Ever watch talented, passionate thespians on stage and wonder, How do they do that? They’ve got the blocking down pat; their timing is impeccable; and they’ve memorized the lines so well, it seems as if there really isn’t a script at all. These actors and actresses make it all look so easy.
Except that it isn’t. It takes work. And lots of it.
But for Craig A. Hane, who founded Barefoot Productions, a volunteer-driven live theatrical company, in 2006, there’s nothing on earth that brings more joy.
This month, Hane directs Lips Together, Teeth Apart, an off-Broadway play written by Terrence McNally.
“It’s about two dysfunctional homophobic couples who spend the Fourth of July weekend together on Fire Island,” Hane explained. “It’s a 12-hour slice of life in these couples’ lives on the back porch of a beach house, overlooking the ocean – and they are surrounded by a gay community.”
I caught up with Hane – right after he applied the first coat of paint to the set – to find out what it takes to polish a production before the stage lights come up.
Plymouth Patch: Lips Together, Teeth Apart is certainly not a fluff play. It’s in-your-face; it really makes the audience stop and think.
Craig A. Hane: It’s wonderfully written. It’s a very sophisticated, intelligent, smart script – with very true-to-life language. The point of this show is that the characters on stage will mirror individuals in the audience. Nothing that these people say on stage has not been said or thought by any one of us. It’s very raw, and we all know we say these things, too. It (the play) deals with prejudice, bigotry, it deals with all kinds of things … we all know we think the same way – and we know we’re wrong, and so do they – but they’re only human, and they can’t get around it.
Plymouth Patch: What inspired you to produce it through Barefoot Productions?
Hane: For one, our company tries to do shows that are a little bit more abstract. They’re not your Harvey, your Arsenic and Old Lace or The Sound of Music. They’re not your traditional fare for community theater. We try to pick shows that are a little bit off the beaten path. There are hundreds – thousands – of plays out there that people just don’t tackle. They’re a little bit less-known, but they’re just as good.
That’s why Barefoot Productions was formed, to give the public a taste of more off-Broadway selections. We want to give people things that they should see, not just things that they want to see.
Plymouth Patch: How and when did your passion for theater take flight?
Hane: I was 17 years old, and I saw Deathtrap at the Fisher Theatre. It was my first professional theater experience. I think it was 1979. I fell in love with theater. And from that point on, it was just … I have to do this. Then I did a senior play in high school. I have been producing, directing and set designing since 1980. After high school, I graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater and communication.
Plymouth Patch: Does your work incite the same satisfaction today? Does it keep getting better for you?
Hane: It sure does. We have play-reading committees, and since I direct the majority of the shows for the season, I tell my board of directors that I have over 200 plays I want to do before I die. Never worry about me saying, “What are we going to do?” I have such a living passion for the theater; it just consumes me 24/7.
Plymouth Patch: Like many artistic expressions, theater is something that just doesn’t “happen” – despite the fact that so many actors make it look so effortless. So much goes on behind the scenes. Tell us about some of the people that help a production come to fruition.
Hane: Well, Barefoot Productions primarily consists of a core group of about 12 of us, and we have been together for the last four or five years. Every one of these people – whether they are on our board of directors, trustees, members-at-large or on our production crew – wear four or five hats, and they all hold down a “day job” elsewhere. We are the nine-to-fivers … and then at 5:05, we start production work, and we usually go until about 1 a.m.
We also have a marketing director, a production director and our resident costume designer (who has been with us from the start), and I am the artistic director and founder. Those are the production people. On top of that, we have the board of directors, the president, vice president, treasurer, secretary.
Plymouth Patch: Wow … it takes a village, it seems. Are you open to others joining?
Hane: Yes! We are always open to the general public, and we are always taking new, interested people all the time. We’re not a closed ensemble; we are an open community theater.
Plymouth Patch: How long does it take for a production like Lips Together, Teeth Apart to come to life?
Hane: I have a play – at least in my head – a good year before we start mounting it. This season that you’re seeing this year, which started last October and is closing this month, was all voted on a year prior. So, I’m always ahead of the game as far as the vision of a production. But I always say that a production begins at the auditions, and that is usually seven to eight weeks out from opening night.
Plymouth Patch: I was a production assistant on a few sets while I was in college, and, man, it was fun to be a fly on the wall … to see actors prepare to take the stage. Do the actors and actresses in this production have any preshow rituals?
Hane: What I’ve noticed with this group, especially because it is such a heavy-scripted show – there are four people handling 85 pages worth of script, and it’s just a lot of talk – right before we begin rehearsals, I’ll find each one of them alone in their own little areas. A lot of times, the casts will come together and try to build energy off of each other. But I think what they’re just trying to do is focus and find the inner character that each one of them is playing. And they’re all very quiet.
Plymouth Patch: Interesting. Do you have any rituals of your own – perhaps wearing a particular pair of socks or listening to your iPod to get in the zone?
Hane: (laughing) The funny thing is, I try to be very much the father figure of everything – the entire company as well as each individual show. So I find myself always trying to make sure that everyone is comfortable and happy before the rehearsals and shows begin. My ritual is to tell everyone, “OK, everybody. We’re going to do this, and we’re going to have a ball.”
Plymouth Patch: What’s next for Barefoot Productions?
Hane: During the run of Lips Together, Teeth Apart, we’ll officially announce our 2011-12 season. We’re opening in October with a suspense drama called The Rimers of Eldritch by Lanford Wilson, who just passed away about a month ago. I think the audience will be very amazed with new faces – and the old faces they’ve seen on stage. It’s the largest cast that we’ve ever presented, and it’s the most dramatic production we’ve ever presented.
Performances of "Lips Together, Teeth Apart" are at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; and 8 p.m. May 20-21 and 2 p.m. May 22. General admission tickets cost $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors.