By DELANIA TRIGG, Assistant Editor
Gainesville Daily Register
Director Sally Page is counting on intuition to bring her vision of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” to the Butterfield Theater main stage. The play opens with a 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 8 performance.
Page describes the semi-autobiographical play as the story of a young man’s search for maturity in Brighton Beach, NY in 1937. The PG-13 storyline includes a frank depiction of daily life for the play’s main character Eugene.
“The play deals with the facts of life,” Page said. “It doesn’t pull any punches.”
She said she appreciates the show’s pedigree, but doesn’t place too much stock in previous “Brighton Beach” offerings, including stage and motion picture productions.
“Directing a play is about making a show your own,” she said. “You start with the script of what the author really felt, how he approached the subject. Then you add in your actors and what they bring to the table which is their view of their characters. You stay true to the script and your actors. You just guide them and you mesh the two together.”
Page’s college major was theater but she said she had never directed a community theater production before her work with the Butterfield Stage.
Her experiences also include teaching and directing public school students.
“I cut my teeth with junior high plays,” she said, adding “Brighton Beach” offers some challenges.
“It’s kind of a juggling act keeping in mind what the author wanted and staying true to your characters and your audience,” she said. “The audience is definitely part of it.”
Butterfield’s board of directors chose “Brighton Beach” for the theater’s 2011-2012 season.
Even so, the group wasn’t certain it would get the rights to perform the popular play — one of a set of works sometimes called Simon’s B.B. Trilogy. “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound” round out the trilogy.
“Butterfield chooses the plays and must ask the publisher for the rights to perform them,” Page said. “(Performance) rights are on based on availability by the publisher.”
Most of the “Brighton Beach” performers have been working on the show for at least three weeks.
Page said there were some initial production delays but rehearsals and other preparations are off and running.
Cast member and Register reporter Heather Pilkington took on the role of Blanche after another performer had to bow out of the show.
“I came into (”Brighton Beach”) two weeks late,” she said. “ I was already behind as it is, but I love it.”
The 24-year-old Pilkington said portraying a middle-age woman has its challenges.
“Being 24, it’s difficult when you have to play somebody who is 14 years older than you are but I share a lot of similarities with the character,” she said. “We’ve both soft-spoken. We’re both princesses. It’s something I could connect with.”
Gearing up for a stage production is typically an 8-week process.
“We normally spend six weeks in rehearsal and two weeks in production,” Page said.
Pre-opening night activities include both technical and dress rehearsals.
The Tuesday prior to opening night is usually reserved for a technical rehearsal which gives performers the chance to iron out any wrinkles with lighting and sound.
Wednesday is a dress rehearsal performance. The Butterfield version of “Brighton Beach” should give local actors a chance to shine.
“It’s an absolutely delightful piece with a fine cast headed up by Jacob Koelser who is a ‘graduate’ of Butterfield’s children’s theater,” Page said, adding Koesler’s first starring role was the lead in the theater’s production of “Charlotte’s Web.”
For “Brighton Beach” ticket information call the Butterfield Stage Theater box office at 665-1284.