Get a Little bit Closer
By: Erin Reznick
I’m sitting with Caleb McMullen and Gaby Grice, the producers of Patrick Marber’s Closer, with the undeniably delicious scent of pad thai and spring rolls wafting through the air. While chatting and scarfing down Thai food, I can’t help but notice how extremely exhausted the two look. They managed to squeeze in time for an interview in between shopping for costumes and putting together props for their upcoming show. Though the dark circles under their eyes may be larger than the average person’s, so are their grins. Discussing this project with them still gets them excited even after hours and hours of arduous rehearsals.
Why did you want to produce Closer?
G: Well to be honest, it was a play that I completely fell in love with. I read it in third year and I immediately knew that I wanted to put it on. It’s an easier show to produce with there being only four people in the cast. It doesn’t need an extravagant set, the characters are amazing and I could think of so many actors who would be great for the roles.
C: It actually took me a while to sign on to this project. I had just finished producing Wolfboy a few months before Gaby came to me with Closer and it just seemed like a daunting task. It took me around six months to say yes.
G: I don’t remember hounding you that much.
C: Oh you did. You would come to me every few months or so asking me if I wanted to do it. Finally you said that you were going to do it with or without me and that really lit a fire under my butt.
G: I’m so happy you did. I don’t think I could have done this without you.
Caleb, what is it like being a director and a producer?
C: It’s really difficult because I wear so many hats that I’m the only resource I have to get things done. I’ll be working on a variety of things throughout the day, then I’ll light up a cigarette, sit in my directors chair at rehearsal for 4 to 5 hours, and then go back to working on whatever needs to be done. I’ve lost around 15 pounds putting this show on.
G: I hate you.
C: I treat myself as an employee of Mnemonic Theatre Productions and my hours are from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. As my own boss, I set deadlines and parameters for myself. I have this list of things that need to be accomplished before the show goes up and every day I work a little bit on every one until they are 100% complete. My last bullet on my list is “produce and direct Closer.” And on February 4th, after the curtain falls, I get to check that off my list. And that’s my reward.
Your theatrical trailer for Closer looks awesome. How did you decide to create that?
C: We wanted to market the show in a new and interesting way. We also wanted it to be professionally done so I went to my friend Alex Josselyn, who is brilliant. It took us two days to film that.
G: And we’re talking 14 hour days.
C: Yes. But it was actually a really good time on set. Everyone was so cooperative and professional. And Alex let me come in while he was editing incase I wanted to put my two cents in. And I’m so happy with how it came out.
Watch the theatrical trailer below:
What advice do you have for people who want to produce their own work?
G: You really have to love what you’re doing. You have to be willing to sweat, bleed and cry for it. If you’re not going to love the show after a month or so in, you’re fucked.
C: You’re so fucked.
G: You also need to know what you’re good at and what you’re not. Know your limitations. I knew I needed someone to compliment me and Caleb is definitely good at the things I can’t do. I knew that I was willing to put my time, money and passion into this project but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. Know your scale. Know what you’re capable of but respect what’s not possible at the time.
What do you want people to take away from the show?
G: I really think people are going to relate to the show. Patrick Marber is a genius. It doesn’t matter what experiences you’ve had. There are really bold things said and done in this play, and I know people will walk away saying that they have at least thought about doing or saying those things before. It’s really interesting because all of the actors have completely different relationship statuses. There are actors who are single, in a relationship, gay, married but it doesn’t matter. We all feel connected to the thoughts and words of these characters because they are so true. And I want the audience to feel the same way, and I think they will.
C: I want audiences to recognize that independent theatre companies are capable of producing high quality theatre. I truly believe, and am willing to say, that Closer will be an incredible production. As a producer, I strive to make a theatrical experience that cost $25 a ticket feel like it should have cost $100 a ticket. That’s why it was important to us to make a really professional trailer as well. I want people to walk away from the show with a new expectation from small, independent theatre companies.
What have you learned from being a part of this show?
G: I’ve grown so much as an actor with this show. I’m so happy I did [Hart House’s] Lysistrata when I did, but I only grew so much because I had played roles like that before. This show really took me out of my comfort zone and I had to experience a lot of new things. I learned that I can be a dramatic character. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself and I don’t want other people to pigeonhole me either.
C: I’ve learned that I want to be an artistic directer. I really feel like I want to spend the rest of my life creating new projects.
Closer runs from February 1st – 4th at the Winchester Street Theatre. For tickets and more info visit www.mnemonictheatre.com/closer