Just 45 Minutes From Broadway, produced by Alexandra Guarnieri for the Rainbow Theatre Company. Opens Oct. 17; plays Thurs.-sat., 8 pm; Sun., 5 pm; through Dec. 20. Tickets: $25. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; 310.392.7327 or edgemarcenter.org.
Theatre professionals might see their lives flash before their eyes as Just 45 Minutes From Broadway takes the stage this fall at Edgemar Center for the Arts. It is presented by Rainbow Theatre Company, written by Henry Jaglom and directed by Gary Imhoff. The Isaacs are a mostly Jewish extended family (there’s a little Irish, Italian and some Chickasaw thrown into the mix) of actors whose residence is 45 minutes from Broadway.
“This is one of Henry’s best pieces of work yet,” says leading actress and long time collaborator Tanna Frederick who acts in many of Jaglom’s movies and plays (in which he both writes and directs). She believes this newest work is unparalleled. A rough draft of the first act was composed in three days and the rest was finished four weeks later.
“I was leaving for an Iowa film festival and Henry said he was going to write me a play,” recalls Frederick. “After my return, he had Act I on paper. The play had essentially been sitting inside him, waiting to be expressed.” Sometimes referred to as “Jaglom’s muse,” Frederick describes his writing as a “wonderful combination” of Chekhov and Tennessee Williams.Â She characterizes his tone as melancholy with a lovely 1940s playfulness. “In this new script there is a sense of romanticism with dark undertones of the successes and tragedies that come with following your dreams,” says Frederick.
The play revolves around two daughters who return home to their theatrical family of seven generations.Â Both daughters face their past and what they want from their futures in one weekend surrounded by family members who are also faced with the challenge of introspection. A cast of seasoned actors, including Julie Davis, David Garver, Jack Heller, David Proval, Diane Louis Salinger and Harriet Schock, portray Jaglom’s long-time theatre family.
Frederick claims, “All characters are such distinctive versions of Henry. They are voices Henry has experienced over the years.” Jaglom has taken these voices and woven them into a rhythm of storytelling that encourages audiences to feel emotion without apology.
“Audiences will feel inspired and may be more willing to speak out, to cater to their own neuroses,” says Frederick.
Although Frederick hopes Just 45 Minutes will touch all audience members, she thinks members of the theatre community will connect with the message of the play the most. “It is essential they see this show,” says Frederick. The characters onstage are living, breathing representations of people who has devoted themselves to theatre out of pure love, whether it be for a one play or for 60 years.
The characters grapple with the sacrifices they have made for their art, doing so with an overall resolve to find beauty in the life choices they have made. “As artists we all have different dreams and levels of success and failure,” says Frederick. “We go after these dreams and allow ourselves to pursue them. This drive supersedes being famous.”
Just 45 Minutes is a big dose of emotional truth for artists.Â It grants artists permission to acknowledge the unattractive emotional place that can develop as a result of choosing this lifestyle, but also to recognize the purity and bravery in their choice.
“It holds a mirror up to the theatre community and asks it members to be proud of the choices they’ve made,” says Frederick. The story of the Isaac family also serves as a reminder of the solidarity that is inherently part of the larger theatre community.
This message of solidarity was also mirrored in the relationships and work ethic formed within the cast. “I’m working with people who have actually lived these lives of the characters,” says Frederick. The connection actors formed with the script transformed the cast into a family. “Each person is grateful and happy to be working on such a personal piece during such a rough time,” she says.
Frederick describes the cast as an incredible group of actors whose work is rooted in generosity and dedication; some arrive at the theatre up to two hours early and stay late. “It’s such a great feeling when you get up and want to go to rehearsals,” she says.
Director Gary Imhoff was also a main building block in the formation of such a tight knit cast. “Gary is a complete facilitator,” says Frederick. Imhoff works with “the patience of a saint” and knows how much work actors need and when to leave them alone.
Imhoff’s finesse and subtlety guide actors to the point where the acting and directing choices blend seamlessly into one another. Actors are allowed to originate their own movements and use their intuition as an initial guide. To Frederick he is a director that includes actors in the process instead of simply using them as part of it. “He doesn’t try to parachute his own idea on to yours,” says Frederick. “He always makes sure I am showing something new that I haven’t done, and that’s incredible.”
Production photos by Ed Kreiger
Article by Greta McAnany