This weekend, bobdirex - since 2010, the directing and producing arm of former American Cabaret Theatre head Bob Harbin - opens Monty Python's Spamalot, the takeoff on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail that won a Best Musical Tony in 2005. Recent bobdirex productions of Cabaret and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum have grown the audience base, filling seats at the Athenaeum Theatre. Harbin took time from rehearsals to chat with NUVO.
NUVO: What is unique about bobdirex?
Bob Harbin: Through bobdirex I provide a couple different environments for our theatre community. It is fulfilling to challenge some of the conventional casting and shake things up a bit, to present a local actor in a role unexpected. bobdirex is the perfect middle ground to mix the professional with the non-professional actor and technician - community theatre people get to work with Equity members. My actors and technicians receive a salary - that provides an extra validation for their work.
NUVO: What does Bob Harbin do when not in the midst of directing a production?
Harbin: Bob Harbin gets his butt out and puts it into other theatre seats. I go to as much local theatre as possible. Movies can always be seen later. Going to theatre is great for the casting process. It helps to know everyone on the playing field.
NUVO: Why perform at the Athenaeum?
Harbin: When I first worked there in 2006, I fell in love with the theatre space, the intimacy of cabaret seating, the imperfections of an old theatre and the ghost. The Athenaeum Foundation is trying to save the space. I want to support them financially and by getting as many different patrons into the space as possible.
NUVO: Why Spamalot?
Harbin: Mostly I want to speak about costume designer, Jeff Farley, who has come up with 80 costumes he created or custom-built. I think we could all use a bit of harmless funny fun. I grew up on the Three Stooges, Benny Hill and Monty Python. They are irreverent without being improper. It's terrific working with actors of all ages. The older ones recreate this style of humor and introduce it to the younger actors. We hope older audience members will remember the jokes and younger ones will enjoy this different kind of humor. Audience members better remember to take their wallets and keys and leave the tablecloth. And if they have been highly entertained, then we have all done our job.
Bobdirex has established a company of actors - NUVO asked why they keep coming back.
Lincoln Slentz: It's a chance to work and play and grow all at the same time. As a performer these shows are challenging, entertaining and have allowed me to meet and work with many talented people around Indianapolis.
Jenee Michelle: Bob is the only director I've worked with in Indy. I left the worlds of theatre and dance ten years ago only to return when I met Bob. He's reached out to me, and I found dance again. We have walked through some fire together, and so I continue playing in his sandbox.
Charles Goad: From start to finish, it's just plain fun and silly, and I have the least challenging role. I get to stand there and look ... kingly. I get to sing and dance, but the other actors in the show? They're incredible. To be surrounded by such immense talent and be in a big splashy musical, who wouldn't want to be in the show?
Dave Rosencrans: Bob makes the stage and rehearsal spaces a safe and fun environment to explore talents and highlight strengths in the performer; that is something special. Bob's sense of humor is another reason I can't stay away. He and I can crack jokes on the fly, and I love being able to learn new material from him and apply it to roles.
Claire Wilcher: There's no one around with a bigger heart and a greater sense of generosity to actors than Bob. He's not afraid to play.