From Oklahoma City University Theatre, Jane Martin's "Anton in Show Business" tells the story of an ill-fated production of "The Three Sisters" by Anton Chekhov being staged in San Antonio, Texas. The show is plagued by problems, including a TV actress who has never been onstage before, two directors who are fired, and an audience member who keeps interrupting the performance.
"Just about everything about American theater is satirized at some point: the role of reviewers, the role of directors, the power of funding and the funders, the casting process, the rehearsal process, even the behavior of the audience," director David Pasto said. "The play is obviously written by someone who loves the theater, so the satire is affectionate and fun, not harsh or cruel."
He first saw "Anton" when it premiered at the 24th Humana Festival in 2000, where it hit big before winning the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award.
"I've wanted to direct this play ever since then," Pasto said. "I thought it was a great show that anyone who loves theater would identify with."
A fascinating aside is that Martin, the Pulitzer-nominated playwright of "Anton," may not even exist.
"No one has ever met her. All of her plays have premiered at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, so people assume she is someone on the staff or related to someone on the staff, and that Jane Martin is a pseudonym. ATL has remained silent on this point," Pasto said.
In "Anton," all the roles "? male and female "? are played by seven actresses. Pasto said the casting choice is explained in the play when an audience member asks why a male director is being played by a woman, another character answers.
"Eighty percent of the roles in the American theater are played by men, and 90 percent of the directors are men," Pasto said. "The point of having a male director played by a woman is to redress the former and satirize the latter."
The pacing and many character changes posed significant challenges for him and his cast.
"Since the actresses have to play a number of roles and a bare stage has to transform into a number of locations, we are challenged to find simple, theatrical ways to make these transitions during the performance without stopping for scene or costume changes," Pasto said. "They have created such funny characters that they often break each other up during rehearsals. We will, of course, be more professional in performance."