Lesser-known not lesser quality for theater

As the Lesser-Known Players rehearse for their May 13-22 performances, director Karen Hauser said they couldn’t have pulled it off without Zoom.

They started rehearsals before pandemic restrictions were eased. And one of the actors came down with COVID-19 so they didn’t want to meet in person then, either. The only other play they’ve done the past two years was in December. Almost all of those rehearsals were via Zoom.

Hauser said it may take some getting used to, but Zoom might be a way their theater group rehearses in the future to save costs of renting a facility. “Until they no longer need to look at the script, Zoom is a good way to memorize the lines,” she said. “It’s the kind of thing some might “balk at a little bit…It’s a new way of doing things. I don’t think it’s detrimental. People just have to get used to it.”

Hauser, who has been with the theater group since 2018, said she chose the actors for “And Away We Go” at general auditions in fall of 2019 just before the coronavirus hit. She’s so glad “were finally getting back to live productions.”

The six actors who play 36 roles are: Evan Lenz, Joseph Lacko, Kai Lee, Kristi Ann Jacobson, Sandi Spellman and Tyler Weaver. Four are from BI and one each from Poulsbo and Bremerton. “They signed on with me in 2020, and then the world blew up,” she said of the majority of the cast.

Hauser called it, “A love letter to theater.” It travels through 2,400 years of time with a history of theater from Greece to England to France to Moscow and then America. “There are funny bits and poignant pieces,” she said.

Hauser said the play really showcases the talents of the actors. She said audiences will love the fast pace. It shows how actors, playwrights and backstagers can all be self-centered, but they also work hard to bring the best performances they can. “McNally obviously also wants the audience to feel how intensely these people love what they do, despite the hardship and sacrifices involved,” one reviewer says.

“It tells the story non-stop,” Hauser said, adding there are no intermissions. Actors may quickly go off-stage for a costume change, but that’s it. They go from one time zone to the next, and sometimes characters get caught in the wrong time zone. They change characters mid-scene. “I read it and thought it was hilarious.”

The Rolling Bay Hall, where the performances will be, holds only about 40 people. “I prefer small spaces,” Hauser said. “It’s a different feel when you’re that close.”

The performances are dedicated to Terrence McNally, who wrote the play. He broke barriers in 1965 with his play “Things That Go Bump in the Night,” which was about the unheard-of romance between two men. He introduced gay life into mainstream theater that had previously been shunned. His most famous play is “Ragtime.”

Described as “the bard of American theater” and “one of the greatest contemporary playwrights the theater world has yet produced,” McNally was the recipient of five Tony Awards. He died at age 81 in 2020 from COVID complications.

Lesser-Known Players has been around for about six years. They came up with the name because they perform “lesser-known works” that are new, rare, unusual or out of mainstream theater.

Hauser said they are a very small operation. “It’s a labor of love,” she said. “We don’t get paid.”

As to their unusual name, artistic director and founding member Jacobsen said they weren’t “unknown” actors, just “lesser-known.” They decided on “players” rather than something like “troupe” or “actors,” but thought it would just be for their first performance of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” but the name stuck.

The performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Patrons are asked to show proof of vaccinations and wear masks inside the theater. For tickets go to lesserknownplayers.org

They hope to have their next show in October. It will be a musical – either “Ride the Cyclone” or one done by a local playwright about Dorian Gray.

Terrance McNally and Tom Kirdahy. Courtesy Photos

Terrance McNally and Tom Kirdahy. Courtesy Photos