It’s just nine miles from Purchase College to Mamaroneck’s Emelin Theatre.
But for the Purchase Repertory Theatre’s junior company, this weekend’s trip to the Emelin will take them a lot farther than down the Hutch to Mamaroneck Avenue and Library Lane. It will teach them a useful skill: How to create a show in one place and take it elsewhere.
Tomorrow, the company — which has always performed in Purchase’s Abbott Kaplan theater — opens a weekend run of David Ives’ “All in the Timing,” eight one-act plays.
Bob Wiener, of Mamaroneck’s Maxx Properties, is the man behind this change of theatrical venue.
“He has been so good to us,” says Purchase’s interim dean Greg Taylor. “Our productions don’t use state money. He basically pays for junior productions and he paid separately for this production” to the tune of $16,000.
Wiener, a member of the Emelin board who also provides scholarship money to Purchase students, says he hopes this weekend will foster “a friendship with mutual interests” between the two institutions. “I think they nourish each other.”
“We’re very excited about what Greg is going to produce at the Emelin,” Wiener says. “In these economic times, nothing is clear about what is going to catch on, but we’re hopeful and it’s that hope that I enjoy the most.”
Purchase junior Tabitha Holbert sees the road show as a milestone.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” the actress says. “Friends I have that are in conservatories, I have not yet heard of one of them getting to move their project that they’ve worked so hard on somewhere else.
“It’s amazing that we get to go to Mamaroneck and say ‘This is what we worked on.’”
The evening’s first performance will be delivered in the Emelin lobby as patrons gather: Brett Diggs in “A Singular Kinda Guy.” Seven other one-acts will be presented in the auditorium. (See box.)
The one-acts can be told in any order, says director Darrell Larson, adding: “This seven plus one has a progression to it that is unique to this production.”
That is how Ives wants it.
In an e-mail exchange, the playwright calls the collection of plays “a sort of Lego set that can be turned to many different purposes, to make whatever carnival you care to.”
“It all depends on what a director’s got on his mind,” he writes.
On Larson’s mind is exploring what Ives has to say about language.
“We selected the plays that get more and more naturalistic and deep and it goes to a very heavy place,” the director says. “But things are not what they appear. Things that look tragic are not tragic; they’re actually blessings and miracles.”
At Taylor’s invitation, Ives attended the first rehearsal, but refrained from offering advice that might conflict with Larson’s vision.
“I trust Darrell’s taste and talents, so I restricted myself to being an interested visitor,” Ives writes.
Taking a show off campus is a logistical feat, says production stage manager Danielle Disher, who brings together all departments: sets, costumes, sound, lights and actors.
It’s one thing to put on a show, she says. It’s another to pick it up and move it. Getting there has meant adding a company manager, student Aidan O’Reilly, to oversee transportation, food and logistics.
“It’s a learning process for everybody,” says O’Reilly, who says that before coming on board she had no clue what a company manager did.
Lori Wekselblatt, is co-chair of design technology at Purchase.
“The aspect of touring is something you can only talk about in the classroom,” she says. “From the production end, what these kids are learning is that they have to take this production and adapt it to a new space. It’s making them come out of their comfort zone.”
The learning process included a site survey, learning the neighborhood, finding out where restaurants are, and the CVS. (Wekselblatt says “we’ll spring for Sal’s Pizza,” a favorite of locals.)
“All in the Timing” marks the first time one of costume designer Sara Hinkley’s designs has been realized.
“We design shows for school, but all you hand in is drawings. You never see them happen,” Hinkley says. “This is real clothes on real people.”
Taking the show to Mamaroneck means losing one thing a costumer leans on: “There are no laundry facilities at the Emelin,” she says. “We’ll be bringing extra undershirts and extra stockings.”
The idea of loading in a show in a different space is not something new for lighting designer Zach Blane, who works with Purchase alum Brian MacDevitt on Broadway, including on “13” and Will Ferrell’s “You’re Welcome, America.”
“It’s tough to let the show sit, tech it, pick it up, move it and set it down, for people who have never done it,” he says. “But the production staff is really organized and very collaborative. It could have been a train wreck but it’s blossomed into a great production.”
Samuel Froeschle’s unit set presents “a David Ives world.”
“I asked ‘Where would he be writing this? Is he in a studio? An office?’” Froeschle says. “I came up with this New York apartment, very layered, beat up but taken care of.”
To capture the show’s surreal nature, Froeschle then turned the apartment on its head and set it on a canvas of sea and sky. Actors step over transoms to enter the space.
Sound designer Nicholas Harris says his design “had to be the glue that took us on this journey” from one play to the next. He and composition student Charles Ivan Punchatz came up with “time-travel” transitions to transport the audience.
“Imagine your life passing you by in 30 seconds and that’s what we presented, with quotes from presidents and musicians. The collection of your life in 30 seconds.”
Natalie Woolams-Torres appears in a bright yellow dress — as a chimpanzee trying to write “Hamlet” — in “Words, Words, Words.”
“It goes beyond character study,” she says. “It’s a musical. We’re acting as a bunch of musicians. We have to play off each other’s notes.”
“Unamundo,” the tongue spoken in “The Universal Language,” is well-built gibberish, but Dru Smith treated it the “same as any text.”
“Instead of knowing what the words are, it really comes down to knowing what you’re trying to do with what you’re saying,” he says.
Melinda Nichols agrees.
“It’s all about using language to make this beautiful human connection,” she says.
That theme is repeated throughout, says Olivia Osol, who appears in “English Made Simple,” a deconstruction of party chatter.
“Once you find the same language as somebody else, a whole new universe opens up,” she says.
James Ortiz is Bill in “Sure Thing,” a courtship in a coffee shop that resets itself with each misstep. It has a lot to say about how one change, one different answer, can affect the course of our lives. It also demonstrates Ives’ way with words — and his exactitude.
“So many of his plays are so technical,” Ortiz says, “that in a funny way, it’s like ‘hit your mark’ and no time for finding it and playing around with it. It’s about staying on your mark.”
Even if your mark moves to Mamaroneck.
“All In The Timing”
Where: A Purchase Repertory Theatre production presented at the Emelin Theatre, 153 Library Lane, Mamaroneck.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $20; $15 for seniors and students.
With: Tabitha Holbert, LaTeisha Dukes, Andrew Smith, Natalie Woolams-Torres, Monica K. Ross, Brett Diggs, Melinda Nichols, Matt Lents, James Ortiz, Oliva Osol, Julia Lawler, Jason Ralph.
David Ives’ “All in the Timing” is a collection of one-acts. At the Emelin this weekend:
• “A Singular Kinda Guy,” a man who knows exactly what he is.
• “Foreplay, or The Art of the Fugue,” about three games of miniature golf, played simultaneously by three different couples with remarkable similarities.
• “Words, Words, Words,” about the role of the writer.
• “The Philadelphia,” about asking for one thing getting something else.
• “The Universal Language,” about making connections with words of your choosing.
• “English Made Simple,” in which Ives boils down banal party talk to its essence.
• “Sure Thing,” on how new relationships are fraught with peril.
• “Long Ago and Far Away,” a more dramatic piece, about a couple dealing with change, what is real and what is imagined.
Photo by Angela Gaul/The Journal News: From left, Dru Smith, Matt Lents and Natalie Woolams-Torres portray Milton, Swift and Kafka in “Words, Words, Words,” part of a production of “All in the Timing,” to be presented at Mamaroneck’s Emelin Theatre Feb. 27, 28 and March 1.