Sonoma is enjoying an energetic theatrical resurgence, thanks to the companies that make up the Sonoma Theater Alliance. Over the past five years, a variety of visions have been produced on the Rotary Club Stage at Andrew’s Hall, from familiar who-done-its to full-blown musical extravaganzas, and edgy, new plays, which test Sonoma’s comfort zones. Now, director Cat Austin’s Experiential Theater Company (ETC) has upped the ante by creating a high-budget, big talent, risqué musical with an ambitious objective to raise funds, not only for STA, but also for the Sebastiani Theater.
They’re going all the way with “The Full Monty.”
Austin and writer/director/filmmaker James Jandak Wood have joined forces this season to produce both “The Full Monty and A Modern Encounter,” a theatrical version of a film he’s working on, which Austin will direct. They collaborated on an ETC project in 2011, when he filmed the opening scene for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Wood’s role on this project, however, is decidedly different from work he has done in the past. He is wearing the many hats of a producer for “The Full Monty.”
It is a learning experience for him since he is neither a theatre guy, nor a producer by nature. Wood provided financial backing, giving Austin a working budget of three times what she spent on last year’s hit, “Cabaret.
“It’s more of a regional theatre budget,” said Wood, “but I’m trying to manage costs, so I’m taking on jobs a producer wouldn’t normally do, like handling the programs, compiling information and working on the layout, things a designer does.”
“There’s a lot to do, making sure all the crew is in place and contracted,” continued Wood, who helped with casting and negotiating contracts with the actors, technical people and Actors’ Equity Association.
“Paying actors is a big hunk of the budget. Typically here, performers aren’t paid, and we have to pay the equity actors. We also brought actors in from the east coast and there’s travel and other expenses that go along with that.”
There is excellent talent here, but he and Austin thought it would be good to get people who have done this before at a national level and mix them with local talent.
“Bringing someone like Brooke Tansley on board… this woman has been a star on Broadway. She’s fabulous and you don’t find that kind of person everyday walking down the street.”
(Although today, for rehearsals, she can be found walking up our own Broadway to the theatre.)
While the Sebastiani Theatre is a great venue for live theatre, ETC is brining in it’s own sound equipment for the May 31 gala. “When you have this quality of performer, you want to make sure your sound is dialed in perfectly, so we felt like we had to bring in additional equipment to make that perfect,” said Wood.
Putting on a show in two locations is expensive. “You have to set up and break down, and set up and break down. The set has to be built in such a way that it can be easily moved from one location to another.”
Another big expense is marketing. “When you add it all up, it comes out to a hefty bill,” said Wood. “We could have spent less, but if you’re asking people to pay that kind of money and you’re wanting to sell out, you have to have a really fabulous show. I think it was worth getting really great people to work with our really great local people, and spending money on the show for a production that people with say, ‘Wow, this was really great. You should go.’”
He wants to see people walk out of the theatre smiling, and he wants to hear them say that it was a wonderful production. He wants them to enjoy their evening and to leave thinking and talking.
In it for the money? “If I’d wanted to make money,” Wood laughed, “I would have started an internet company.”
ETC plans to cover all the production expenses and to bring in additional revenue to donate to the Sebastiani Theatre and to the Sonoma Theatre Alliance. All of the profits from the May 31, opening night gala will go to the Sebastiani Theatre Foundation, Inc.
“Roger Rhoten is a fabulous guy who has taken on a heavy burden trying to maintain the downtown theatre,” said Wood. “It is such a beautiful venue for live performance and I want it to thrive.”
In addition to being a member of the Sebastiani Supper Club and footing the bill for this fundraiser, Wood has purchased his won tickets for the opening night gala. You can get yours at svbo.org or by calling 938,626. The Full Monty then plays from June 7 to 29 at Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center. For ticket information on that run, visit Svbo.org.
Note that the production is for mature audiences, which is what happens when they go all the way for love.