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The Making of a Show, Part 2: Inappropriate!

The Inappropriate! ensemble, led by co-director Michael Caldwell, performs the game show-themed “Curb Your Urges.”

Editor’s Note: Buzz theater writer Laura Foti Cohen has reviewed Hollywood Fringe Festival productions since 2018. This year she co-wrote and -produced one with the theater company she belongs to, NEO Ensemble Theatre. See Part 1 here. Inappropriate! runs through June 23 and you can get tickets here.

Inappropriate! contains five short plays, two monologues, multiple writers and a cast of 15. Rehearsing the Fringe Festival show required that NEO Ensemble Theater members regain their sea legs; they hadn’t performed together in person since 2020 rehearsals for a show that didn’t go on. Getting ready required scheduling lots of rehearsals.

As Inappropriate’s June 6 opening date approached, the show’s co-director Rachel Winfree set to work. She notes, “Creating a rehearsal schedule with more than a dozen people involved can be challenging. First I have everyone send me their time conflicts. I then take a calendar and mark up all of the conflicts. That way can see the windows of time when people are available. I set rehearsals for the large-cast pieces first and then plug in the two- and three-person scenes around those large pieces. It’s really like building a human puzzle.”

NEO has worked for three years on Zoom, and the platform served a purpose for this in-person show as well. Holding first read-throughs on Zoom allowed each piece’s cast, director and writer to hear the material and discuss any tweaking. The average running time of a Fringe Festival show is one hour, and prompt start and end times are critical. Everyone worked hard to tighten up each piece.

The next step in rehearsals was in-person. Since the show’s venue wasn’t always available and would have required a rental fee, actors met at the Silver Lake home of co-directors Winfree and Michael Caldwell.

Winfree notes, “Rehearsing at home definitely lends itself to team-building, due to the intimacy of a living room setting and the conversations you end up having before, after and in-between each piece. Also, if we need a costume, prop or set piece, we have the immediacy of going into closets. After a shared lifetime of producing theater, Michael and I have a rather extensive collection of interesting ’things’ to pull from.”

Each piece received two in-home rehearsals before moving to two rehearsals at the venue, the Three Clubs on Vine Street. “It’s not until we’re in the actual theater space that we can develop the performers’ traffic patterns and set changes so that the transitions top out at 30 seconds,” Winfree says.

“After we plotted all of that out, I sent everyone the master movement plan so they could start thinking about what they need to do besides performing. At the second rehearsal at Three Clubs, we set the transitions between pieces. That’s when we see where anything isn’t working and find a solution. We then had two full run-throughs of the show.”

The complex production has significant projections, music, sound effects and lighting. Caldwell and Winfree worked with the sound and lighting director of the Three Clubs, Jim Niedzialkowski, to set the many cues for the show, and with the actors to choreograph entrances and exits.

The months of planning, marketing and rehearsing all lead to this Inappropriate! point. The venue, Three Clubs, is in a bar, and Winfree says, “Hopefully, the audience will kick back with a cocktail and soak up our hilarious, fast-paced, delightful and slightly naughty production. Yes, it a lot of fingers-crossed and hoping, but when we’ve done everything we can think of and imagine to do, you have a certain degree of confidence that you have co-created a successful show.  At least that is the plan!”

Dee Freeman and Rachael Sizgorich in Inappropriate’s “The Pharmacy.”
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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.

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