The title "founding artistic director" may sound like I'm a big cheese, but here at Alley Cat Theater that title doesn't mean much. I don't even know why I call myself that; maybe a fit of narcissistic egotism, I don't know. But I do wish in retrospect that I had given myself a more accurate one. Something along the lines of Chief Dogsbody. Even that doesn't quite fit because I actually like all aspects of theater including the menial jobs like unloading trucks, running cables, and sweeping the stage.
When the technical director for Plank, Steve McGonagle, emailed me with a link to an ad on Craigslist for not just any fishing net, but a net that had been handmade in Gaeta, Italy and was the perfect fishing net to dress our set, I was on it. The listing phone number was answered by an elderly woman with a very thick Italian accent. What happened over the ensuing couple of days will be familiar to anyone who has ever worked on props/sets in a small theater.
Fits and starts. A rain delay that meant rescheduling the hundreds of other things I had to do. Frustration that Anna--we were now on a first-name basis--couldn't tell me, or refused to tell me, what the net was made of. That seemingly little detail was so important because the net would need to be fireproofed in order to be used on stage, and poly nets can't be fireproofed. All she would say, over and over and over again, was that the net was handmade in Gaeta, Italy and she had paid five hundred dollars for it. Lira? I questioned. No, American dollars, she answered. A drive to what turned out to be Cranston, Rhode Island, though the ad said Providence. Miscommunication of the net's location, due in part to Anna's accent, that left me on a dead end street, worried that I'd soon be surrounded by police cars and having to explain my intentions. I'm not joking, officer: A fishing net for a play. If you'd just unhandcuff me, I can explain.
But now I was on a mission, and if you know anything about producing theater, it's that you have to be that driven, so that nothing is going to get in your way, and every obstacle becomes the chance to prove yourself once more.
It all culminated on a side street in Cranston, Rhode Island, a small Italian community festooned with decorations for the upcoming Feast of Mary, where I was greeted by the sweetest couple I think I've ever met, Anna and her husband Marcello, who had been a fisherman, and who led me to a small shed in their daughter's back yard, where their daughter's Labrador retriever attacked me, and where they lifted the lid of a Styrofoam cooler, and I swear a light emanated from the cooler, and I heard the heavenly hosts, and I laid my eyes on the Holy Grail of fishing nets.
Plank opens August 26th at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. You can get tickets here.