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Anyone who's ever tried to mount a play knows that screw-ups, accidents and misfortunes tend to mount as opening night approaches. But Sinnerman Ensemble's current production of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov seemed especially cursed just before its Thursday October 1 opening. In light of Sinnerman's backstage story, supplied by the company's executive director, Calliope Porter, it's amazing that the tricky, two-and-a-half-hour show turned out to be one of the best of the year. Porter's litany:
"Ebony Wimbs, one of our company members, found out a week into rehearsal that her mother needed organ transplant surgery. Her mom was put on a list, so Ebony spent two months on call: if her mom were to get an organ and go into surgery, Ebony would get in her car and drive to Ohio. That is exactly what happened: at the end of the opening-night party on Thursday [October 1], she checked her voicemail and received the great news that her mom was going into surgery the next morning. Ebony got back to Chicago Monday the 5th. So far everything is going well with her mom.
"The day after our load-in [Tuesday, September 22], our lighting designer Jill [Bowarchuk] came down with swine flu. She was out until the following Sunday. In the meantime a designer friend of hers, Adam Stasinopoulos, came in for two days and and focused lights based on her plot, and started writing some cues, etc. Jill came back, and Sunday and Monday were all about lighting, so we managed to get it together.
"Also, that same day [September 22], one of our principal actors, Howie Johnson, was taken to the hospital with kidney stones. He came back to us on Saturday [September 26], and made it through the weekend of shows like a champ—although he had burst a blood vessel in his eye, so he looked a bit scary (he's already a big guy). He had surgery Monday [October 5] and is doing well.
"Tuesday [September 29], the day before our first preview with press, our set designer Jackie Penrod had a family emergency and missed her final day of painting and finishing the elaborate set. Thus, Wednesday was frantically spent putting on the finishing touches, including painting the floor. We held the house because she was hanging the backstage masking at 7:25 PM. But we managed to get it all together just in time. Her family is doing fine.
"Anna Carini [a lead actor in the cast] booked a big commercial during tech week [September 22-29], which meant she was MIA for some of the build, because she was at auditions, call-backs, and fittings. Then she filmed on Wednesday [September 30], and we weren't sure if she would be released in time for the preview. Luckily, she made it, but we were on the edge of our seats. Her understudy was ready, but we wanted her there for all that press.
"Sheldon [Patinkin, the director] could not be at the theater after 4 PM on Sunday September 27 or at all on Monday the 28th because of Yom Kippur, which wouldn't have been such a big deal if we hadn't gotten behind on our tech schedule due to the other adventures. We gave the actors some rest on Sunday night and the tech/company members continued the build, and Monday we did a run-through with our assistant director."
Ivanov closes November 7.