COURTESY MANOA VALLEY THEATRE
Bree Bumatai is Martha and Paul Mitri stars as George in Manoa Valley Theatre's production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Mitri is the production's third actor to take on the role.
Yes, ‘Virginia,’ the cast is set
Almost anyone who has directed community theater has stories to tell about the challenges involved in casting a show. Not only does it require finding volunteers willing to juggle work schedules and family responsibilities around the tremendous time commitment of putting on a show, but there's also the challenge of matching people to the roles.
'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'
On stage: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 28.
Place: Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 East Manoa Road
Tickets: $25, with discounts for seniors, military and youths
Call: 988-6131 or visit www.manoavalleytheatre.com
It's not easy, and sometimes the results aren't as pretty as they could be.
Theater veteran Glenn Cannon has been there, of course, but says that with Manoa Valley Theatre's production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" casting wasn't the original problem.
"Roger Long, a close friend and a fine actor, proposed about a year and half ago that we do the play, and MVT agreed. Roger at that time had presumably come out of a cancer scare and seemed to be in good shape, and so I cast him as George, with Bree Bumatai as Martha, and as the young people, Genny Wilson as Honey and -- after the guy I cast as Nick had to withdraw during the very preliminary rehearsals last summer -- Josh Stevenson, a very good student of mine, as Nick."
George is a professor at a small college who secured his position by marrying Martha. As the story opens they've returned home, quite drunk, from a faculty party. They've invited a naive young couple, Nick and Honey, to join them for a nightcap -- an invitation that turns out to be a very bad idea for all concerned.
"Who's Afraid ..." won playwright Edward Albee the Tony Award for best play in 1963. Elizabeth Taylor won the Academy Award for best actress in 1967 for her performance as Martha opposite Richard Burton as George in the 1966 film.
It is a difficult, intense, demanding and very long play -- not for newbies or the faint of heart -- and two weeks after rehearsals began, in late October, Long was informed "that his cancer scare had resumed," and that he would not be able to do the show.
So Cannon turned to actor/director David Farmer, who had recently directed The Actors Group production of another provocative Tony Award-winning Albee play, "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?" Farmer stepped in, but had to step out several weeks later when he learned that he would be in Asia on business in December and January.
That left Cannon again looking for an actor. He found one in Paul Mitri, a new colleague at the University of Hawaii-Manoa Department of Theatre and Dance.
"He was very kind to agree to undertake this huge role (of George) with only four weeks' rehearsal. Fortunately he's an actor of considerable experience as well as a director and teacher ... and that's what evolved, but as you can imagine it was a little bit of a hairy-scary for a period of time."
Cannon added, with a bit of understatement, that dealing with the changes "makes it interesting."
In past plays he's had to recast relatively minor roles, but these changes were on a much larger scale. "Essentially I had to rework the play for each of the new actors, David and Paul, and find things that were appropriate within the nature of each of those guys that would work with the character. It certainly cut down the amount of time that one would afford for consistently working the play with a full complement of actors from the beginning."
On the plus side, all three actors were experienced and capable of fulfilling the role, he said. "Because of that, even though we were under a time press to get it all together, as it were, in the final four weeks, we've been able to do it."