Production Notebook: Wedding Bash
Updated: Mar 1, 2022
I directed Wedding Bash by Andrew Leeds and Lindsay Kraft for Firecracker Productions in Houston, Texas in February 2022. This was a part of a double-feature so it was performed alongside Cris Eli Blak’s play Burden of Proof, directed by Alric Davis.
About the Play
Wedding Bash is a short comedy about a newly married couple (Lonny and Dana) hosting a dinner party with two of their friends (Edi and Alan). What begins as a fun evening reminiscing about Lonny and Dana’s recent nuptials quickly spirals into an all-out insult fest, poking fun at modern wedding culture. I am currently planning my own wedding, so this was a great primer on what not to do (cash bar, obscure location, absurd registry expectations) (though I will admit I am registered for a $150 garbage can that I really want).
The play premiered at 41st Annual Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival in New York City in August 2016 and is written by two writer/actors who work largely on tv shows in New York City. It is witty, funny, and feels a bit like Seinfeld mixed with Gilmore Girls.
How I got the gig
Firecracker is a small production company based in Houston. In 2018 I directed a short play in a 24 hour playfest, and then in 2020 I entered discussions with the Executive Director about directing a full piece for their season. Of course, we were scheduled to get coffee on March 13, 2020…
In 2021 they opened applications for directors for an in-person season. I applied, heard nothing, and then out of the blue received a contract offer. They offered a small stipend of $85.00 and a flexible rehearsal schedule, and I had nothing else scheduled at the time, so I accepted.
This is an extremely well-written play that expertly shows the self-absorption of modern wedding culture (and to cast a larger net, modern culture) seduces us through absurd - but not too absurd - situations. It plays like an episode of a sitcom, with characters popping in and out of the kitchen, goofy prop work, and snarky insults. I wanted the performances to reflect the fast pacing that a comedy needs while remaining very rooted in recognizable human behaviors.
We began the rehearsal process by discussing real life weddings that could top what the characters in the play experienced. I retold the story of a couple who registered for a gilded desk bell and another actor shared about a time when a family wedding was secretly planned for a week that their family was on vacation. We were not all familiar with each other, so this was a great way to combine book work with a getting-to-know-you exercise, essential considering we only had seven rehearsals.
The great thing about directing a 16.5 minute play, is that the actors make massive strides in each individual rehearsal, because we actually have time to dive into moments. We also had a good mix of actors who could make up gags on the spot, and actors who took time to consider their choices and come back the next day with really solid performances. I found this balance really nice in the rehearsal process, because it kept us on our toes and very grounded at the same time.
I didn’t take a ton of time to consider the visuals of the show. We had a small prop budget that we shared with the other show, and since we had to use furniture from the performance space’s lobby, my color scheme was chosen for me. I was happy to work with a lighting and sound designer (Coda Pariselli) - usually I am cutting my own cues at 2am the night before the dress rehearsal and begging someone to explain a light plot to me. Overall, we ended up with a bright show and the actors looked like real people - exactly what I hoped for.
Resources: A major challenge of directing this play was the limited resources of the production company. Firecracker is a small enterprise, and all of its leadership work full-time jobs. It was definitely an all hands on deck situation.
The Space: The space where we performed was not a theatre and had to be completely cleared every night, and everything had to be stored in our stage manager’s car (shout-out to SM Drew Ford for lugging that stuff around for three weeks!) We ended up negotiating with the studios so we could use their lobby furniture as our set which was so incredible and made our lives a lot easier.
Marketing: Another challenge that was not anticipated was the marketing and ticket sales. We almost canceled opening night due to low sales. The next week, a performance was actually canceled - minutes after my parents arrived in town to see it. Ticket sales are a major challenge for organizations these days in a post-covid world, even when the entire cast/crew participates in marketing.
If you want to support small, local theatre companies like Firecracker, here are some things you can do to help:
Tell your friends! Word of mouth is vital to the survival of these companies.
If you can't afford the sticker price, ask if you can usher, or check and see if student discounts or promo codes are available for specific dates.
If you're a small theatre company, here are some things that might help your sales:
Be very clear about your COVID-19 policies.
Start promotion and ticket sales early so cast/crew can share with their circles.
Send a leadership team member to take pictures of rehearsals and grab videos of the cast and crew. Don't depend on your artists' ability to harness social media or assume they will create content for you.
I had a really great time working with the actors on this show. I was in the middle of moving to Austin as we were rehearsing, which is something I did not anticipate when I signed the contract in August, so I never actually got to see it performed with an audience. It also made me appreciate getting to connect with another director. Even though Alric and I didn’t share a rehearsal room, we collaborated well and supported each other as we fought for the success of our plays. Despite the challenges I’m proud of this little play, and I hope it brought joy to a few people in the dreary gray of February.