Staging Neil Simon: Meet the Cast of ‘Proposals’ at Vienna Theatre Company – and We’re Off! by Suzanne Maloney

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Proposals tells the story of Clemma, a housekeeper for the Hines family in the 1950’s. Burt Hines’s health is failing and he has decided to bring his ex-wife Annie to the vacation home in the Poconos for one weekend in order to mend some fences. Daughter Josie struggles not only with her mother but also with a newly ex-fiance Kenny and a former flame Ray, both of whom come to visit as well. And for an afternoon luncheon that weekend, there will also be a visit from renaissance man/mobster Vinnie Bavasi and slightly dimwitted  model Sammii, who may or may not be Ray’s girlfriend. (Sounds messy already, right?) Lastly arriving for the weekend is Lewis, Clemma’s long missing husband who is back – but she is not sure why.

Director Suzanne Maloney.

I was really excited to be able to bring a play to our stage with two African American characters. It is frustrating to live in Northern Virginia and often not see multi-racial casts. That was a draw for me, as was the idea of a mostly younger cast (5 characters under 30). These casting challenges made for a nail biting week of auditions but ended with all roles filled by first read-through (whew).

Here’s the cast:
Clemma – Lisa Hill Corley
Burt – Eric Storck
Josie – Shannon Madden
Ray – Michael Schwartz
Annie – Allison Shelby
Kenny – Kevin Comer
Lewis – Sidney Davis
Vinnie- Eric Sampson
Sammii – Sarah Hayes

(L to R): Allison Shelby, Shannon Madden, Eric Storck, and Lisa Hill Corley. Photo by Harold Bonacquist.
(L to R): Allison Shelby, Shannon Madden, Eric Storck, and Lisa Hill Corley. Photo by Harold Bonacquist.

The actors continue to rehearse. We started running huge chunks of the play over the past week. They face a heavier schedule in January as we sort of sauntered through December with a relaxed holiday attitude. Suddenly faced with off-book dates the first week of the month, the actors begin to make strong connections with each other onstage and, yes, magic begins.

Poster-Whisperly-HiRes

The set has been going up in stages but we have the luxury of rehearsing on the stage so actors peer through well-placed windows and doorways, still in the halfway stage but at least in place. Props in hands replace scripts. Actors disappear into dressing rooms during rehearsals and reappear in pieces of costumes that look so promising and period appropriate. The lighting designer comes in and peers at the grid overhead, trying to envision how to light people and moments based on where the set sits. One evening the sound designer/composer hands me his headset and I hear the lyrical music he has created for our story. It makes me weak in the knees. I love my designers, most of which I have used again and again. I trust my play to them each time and am always thrilled by their talent.

It is starting. The race to the finish. I am lucky to have such a great team running with me. Producer, stage managers, and crew.

Off we go!

Proposals by Neil Simon will be presented by the Vienna Theatre Company,  opening January 25 and running three weekends with Frriday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm and Sunday matinees  1/27 and 2/3 at 2:00 pm. Performances are at the Vienna Community Center – 120 Cherry Street, in Vienna, VA. Tickets can be purchased at the door before the performance by cash or checks OR may be reserved in advance by sending an email to vtcshows@yahoo.com at least 2 hours before showtime. Visit VTC’s website at www.viennatheatrecompany.org for more information.