Eight actors are sitting around a long table which is actually several tables lined up end to end. They are at the home of Las Vegas natives Ann-Marie Pereth and Joseph Kucan. Each actor has the script of a play on their laptop, and they are reading and acting their parts. In fact, most of the actors are saying the words aloud for the first time.
Listening intently are Pereth and Kucan, co-founders of what some call the finest professional theatre company in Las Vegas, A Public Fit Theatre Company. (The name comes from a discussion 10 years ago about the intent of the company to give trained actors a place to practice their craft and “to challenge the community with our stories” and that became “A Public Fit”.)
Before the reading, the atmosphere is loose and friendly with lots of conversation and laughter. Pereth and Kucan are informally dressed, but still one senses their personal charisma. Both have been actors, but now prefer directing. They offer coffee and conversation.
When all the actors are in place, the fun subsides and the cold reading begins. One of the actors reads the stage directions so that everyone is aware of what is happening physically as well as vocally in the play. When the reading is complete, a discussion begins. Kucan and Pereth speak first, making a few observations and then asking questions. ”Did you like the play? Did it touch or challenge you? Is the play right for the Las Vegas Valley community?” (Kucan also considers if the play will intrigue the audience so much that they will stay after the production for what is called, “The Buzz”, a discussion led by Kucan among the audience and the actors.)
The cold reading is part of A Public Fit’s process in choosing plays for its upcoming season. A “season” of plays by the nonprofit company includes three full productions at the organization’s 60-seat The Usual Place Theatre and four readings at the Clark County Library.
Much can be said about Pereth and Kucan (who are married). Their resumes are impressive. Even more impressive is the work they are willing to do to produce live theater in Las Vegas, a community known for it Strip spectacles. According to Pereth, a quality full-production for A Public Fit is typically a six-month process.
During the two-year Covid shutdown in which no A Public Fit productions were mounted, local actors read some 40 plays in private zoom readings, allowing the directors to select plays for the 2021-2022 season,
If Pereth and Kucan are directing a play, they then discuss the play in detail–what are the play’s themes and/or messages. They may even produce a powerpoint list of the play’s themes, language highlights and what parts of the play may require further explanation to the actors.
Next, the directors meet with the play’s scenic, costume, lighting and sound designers to discuss the play and the designers come up with their ideas of the “world” the play inhabits. Such discussions can go on for quite a while before the final concepts are determined.
And then, only then, does the cast arrive for a first rehearsal. The cast knows the dates of the play and are committed, but they meet with the set and costume designers first to learn about the look and setting of the play.
When the actual rehearsals with the actors begin, another cold reading of the play is held.
In later rehearsals, the actors and directors pare down the play into sections and begin to understand the patterns of the play in those sections. The directors say many patterns exist in good plays.
After about two weeks of pattern work, the directors begin blocking the show, the movement of the play, the most difficult part of the process for the directors.
All of this time the actors are still holding their scripts in their hands. “You know,” says Pereth, “all of us in real life move, think and feel at the same time and we need the actors to inhabit their characters the same way. You don’t do that on the first day of rehearsal. This happens after many weeks.”
And finally, the actors start memorizing their parts, which include their multi-tasking duties as well. Eventually through lots of repetition, the characters are able to come alive for the two hours of the play.
After all of that, once the play opens, Kucan then leads post-show discussions and indeed even more insights to the characters may be discovered.
During rehearsals, filling the seats (the marketing of the play) is also taking place. A full production play at A Public Fit can cost more than $40,000. The seats need to be filled and donors must be met and thank you notes written. The staff which can also include a stage manager, an assistant stage manager, a technical director, a dialect coach, a movement specialist, as well as the play’s actors and designers are paid “though not nearly as much as their talent deserves,” says Pereth,
The dream of the company’s co-founders is to build the reputation of their organization so that support from all sources allows A Public Fit to eventually pay actors and staff a living wage. They point out that Nevada does not have its own regional theater company, though Las Vegas is known as an entertainment capital.
In the meantime, Pereth and Kucan will be announcing their 2022-2023 season on June 24 and 25 when A Public Fit presents its final reading of the current season at the Clark County Library.
Smart folks in the Las Vegas Valley will ask to be put on the mailing list for A Public Fit. That six months of work on full productions can be “had” by audience members for Just $40 a ticket. The play readings at the Clark County Library are free to the public.
Live theater is being done well and painstakingly in Las Vegas. That is A Public Fit.