Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding
by Jonathan Knipscher
When I first heard of the King Creativity Fund, I thought of many different activities that I could organize that would promote theater in different venues other than on an actual stage. With this idea in mind, I chose in the end to produce and direct a production of Tony N Tina’s Wedding. This show originally debuted in New York City and was performed there for many years. As the script called for, the wedding ceremony took place in a church on one side of town and the reception took place in a reception hall on the other side of town. The cast actually moved the 250-person audience from the church by foot, in horse drawn carriages, or by car or limousine to the reception. The fact that Southwestern University’s campus has a chapel and ballrooms at a student’s disposal helped solidify my choice in this play. All that needed to be done was to check to see if these places would be available when needed.
While waiting to hear if the production had received the grant, I visited the Student Activities office many times in order to reserve the ballrooms for the performances and the required rehearsals. The problem that presented itself was chalk full of scheduling conflicts. Whenever a student wishes to reserve the ballrooms for an activity, he or she must fill out a document requesting permission to have the ballrooms on the desired dates. Due to scheduling conflicts with other shows and my cast being in these shows, I had to visit the Student Activities office 8 or so times to get dates finalized. Jamie Woody was a huge help with this.
The concept of the play is that it is dinner theater. During the “reception”, dinner is served to the guests and to the actors. This was another logistic problem that I had to solve in order for the show to actually be able to happen. For this, I turned to the amazing people at Sodexho Marriott Catering Services. Not only did they provide an excellent meal, but also they helped set the tables for the reception, and one or more of their staff members stayed during the performances in case something happened.
With most of the logistics finalized, all that was left was to rehearse the play and allow the designers to work their magic. The concept of the play was that it would be a stereotypical “dysfunctional” family wedding in New York in the year 1986. This is what the designers were told in early production meetings and with that information a technical masterpiece was created. The costume design by Laura Wilson and Randi Fowler reflected the awful vibrant colors of the 80s (mainly hot pink and green) in the bridesmaid dresses and the groomsmen’s matching bow ties and cummerbunds. The set design by Blair Walsleben reflected the ominous mood that weddings can have, while maintaining the overall color scheme (again, hot pink and green). The other design that helped establish the mood was the music, which was some of our favorite (or not so favorite) popular 80s songs. We rehearsed the play for 5 weeks, five days a week with Friday and Saturday off (I hate rehearsing on these days) in many different places such as the church, the concourse, the ballrooms, and even one night at a bowling alley. This was really fun because the people there really believed that a group from New York came down to have a wedding in Georgetown. Three days before we opened, we added the technical elements to the show and recognized the great fun that the performances would be. After three performances, the show closed on Sunday March 4, 2001.
Working on Tony N Tina’s Wedding was, for me a great experience because of the other people involved: the actors, designers, and stage manager. It is because of these people that I was sad to see this show end. Usually there is a bittersweet feeling when I close a show, but with Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding I felt that the people completely encompassed their role in the show and gave excellent performances. On a final note, after the final performance as we were standing outside taking photos with family and friends, I know that inside myself there was an inner longing for the show to continue for many more performances other than just the three. With this, I just want to say, “thanks you” to the cast and crew of Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding.