What do you get when you combine Ancient Rome + mistake identity + togas? Comedy tonight! Southgate Productions & the Curtis are bringing just that to the stage this March with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Stephen Sondheim delivers again with this witty & riotous farce filled with plot twists at every turn.
Our team got together with Southgate Productions’ Artistic Director as well as Producer, Set Designer, and Director of the upcoming production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Jonathan Infante, to chat about the show and his many roles in the creative process.
Curtis Theatre: To start off, tell us a little about yourself and give some background on your work as a director.
Jonathan Infante: I started directing for theater fairly early. Around my junior year of high school, I got the bug to be in control of a show. I was also still really interested in being a performer, but I knew I wanted to do both. In 2000 at age 19, STAGEStheatre in Fullerton gave me a shot to direct a show in their season. It was Picasso at The Lapin Agile. I had done some shows as an actor and they took a chance on me and helped me achieve an amazing show that we were all proud of. Throughout my career, I have jumped back and forth as a designer and director. I spend most of the year as a designer, but the two shows a year I get to direct really help me get even more creativity out.
What inspired you to direct Forum?I was inspired to come back to this show because it was the first LEAD role I ever played. I got to play Pseudolous twice in my early acting career and it has always been one of my favorite roles. I truly believe that it is one of the most perfect Books for a musical and if you listen carefully to Sondheim’s lyrics, they’re not only brilliant but there is so much hidden comedy in it. Truly, the show has so many layers and I wanted to do something closer to a classic show.
Can you explain your overall vision/concept for this production of Forum?
My vision for this show is to remain as true to it as I can be. This show has been produced many times and directors often take a lot of creative license with it and add and remove scenes. Again, I think the book is flawless and I want to stay true to it.
What do think will be the biggest challenge in this process?
The biggest challenge for this show will be time. It’s a lot of running around and dancing on top of a lot of words. We only rehearse for three weeks. This is something Southgate has always adopted because we know it’s hard to give up a lot of time for rehearsal when you’re not being paid large amounts of money. The chase scene is 25 pages of non-stop movement and dialogue. That will definitely be a challenge for all!
Sounds like fun! How does your role as Artistic Director of Southgate tie into your work on Forum? With this show, you’re juggling a lot of different roles –how do they all fit together?
My main job as Artistic Director of Southgate is to ensure that our productions meet a certain standard. My job as director is to deliver a solid show. These two jobs can go hand in hand at many times. I fit it all together by surrounding myself with amazingly talented staff that help me meet the expectations of both jobs.
You also did the set design; give us some insight on what the space will look like and the meaning behind it.
We always try to reimagine shows when we mount them. For this show, we’re going the classic way. Three houses on a street in Rome. The entire show takes place on a single standing set. Tall structures with columns, wacky angles, and vivid colors. The whole show is a nod to vaudeville and our set will be as well.
What do you hope the audience walks away from this production with? What’s the main takeaway?
I have one goal with this show. That the everyone remembers that we need to laugh and this show is a great way to remember that.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs March 25-April 9, 2017. Half-off Preview Friday, March 24 at 8PM; Opening with Pre-show Reception & Post-show Toast Saturday, March 25. Runs Friday & Saturday at 8PM, Sunday at 3PM. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! Let us know your thoughts.