Part 1: ‘Finding Big Love’ at The Hub Theatre by Kirsten Kelly

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Kirsten Kelly, Big Love Director for The Hub Theatre, is writing a 4-part essay, Finding Big Love. Follow the journey to opening night, for the next four Fridays on DC Metro Theater Arts.

Director Kirsten Kelly. Photo courtesy of The Hub Theatre.

They say, “Virginia is for Lovers.” Well, I aim to find out. A week and a half ago, I make the trek from my NY apartment to my Northern Virginia “home away from home.” Following last year’s production of The Clockmaker at The Hub Theatre in Fairfax, I’m back to stage their production of Charles Mee’s, Big Love, opening on July 13th. I’ve been in and out of town for months – production meetings and auditions. But now it’s time to dive in and “find” this story.

Big Love is a big, creative, quirky show – one that not just any company could tackle. The large cast had to be right for the show. The characters are so specific, and it’s so physically and emotionally exhausting, that it took several rounds of auditions to find the actors who could pull this off. Chuck Mee gave us a big, joyous, heartbreaking, and raucous play where the characters have to reach far, and the actors have to push themselves. With that in mind, I asked each actor (singers and non-singers alike) to sing me their favorite ‘love song’ at the audition. It was a riot! I heard everything from Boy George to Hank Williams to ABBA. The auditions were as quirky as the play, and selection process was tough, but the final cast is perfect to bring Mee’s world to life.

With rehearsals underway, the production is starting to take shape. Of course, this is all on a ‘two planks and a passion’ budget. Part of our challenge, and frankly part of the fun, is allowing our budget limitation to fuel our creativity and develop innovative solutions; to bring “big budget theatricality” to The Hub. Our creative team is amazing. The world they are creating is gorgeous, sophisticated, smart, and simply perfect for the play.

During our rehearsals, we take over the New School for Northern Virginia (the home of The Hub) and cram in as much work as we can. On weekend days, we have the full ensemble. We take advantage of every minute and sometimes it feels a little schizophrenic. Susan Shields, our choreographer might be in the gym working on a Tango-inspired fight number. Meanwhile, Casey Kaleba, our ‘Fight Guy,’ might be working with the guys teaching them one of the most intensive series of physical feats I’ve ever seen onstage (it’s like the Iron Man collapsed into five mind-blowing minutes). All the while, you can hear gorgeous music floating down the hall from the music rehearsal. Music Directors, Mike and Carla Gerdes are rehearsing our musicians on a score which includes everything from punk rock to old school Italian love songs. And finally, just to test my ability to focus, I’m leading scene work with actors in yet another space.

The score will surprise and delight, the theatricality will transport, and the play will capture the sense of community The Hub is already known for. But will Virginia embrace the Big Love we have to share? Well, they do say “Virginia is for Lovers,” and our audience will have a unique roll in this production. I hope they’ll love it. I can’t wait to see.

Artistic Director Helen Pafumi and Director Kirsten Kelly at a production meeting. Photo courtesy of The Hub Theatre.

Big Love plays from July 13th to August 5th at The Hub Theatre – at the John Swazye Theatre -9431 Silver King Court, in Fairfax, Virginia. Here are Directions. Purchase tickets online.