Hello and thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I’m Robert A. Easton (many people call me Bob), and I’m one of the producers for the upcoming Utah Rep / ATG Theatre Company joint production of the play “Grace” by award-winning playwright, Craig Wright. I have also volunteered to serve as dramaturg for the production.
This week’s blog will be our final one, at least the last one to be written by me. This is our final week of rehearsals—what folks in the theater world refer to as “Hell Week” due to how hectic it can be—and this weekend will be the opening of our three-week performance run. All of us involved with this production of “Grace” have and will continue to work hard to make this a great show and we hope all our efforts will pay off when you come join us at the Sugar Space for opening night (or any other performance of the show). I’d like to dedicate this final blog to sharing my thoughts about “Grace”: the script, the production, and the people involved with it.
“Grace” is actually a play I had never even heard of until the very last hours of the very last day of 2013, when I went to JC Carter’s home to attend his family’s New Year’s Eve party and he handed me a copy of the script. He told me that Johnny Hebda from Utah Rep wanted to co-produce it with Around the Globe, and that I should read it as soon as possible. I returned home from the party around one in the morning and was unable to sleep, so I started reading it that morning. Less than two hours later, I had finished it and spent at least another hour pacing around the kitchen thinking about it before finally going to bed.
After that first reading, it was clear to me that Craig Wright was a tremendous writer. He was challenging me to think once more about my own beliefs, as well as my non-beliefs. Wright was forcing me to look at my relationships and my convictions, striving to figure out who I really was and who I might become in a moment when all I think I believe is challenged; when what is most important to me is taken away and the world comes falling down. It also made me think once again about love and human relationships; about how the right person at the right time can come along and make you feel connected in a way you thought you never could. And along with all that heavy thinking, reading “Grace” also made me laugh. I think that’s the kind of play that “Grace” is. It will challenge you while also entertaining you. To me, all of that, along with well-executed production values and great performances from the actors are all the key elements to a perfect night at the theater.
In previous blogs for this show, I’ve gushed about the actors, the director and the makeup artist, and I’ll take a moment to do so again. The four-person cast includes Johnny Hebda, without whom this play wouldn’t be possible; Jeffrey Owen, whose acting range seems boundless; JayC Stoddard who, if I could, I would cast in every show I ever produce; and the beautiful and talented Emilie Eileen Starr, who is so smart, dedicated and focused on her craft that she has easily become my new favorite actress.
Our director is not only a close personal friend and the reason I’m involved in this production, but he is clearly at the height of his directorial mastery as he almost effortlessly guides our cast and crew through this production process. And our makeup artist, Kelly Donahue, the subject of our most recent blog before this one, is quite literally someone without whom we could not do this makeup-intensive play. Her skillful work will only enhance the great performances of our talented actors.
Now I’d like to mention those hardworking individuals whom I haven’t written about in previous blogs, starting with our stage manager, Annie Brantley. She keeps us all on our toes, making sure that both the rehearsals and the production as whole both move forward on time and up to par. Next is our marketing man, Blair Howell, who is not only working hard to promote this show and sell tickets, but he also helps me bring these weekly blogs to the Internet for you to read. Our lighting designer, Emilio Casillas, comes to us highly recommended and he’s a very nice young man. I look forward to seeing his work illuminating our stage. There is also Troy Klee, our sound designer, whose work I’ve heard on several shows over the years and I therefore know how talented he is and how fortunate we are to have him. There’s also our prop master, the lovely Ashley Ramsey, who I met for the first time last week at the Salt Lake City Comic Con. And then there’s our amazing costume designer, Nancy Cannon, who as you can clearly see in our promo photos is doing a top-notch job making our wonderful cast look and feel like the characters they play.
I offer my apologies to anyone and everyone else who is in any way contributing to this production whom I have failed to mention. I thank you all. Your work is valued and will make this show that I hadn’t even heard of until just four months ago, into one of my favorites. And to you, the reader of this blog, I invite you to come and experience this play too. Even if you’ve only just heard about “Grace” for the first time today or in recent weeks, I promise you that after seeing it, it is a show you will never forget.
“Grace” opens April 25 and closes May 10. It will be performed at the Sugar Space in Salt Lake City and is a Utah premiere. Tickets for the show are now on sale. We hope to see you there, and we also hope you enjoy the show.