Hope Juber and Laurence Juber chat about their latest stage endeavor Without Annette. Hope co-penned the play with Jeff Doucette, and it is set to open at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks Thursday July 10. Her husband Laurence serves as producer.
Written by Steve Peterson
Hope, you grew up in Los Angeles and started acting in television and then writing for television, which is legendary for very long hours. How did you get involved in theatre and where did you find the time?
I have always loved theatre, and got my degree in theatre before I went into television. In the 80s, I created a comedy rock band called The Housewives that my father, Sherwood Schwartz loved. He was looking to create a musical based on his show Gilligan’s Island and, as I was married to a talented musician, he asked me to write the score with Laurence and the magic of live theatre just pulled me back in. There is nothing like it. I’d answer the second part of the question, but I have run out of time.
Do you find that writing for theatre is different than writing for TV?
Very different in the inherent limitations of stage and blocking, but good writing is still good writing.
Without Annette is comedy improv. What is the role of a writer in improv?
Hope: Without Annette is actually a scripted play set in an improv class. This allows a unique opportunity to blend the two. The exercises within the class can be improvised, and the actors must improvise from their character’s point of view. As a writer, I find improvisation immensely helpful. It encourages left turns in the brain, and keeps you receptive to ideas. I was taking an improvisation workshop with Jeff Doucette. He is an amazing improvisor and a seriously wonderful character actor. As I was looking around at all the individuals in the class, it occurred to me that it was a very fertile ground for a play, as each of us had our own unique reason for being there.
Laurence: There was a lot of work that went into finding the right cast and then running an improv workshop to develop a ‘group mind’. Without Annette has a dynamic that is comparable to big band jazz, where a tight ensemble performs structured arrangements with room for improvised riffs. It’s one of the things I found so compelling about this piece.
Laurence, what are the duties of a producer in theatre? What artistic input does the producer have?
It’s not particularly glamorous - a lot of spreadsheets, check writing, phone calls, emails and figuring out advertising/marketing angles. We are very lucky to have The Whitefire as our neighborhood theatre, so that was an easy call to make. There are a lot of details and deadlines. My job artistically is to help it come to life - I wanted to see this particular work on its feet.
What are the challenges of producing a show like Without Annette?
It’s double cast (one role is triple cast), so there are 23 available performers in the company and 2 stage managers. Gabrieal Griego is co-producing which takes some of the load from me. It’s less complicated than doing a musical plus we have a minimal set, so the logistics are manageable. It’s configured to move in and out of the theatre one night a week, so the focus is on the piece and the finely-drawn characters.
As a musician, have you been called on to add music to the production?
Music and comedy are natural bedfellows. I’m playing the musical interludes live and also doing a pre-show mini-concert, so I recommend arriving early. I have concert commitments, but fortunately I’ll only miss one Annette show during the run. Hope and I also wrote a couple of songs for the improv show finale of the play.
Is there life in the theatre for you after Annette?
Hope: I will continue to write, create and produce. I am always working on something. I have recently rewritten my musical It’s The Housewives! for a 4 person cast, and I would love to see that up soon.
Openings: July 10th and July 17th at 8pm (show is double-cast with two opening nights)
Runs: Thursdays – July 10th through October 2nd (Dark Sept. 25th).
Tickets: Thursday performances - $34.
Buy Tickets: www.plays411.com or (323) 960-5773.
Venue: Whitefire Theatre 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks 91423