Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fanny Hill The Musical at Kalliope Stage

As promised, here's an interview with two gents who run The Kalliope Stage in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the first regional production of Fanny Hill! Paul F. Gurgol, Artistic Director of Kalliope Stage and Rex Snider, Managing Director of Kalliope Stage.

I love the spirit of these guys and their positive attitude toward the real challenges out there to run a professional theater in Cleveland. The same problems arise for all theaters everywhere, where do we get our audience and where can we get funding? As Rex said, maybe we should all start selling our blood! And we all need to get more sleep!

Dreampeddler: Tell me a little bit about yourselves.

Paul: Besides rehearsals for Fanny I also work in the education department for Opera Cleveland. Its a wonderful program . I teach master classes to college students. We spend a day with the students from the theater, music and dance departments and create, rehearse and perform an operetta in a day. It is a very rewarding program. It really keeps my skills sharp.

Rex: By day I am an Engineer with a large company in Ohio where I am a mentor and engineering administrator. That is how I get money to pay our bills. Also during the day I manage the theater as best I can, sneaking in a few mins. here and there to put out fires and deal with business concerns between the projects I have with my employer. All my nights and weekends are spent running the theater. I average 3 to 4 hours sleep a night. I am an officer on the board of trustees of Kalliope Stage as well. I am not a paid employee of Kalliope. I do this for Paul and the love of theater.

Dreampeddler: How have rehearsals been going for your production of Fanny?

Paul: Things have been a little hectic on my end. Fanny is going great. The cast sounds amazing. I start blocking this Sunday. We are going to do a sing through of the show today. Melody is going to be wonderful as Fanny. She has the right balance of innocence and sass. She is so like able on stage. The cast seems very excited about working on the show. A lot of development in character is happening already. We work around the table daily to get everyone working in the same style. We are having a lot of fun developing through the phrasing of the music. Adrienne Brockway is doing production design for the show. Sets, lights and costumes. She is building all the costumes from scratch. She is working her tail off at the moment. When I first read the show last spring I just loved it. I laughed out loud. Once I heard the music I was sold. I had to do this show. It has a wonderful sense of operetta, pastiche, sex farce as well as comedia. As always we are working to find the truth as well as a style appropriate for the show. I think Fanny is a wonderful cross of Candide and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I am working for a fast paced seamless production. We need to take the audience on a ride. I welcome the challenges this show gives me as an artist.

Dreampeddler: How many people do you have on staff?

Rex: Staff is very expensive and not easy to find that is self motivated and cares about the company. We currently do not have any paid staff and only a few dedicated volunteers including myself. We used to have one hired office person that handled box office, communications, minor levels of accounting and facilities housekeeping. Since the down turn in support for the arts in Cleveland we found it necessary to lay her off. I now do all that too!

Dreampeddler: Where do you find your actors and actresses? Are they NYC transplants? Students? Recent Grads?

Paul: For Fanny Hill we have an incredible cast of New York and Cleveland actors- the best we've had at Kalliope to date. Melody Moore, who played Queenie last season to rave reviews in our production of Andrew Lippa's Wild Party, is Fanny, and Erin Stewart and David Dewitt are joining the cast as Phoebe and Charles. They both come to us after completing a national tour of Phantom of the Opera as Christine and Raoul. Jared Leal, who player Billy Bigalow in the national tour of Carousel, is playing Will, and David Vosburgh, who was in the original cast of A Little Night Music and the revival of 1776, is playing Croft.

Dreampeddler: Where do you find funding for your organization?

Rex: Besides contributing constantly myself sources are varied. I have not started selling my blood yet.

Thank you guys for your candid responses. I look forward to speaking to more of the cast and following your production up to opening night on Valentine's Day!


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