor portraying Diana Vreeland (Wilson). Not only did we find the piece to be highly readable, but we immediately wanted to know more about its subject. (One of the signs of a “successful” production in our estimation is when patrons write or call to tell us that they Googled to learn more about the subject on the car ride home.)
Next step: call Cheryl Weaver. We hadn’t yet worked with Cheryl but knew her to be one of the best actors in town. Thankfully, a year ago this month Cheryl said, “Yes.” Next step: hire the director. One of Kansas City’s most reputable directors happens to be Doug Weaver, Cheryl’s husband. Luckily Doug too said, “Yes.”
Fast forward in time a full year to this past Saturday, when Michael and I attended the producer’s run of Full Gallop. This was one of the last days in the rehearsal hall before moving into the theatre. The weather was again cool after several days of winter warmth, but the heat was turned off (for the same reasons we do so at Just Off Broadway Theatre: to decrease the noise and to save the actor’s voice). Stage manager Taylorrae Burton sat with laptop ready to play sound designer Jeff Eubank’s cues. Assistant stage manager Victoria Barbee played Lorenzo silently from offstage. (While we could see Lorenzo in the rehearsal hall, the audience won’t see or hear him at the theatre.) Lighting designer Nicole Jaja sat with script, taking notes on blocking, mood…what does Nicole take notes on? I should ask her!
Cheryl Weaver, who had already gone through the piece twice that day (in preparation at home and then once in rehearsal before the producer’s run) became Vreeland in front of our eyes. I closed my notebook ten minutes into Act One and found myself leaning forward, wanting to connect with/learn more about/support this incredibly powerful and vulnerable figure. With Cheryl and Doug at the reins, I felt relaxed. I also felt eager for Kansas City audiences to see this local artist play this international artist. And I felt hopeful. About selling tickets for a one-woman show even in mid-winter. For those who would catch this eye-opening evening of art, beauty, truth, and integrity.
Producing theatre is a leap of faith in so many ways, only one of which is the faith that the right people will come, open their minds and hearts and allow themselves to be transported by our offering. The very act is collaboration. Not only between artists, but between artists and patrons. Between producers, artists, and patrons. And playwrights.
FULL GALLOP runs January 26th – February 11th. For more information visit spinningtreetheatre.com.
Andrew Grayman-Parkhurst (Producer, Spinning Tree Managing Director) directed last season’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. He has co-directed, for Spinning Tree Theatre, Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn, The Fantasticks, Hello Again, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Motherhood Out Loud, A Little Night Music, Violet, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, 13 and Finian’s Rainbow. Andrew was assistant choreographer on the Broadway production of Curtains, and Dance Captain/Swing on the Broadway tour of Mamma Mia! for more than 2,000 performances. He had the honor of being directed by Roman Polanski in the original Vienna production of Tanz der Vampire as Dance Soloist, was chosen and directed by Alvin Ailey at age 16 to dance Memoria, and performed on the 2009 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall. A Young Artist Scholar at the American Dance Festival and a graduate of Texas Christian University (where he co-founded the AIDS Outreach Center Benefit Concert, in its 25th year), Andrew created the dance program at Princeton Day School. A graduate of Nonprofit Connect’s Executive Director Institute, Andrew teaches dance and musical theatre to young and emerging artists. Andrew is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.
PerformInk Kansas City
PerformInk Kansas City is the KC area's leading source for performing arts and entertainment news.