TheatreWorks brings some Kaufman-Hart hilarity to the holidays
Playwrights: George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
Director: Geoffrey Kent
Cast: Louis Schaefer, Jamie Ann Romero, Gabriella Cavallero, and Sean Scrutchins
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 23
Where: Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, Unversity of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 3955 Regent Circle
Tickets: $35; $15 children under 16; 255-3232, theatreworkscs.org
Something else: Children under 5 years old will not be admitted.
One other thing: Opening weekend features four special events. Go to theatreworkscs.org for details.
For its final offering in 2012, Theatreworks will put to use its theatrical time machine to the tune of 76 years. George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's "You Can't Take it With You" was the comedic darling of 1936, smack in the middle of the Great Depression. Its unvarnished view of the quirky yet lovable Sycamore family garnered it a Pulitzer Prize and a permanent place on stages all through the world. In the play, the outside world comes crashing in to the unconventional Sycamore household with highly entertaining yet profound results.
Company founder and artistic director Murray Ross chose Geoffrey Kent to direct. The Denver-based Kent, who just turned 40, has been a “theater person” since junior high school and went on to study English and theater at the University of Northern Colorado. After years of acting in community productions, he found a new calling: staging fight scenes.
“I remember being lost as a young actor trying (to find the) subtext (using) method acting. But the pursuit of a physical action made sense.”
He traveled around the country and the world to get the training he needed. He began teaching staged combat in the region in the late ‘90s and then was hired by the Denver Center Theatre Company to “fight direct” shows. To date he has been a fight director for almost 200 productions.
His intimate involvement with the artistic process brought him back to acting and, ultimately, to stage directing. For Theatreworks, Kent directed “The Grapes of Wrath” in 2008 and “The 39 Steps” in 2011.
The Gazette: How was your transition from fight directing to stage directing?
Geoffrey Kent: When I first started stage directing, all of my examples for actors when I was giving notes were “It’s like you’re in an alleyway with a knife. It’s like you’re about to die and there’s only one bullet in the gun.” Every example I had was all violence related. I’ve worked a lot on that. It was moving to a bigger world. Now I prefer stage directing and the bigger view. In the end, the problems and the gifts are all yours.
Gazette: When did Murray begin considering you as a stage director?
Kent: He came up to Denver and saw a production I directed: “Cowboy Macbeth.” (It was) filled with great ideas and a few terrible ones — “Deadwood” with Shakespeare. For both the things he loved and hated about it, he then asked me to come down and direct “Grapes of Wrath.”
Gazette: Is there any kind of relationship between the agony that is portrayed in “Grapes of Wrath” and the hilarity found in “You Can’t Take it With You?”
Kent: The Joad family (of “The Grapes of Wrath”) and the Sycamore family, while wildly separated, are lovingly and amazingly supportive of each other. Both those plays have amazing, show-stoppingly powerful family units to me. It’s a big family, the Sycamores. There are seven or eight of them up there. And if you walk in the house you don’t leave.
Gazette: This is an almost eight decade-old-piece of American theater that’s been done in junior high schools, high schools and community theatre productions.
Kent: I have a hard time meeting people who haven’t been in it.
Gazette: Why this piece? Why do we need this in 2012?
Kent: I had this discussion with my cast at first rehearsal. I pointed out how many times all of us had picked up our cell phones in the last five minutes. There’s no clocks in the Sycamore house. There’s a moment when somebody asks what time it is and nobody has any idea. Time’s not the important thing. It’s the activity you’re working on. That’s what I like about this play. It says celebrate your passions and your hobbies and don’t be pulled away from them for other reasons. Whatever you’re working on is awesome.
I believe it’s good to remind everyone of what’s the thing you love to do and (that) you probably haven’t done it enough lately. And especially this time of the year.