Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Jan 24 – Feb 22, 2020) was the last show we did before COVID-19 temporarily closed our doors. One month after we closed playwright Terrence McNally died from coronavirus complications.
Here are some memories from the team:
This is the type of show that you really don’t get to do a lot: challenging, but in the best way. It was a delight to bring this guy to life, and I felt like I had a pretty unique take on it. The team was exceptional. For a single location, single night, straight forward realistic/naturalistic play, there was some real artistry from the design team. Harley’s lights were, as always, impeccable and really helped me through out the show navigate the emotional pitch of the moment, from the clever use of the kitchen practical to the more suggestive moon and window really were a help. Stephanie’s set was a wonderful well thought out place to play with beautiful levels that admittedly took me a minute to catch, a great example is the way the walls would just not quite meet at the top, it was very specific and intentional – a very strong design. Reyna’s artistry was the best kind, the kind you can eat! Seriously, that meatloaf was amazing (as were the period VHS tapes). Jill was a pleasure as always and was excellent at maintaining a professional and safe environment that allowed us to create and explore some difficult subjects. This was my first time working with Wendy and I will say I was very happy and would do it again in a heartbeat. The way she kept a vision and direction and at the same time let one follow their impulses and allowed us to play and explore was a delight. A lot of directors are good at one of the two, so few are good at marrying direction and exploration. She nailed it and it was a joy. The real crux of that show for me, though, was Frankie. I always love working with Krista because she absolutely refuses to be anywhere but right with you during a scene, everything you do is taken in and reacted to, it allows for such life and play in a brand new way every time. It is absolutely what I love about working with her and in such an intimate and codependent show nothing less would work. It was a joy. It was a very fulfilling show to do in all aspects. That’s why I enjoy being a part of the Open Book Theatre Company, for the opportunity to do shows like Frankie and Johnny. – Patrick Loos, Johnny
This is a show that’s been on my “hopefully someday” list for a long time, although I was also nervous about the intimate nature of the show. What a great team we had working on this. It helped a lot that I’d worked with everyone before, so there was a real level of trust and willingness to not hold back. Wendy was never afraid to tell me when my Frankie was being too nice. She gave me a lot of room and time, asking all the right questions, to figure out what made Frankie tick. Pat and I have worked together as actors and actor/director, and built a friendship over the years, so I knew that I could trust him completely. His dedication to telling the story, keeping everything fresh for each new audience, and covering for me if I make a mistake are a gift, particularly in a two person show! We definitely had some rough patches in rehearsal… I remember our first designer run where everything felt like it was going haywire and my focus was all over the place and Frankie seemed to have no idea what she wanted. But I went home and drilled down, because it showed me all the places I had made weak choices or wasn’t confident enough in my lines. There was so much to mine in this beautifully crafted script… little lines that easily could have been throw away lines that were keys to unlocking the character. I feel like I could have discovered more and more for weeks and months to come. And I have now faked an orgasm on stage in front of my husband, daughter, AND parents… so there’s that. My job is weird, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. – Krista Schafer Ewbank, Frankie
I also initially thought the show was strange to read but came together beautifully in performance. Kudos to Pat and Krista (and Wendy’s direction) for really breathing life into the characters! In practicality, for me, this show was about collecting furniture and trying to fit a somewhat functional kitchen on stage. And then smelling the result of the kitchen while working on the final touches of the design after rehearsals started working with real food! I again loved working with this team. Wendy laid out what she needed and then allowed me the freedom to play with space and concept. We established a key word as “connection”. The characters both long for and struggle to achieve genuine connection with each other. I had fun with working to emphasize this idea through the scenery, with flats/walls that did not meet with each other at the top and then creating this sort of puzzle/hexagon breakup on the floor. I also wanted colors to reflect the moon just as so much of the dialogue is used to reference that symbolism. And I think Harley’s lights really helped pull it it all together! – Stephanie Baugher, Scenic Designer
As with all of my projects, I put a lot of thought into my work. I try to make the details as realistic or conceptually true to the piece as you’d find in an actual setting. The little things are what seals the connection for the audience. Visually, it ties the performance together, whether it’s the way a pillow is tossed in a corner, a book or trinket is placed as an easter egg, or food items behave when the players interact with it. It may seem inconsequential to some, but it makes a difference. – Reyna DeSilva, Props Designer
Directed by Wendy Katz Hiller. Featuring Krista Schafer Ewbank as Frankie and Patrick Loos as Johnny. Lighting design by Harley Miah, Scenic Design by Stephanie Baugher. Property design by Reyna DeSilva. Stage managed by Jillian Joie Dahl.