That was a whirlwind trip. In 10 days, The Fork went from words on a page to its closing night.
David Smith, Christian Busath and Mark Berrett helped bring to life a trio of characters that had been trapped in my “Other Projects” folder in my computer since May 1996. (No idea how many generations of computers that represents. Amazing it survived.)
We started with a table read over Subway sandwiches around a conference table at my office on a Wednesday night. A couple of passes later, we put the play up on its feet in an empty office with just a few of the set and prop pieces. Then we piled in our cars and headed over the Echo to get the feel of the space and ran through it a few more times there.
The next time we got together was for tech rehearsal that Saturday at the Echo. Tech for our show was fairly simple: split the stage in half with the lighting, then dim the half wherever David wasn’t (David played our waiter, Matteo, who kept moving back and forth from the restaurant’s kitchen where Carlo, Christian, was creating his masterpiece to where The Fork, Mark, was writing his review). After we finished tech, we moved to a vacant back room at the Echo to run through it a couple more times, tweaking as we went, adding a couple more elements each time. Though it was a sweltering August evening in room cluttered with props from past shows and without the benefit of air conditioning, I’ll always remember those days with fondness.
One of the bits that got the most laughs of the show the fellas came up with themselves. It’s a little bit between Matteo and Carlo that they do each time Matteo is about to go out front. Just a simple inhale together, then exhale with a big smile. A nice little touch. Wish I could say that I came up with it, but I’ll just have to take credit for my genius casting which brought the fellas together who could come up with it.
Rehearsal #3 took place the following Wednesday at the Echo. Dress rehearsal. The day before we opened was our third rehearsal. Yikes. Yes, it was a 10-minute play, but still, we were cramming a lot of business into those 10 minutes, and no single rehearsal had gone flawlessly. The Echo people ran through all six plays in our group, then repeated the process again. I saw for the first time some of the other pieces. I got my first inklings of worry, like that old Sesame Street song about one of these things doesn’t belong here, and maybe it was The Fork.
To me, The Fork has meaning, but I know it’s not terribly deep. Many of the other plays touched on deeper themes and dealt with heavier subject matter, and my worry was that my approach might not be well-suited for this art form. I felt a little bit like Carlo, who did his best to create a meal, and maybe it wasn’t terribly sophisticated, and maybe people wouldn’t like his goofy looking meatball. Nevertheless, here we were with our meatball, so to speak, less than 24 hours to opening night, and there was only one way to go, and that was full-steam ahead.
We opened on Thursday, Aug. 16, just over a week from our first rehearsal. We ran through the show a couple of times backstage (that’s one of the beauties of the 10-minute play — you can warm up by doing the whole play). Then I wished the fellas broken legs and slipped into a seat next to my family.
The audience wasn’t huge. It’s a small theater with seats on three sides. Not sure what the capacity is. But I’d guess there were 50 or so in the crowd. I can’t quite explain it, but even with the smallish house, there was just something incredibly cool about watching your show with a group of other humans sharing the experience. Hearing their laughter, their applause. You don’t get that when you’re editing a movie and watching it over and over in your office. I can see why people dig this theater thing. There’s something magical going on.
Friday night’s show was just as fun. I was worried a little about the sophomore jinx, but when your second night is also likely to be your closing night, there isn’t a lot of leeway for off nights. After our group finished, I stayed around after to watch the other group of plays. I was in awe of some of the writing. More worries set in.
A couple of hours after I got home, I got an email from the Echo notifying us that The Fork was one of five plays that had been selected to perform in the showcase on Saturday night before the awards were to be presented. That made me happy, especially for the guys, who had crammed a lot of work into this effort.
The five plays that were performed on Saturday night were a good mix between comedy and drama. To me, sitting in the audience, that was a richly satisfying evening of theater. I was honored to be a part of it. About a month ago, I was unfamiliar with the concept of the 10-minute play festival. Now I am a fan. It’s like the deluxe sampler platter at your favorite restaurant. And even if something isn’t your thing, no big deal; it’ll be over in a few minutes.
Just being in that group of plays was enough for me. But when they announced that The Fork won for best director as well as the audience choice for best play — now that’s what I call a good night. It felt like a hug from a bunch of people who not only didn’t mind that our meatball looked a little quirky, they were kind enough to say that they even liked it.
I’m grateful for the nudge from the Echo’s Jeffrey and Julianna Blake encouraging me to submit something, and to even take on such a daunting project as a 10-minute play festival during their first year. Kudos to them. I hope more people will discover the magic they’re cooking up over there. Check out The Echo Theatre.
Also grateful to bro Ken for the idea and his producing talents. Grateful to a fun, hard-working cast. Grateful to my family for allowing me to “play,” especially for Suzanne for her reminder, when I was expressing some doubts, that sometimes, especially in times like these, it’s not such a bad thing to give an audience a fun little piece of escapism.
Ken and I are toying with the idea of developing The Fork further into a full-length play. We know it would be a lot of work and that we have a lot of other pressing projects, but I am hopeful that The Fork will live again, and hopefully before another decade and a half passes.