Miles Marek of Fairfield believes that the play’s the thing, an attitude that has taken him all the way to Broadway.
The Fairfield Theatre Co. (FTC) founder’s first Broadway producing effort, Grace, opened Oct. 4 and runs through Jan. 6 at the Cort Theater on West 48th Street in New York City.
And even though the job — raising money — is much the same as what he did in Fairfield, the investors have different incentives for plunking down their hard-earned dollars.
“[For a Broadway show] you’re asking someone to contribute money, and there’s a chance they’ll make it back, profit,” Mr. Marek said. “That makes it exciting for investors.”
Lack of investors led him away from the nonprofit FTC. The FTC was founded in 2000 and was launched in its current space near the Fairfield train station in 2004.
The FTC began with “groundbreaking” off-Broadway plays direct from New York City.
But by 2006, the momentum had fizzled and the space needed to be filled with concerts, which cost less to stage.
“It turned out to be a great concert venue,” Marek said.
But Fairfield Theatre Co. began hosting concerts primarily to keep afloat.
“We got into doing concerts just to survive,” he said. “We got really good at it.”
Marek enjoyed doing concerts but began to miss plays, which had been his passion since his days growing up in the Chicago area and studying theater at the University of Illinois.
“It was clear to me, I wanted to get back [to plays],” Marek said.
The FTC did not have the resources though.
“To do theater, you have to have upfront capital,” Marek said.
And he did not think the FTC would be financially solvent enough to afford plays anytime soon.
“I recognized it would be a long time before we got back to doing plays,” he said.
So a little more than a year ago, he left.
John Reid took over Marek’s role as executive director at the FTC and continued with concerts.
“It’s really all they do now, and they do it well,” Marek said.
Marek applied for and was accepted to New York City’s Commercial Theater Institute (CTI) program for aspiring producers.
“A lot apply,” he said, “but they only take 20 a year.”
The program he was accepted to started last January and ran 16 weeks.
Jed Bernstein, program director at CTI, invited Marek to get involved with Grace.
“I joined because I know the playwright’s work — it’s phenomenal,” Marek said.
After reading the script by playwright Craig Wright, Marek was hooked.
“I read the script and was blown away by it,” Mr. Marek said. “It’s a tough and unusual play.”
The interactions between the characters especially captivated him.
“I love the way Craig Wright deals with personal relationships,” he said. “The nuance and subtleties.”
And the surprises.
“He has a way of sneaking up on you,” Marek said. “You never quite expect it, you never see it coming.”
Although primarily known as a playwright, Wright is also an Emmy-nominated television writer whose credits include Six Feet Under and Lost.
“I think he’s an amazing writer,” Marek said.
He notes that Grace walks some interesting lines in its storytelling, questioning ways of thinking such as is there a God or is it all random.
“It borderlines between faith and science, knowledge and belief,” Marek said.
The audience leaves energized, he said.
“It’s a very powerful 90 minutes,” Marek said.
The cast is comprised of Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Kate Arrington, and Ed Asner.
“Ed Asner steals the show,” Marek said of the actor arguably best known for his portrayal of Lou Grant on the long-running Mary Tyler Moore television show and the spinoff named for its protagonist.
“It’s a very small part,” he said. “He’s on at the beginning and the end.”
Marek shared insight into Asner’s personality.
“He has a grumpy demeanor on the outside,” Mr. Marek said. “But he’s a very warm and lovable guy.”
The show has received “really good” reviews, according to Marek. And after a dip in sales during the recent autumn storms, things have picked up again.
Marek has seen the play three times himself and plans to go back one more time during the run.
“Each time I’ve seen it, I’ve noticed something different,” he said.
Up next, Marek just joined the producing team in a new one-woman play written by and starring Holland Taylor, who plays the mother on the television show Two and a Half Men. The play is titled Ann, and is based on the life and politics of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
“I am very excited about this new project,” Marek said. “It appeals to me for many of the same reasons I got behind Grace. … the writing, the cast, and it is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.”
Ann will start previews at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York in February, and is set to open in March. Tickets are already on sale.
Marek is back where he belongs: working on plays.