Marina Kalani makes no secret of her belief that theater is a collaborative effort. As the director of the Jacklin Center’s upcoming production of Same Time, Next Year, a 1975 romantic “dramedy” by Bernard Slade, it would only be natural for her to focus on things like overarching vision and underlying mechanics.
Instead, she repeatedly emphasizes the people: cast members Dawn Hunter and Doug Dawson, stage manager Steve Jungen, as well as the Lake City Playhouse staff, who lent crucial support with costuming.
“I’m a huge fan of my actors,” she says, “so they are equal participants in that creative development. I blush to be working with such a high level of experience.”
Dawson was recently named Best Actor at this year’s AACT Regional Festival for his performance in the Civic’s Turn of the Screw. Hunter has been on nearly every professional and amateur stage in the Inland Northwest. “Knowing that those two individuals were available and interested was a big deciding point” to do the play in the first place, she says.
The play itself, as well as the JACC’s unconventional space, demand extra reserves of talent. In Same Time, Next Year, Dawson and Hunter play an accountant and a housewife who have a one-night extramarital affair at a California inn in 1951. Over the next 24 years, they meet once annually to reconnect and rekindle their mutual flame; the audience, however, only sees them in five-year intervals. That means the actors have to gradually and credibly age about one-third of a normal lifespan in roughly 90 minutes.
“They both go through very dramatic changes. The aging process and making it truly authentic is one of the challenges. They have a very short amount of time to leave in 1951 costumes and hairstyles and get back and be five years older,” says Kelani.
The actors also have to maintain a delicate dynamic of comedy, drama and romance. “These two have been working together for something like 15 years. In the play, we experience babies being born and relocations and life changes,” says Kalani, “but as it relates to these two particular actors, they have already lived that experience together through divorces and children. They walked in the door with that history and chemistry.”
Because the JACC has few of the usual theatrical amenities — like, say, a wardrobe, or even a curtain — the plays are carefully chosen to suit the space. Kalani says that the simple, static setting of Same Time, Next Year and the “very romantic, very touching” story at its core make it a perfect fit for the venue and its audiences.
“I read a quote once: ‘In 10 years, we will be the same people we are today but for the people we meet and the books we read.’ What is it that gets us through the good times, the hard times? It’s the people we hold close,” she says. “This play really places value on the relationships and the people that stand with us through our crazy, changing times. Value the people that make you who you are.”
Same Time, Next Year • June 13-23: Thu-Sun, 7:30 pm; Sun, 2 pm • $20 ($15 student) • Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center • 405 N. William St., Post Falls, Idaho • (208) 457-8950 • www.thejacklincenter.org