After more than half a year since switching off the lights on stage in September, Scene One Theatre is setting back up to usher in its latest production, Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park," for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Directed by Ron Vossen, "Barefoot in the Park" is the story of newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter (played by Megan Wadley and Doug Richardson, respectively), fresh off their honeymoon and straight into their tiny, Manhattan apartment. Corie, a free-spirited, energetic woman, eagerly makes the apartment home, despite its mishaps, as Paul, her much less free-spirited husband, likes to point out. There's a tiny room that barely fits a twin-sized bed and a bathroom without a bathtub, but Corie, Vossen said, is "just in love with this apartment. The husband hasn't seen it; in fact, he comes home from work, and she's already been here and has things going."
And though its set in the 1960s, the story is one that transcends time as a romantic comedy of first arguments and finding equilibrium in chaos.
The play was pushed back a year from last May due to COVID-19, but for Vossen, the idea — and the desire to highlight Simon's works, who he seems to be partial to — has been in progress for a couple years. It's finally happening this year, and it marks his directorial debut.
"I told (Mark and Tracy Wegman, the founders of Scene One), 'Well you know, someday, I might like to do something.' And 'Barefoot in the Park' has always been one of my favorite plays," Vossen said. "They just gave me the opportunity."
The founders of Scene One couldn't be happier to have him.
"We are thrilled that he has chosen Scene One for his directorial debut," Mark Wegman said.
Vossen's background is mainly in technical design; he holds a degree in industrial arts — his forte — teaches at Helias Catholic High School and is technical director for their spring plays. He's been in the theater community for 40 years and has watched from backstage what it takes to direct a show. Now, he gets to put it into practice.
Much of the success throughout rehearsals Vossen credits to his cast, a seasoned group of professionals who have been "wonderful to work with," he said. They've been rehearsing for a couple months, and with cast members like Mark Miles, who plays eccentric neighbor Victor Velasco and is marking this his fourth appearance in a Simon play, the process has gone smoothly.
Switching from technical director to director (though he has credits on set construction this time, too) hasn't been difficult either, thanks to mentors and colleagues over the years like Wyn Riley, Joyce Weber and more recently Amy Pringer at Helias.
"Has it been what I was hoping it would be? Yes. Did I anticipate how they were going to react?" Vossen asked. "It's better than I thought!"
The production offers Vossen the chance to "check off" this particular box, granting him the opportunity to prove to himself "that I could do this someday." Vossen said he doesn't regret saying yes, though he's not sure when he might direct another production. Time, he said, is a big factor.
For now, he wants people to be in the moment when they sit down in the theater.
"I'm hoping people will appreciate Simon; he's at the top," he said. "A lot of people haven't seen his plays or heard of him, so hopefully this will be just a fun, enjoyable evening. That's what I want the audience to take away from it, to appreciate (Simon) and appreciate his comedy and one-liners."
"Barefoot in the Park" opens at Scene One Theatre, 623 Ohio St., with four performances at 7:30 p.m. May 5-8 and a matinee at 2 p.m. May 8. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by emailing [email protected] or calling 573-635-6713.
The show is set to run for around 2 hours, with 15- and 10-minute intermissions between acts. The theater will be following CDC guidelines, social distancing its seating and asking patrons to bring and wear a mask.