Being Producer of Rabbit Hole

May 19, 2015     / / /

Mahesh Umasankar

“I am the Producer of a Rabbit Hole” is not a complimentary way to identify oneself. But, for that matter, the way the characters in the play treat each other is not exactly complementary either. So, it all fits in very well. When the director explained my role to me, I heard it as ” Just shut up and drive the bus ! .. And oh by the way, be the conductor too”. It is plain and simple, I need to get us there on time and with minimal casualties. Especially, when the bus is full of kids bursting with creative energy wanting to do their own thing, it makes it that much more fun, exciting and scary. And if you think, being a seasoned veteran in the valley with project management skills was going to save you, think again. For, unlike every other project I’ve worked on, plays have a fixed schedule, a fixed scope (thanks to stubborn directors who never give that up), and diminishing resources. Throw that triangle theory right out of the window. But, there is one big bright spot for the producer. The customer does not know the product specifications. And, by the time they figure it out, it’s too late … they are standing and clapping already.

The producer sort of lives in a parallel universe, or rather a matrix world, loitering the corridors and alleys looking for fires, anticipating them and hopefully not creating any. All along, letting the masters of the art work furiously sculpting away at the product. For a moment, it might seem like the producer owns every part of the puzzle and one might conjure up visions of the five finger exercise. It is true, except that the strings are being pulled the other way and in multiple directions simultaneously.

Why am I doing this? With a script as brilliant as “Rabbit Hole” and in the hands of an able director, I wanted to touch the product in some way. Throw in a talented cast and crew, not to mention a marketing contingent (which never sleeps) breathing down our necks, it has been a blast. To steal a line from “Hugo”, we are like a machine.. There are no extra parts (which includes “nuts”). You dont know a part existed until it goes AWOL. While I have no creative responsibility, the constant brushes with people who have it, leads to passive inhaling of creativity. Over time, the play and people start to grow on you. Case in point is this write-up which carries a tone so symbolic of the dysfunctional quality of the family in “Rabbit Hole”.