Director Michael Fennimore fidgets a little when asked how many costume changes there will be in Tina Howe’s Museum, opening December 3 at the McCormack. Forty characters, no two even remotely similar to each other and played by 18 actors, make their way through an art museum.
The play itself has no discernable plot in the traditional sense, Fennimore says. Museum could almost be described as 38 individual one-character plays interwoven to chaotic, and often hilarious, effect, as it explores how individuals experience art.
“This really is character driven,” Fennimore says. “The writing is very good, very funny. I want to make each character that comes into the museum, museum pieces themselves – like art looking at art.”
“It’s about the outrageousness of people, a day in the life of a modern art museum and the guard that tries to keep everything in order,” Fennimore says. “Every character reacts to art in different ways. Some are overly enthusiastic, some question it, and some hate it passionately.”
This onslaught of characters rarely interact with each other. When they do, they might be talking about entirely different things. Action is constant, and “even the person saying nothing and sitting by themselves,” Fennimore says, “is definitely up to something.”
Only two actors play the same character throughout – one, the much put upon security guard attempting order in the chaos. There may be unseen chaos as well, as 16 cast members play the remaining 38 characters. Off-stage costume changes need to be planned with as much care as the onstage antics, and will undoubtedly be a challenge.
Howe herself, who penned Museum in 1976, has said she intended the large number of characters to provide ample opportunity for actors and directors to explore creative staging and character development.
Fennimore is taking that cue, encouraging the cast to explore, create, and understand why each and every character is in this museum on this night – and push the boundaries.
“They’re loving it,” he says. “Each one is writing out a character study and I’m encouraging them to be as outrageous as they want to be, and I’m throwing more at them. As a director, I’ll reign it in if we need to, but I’m really giving them a lot of license to discover their characters.”
“We’re laughing an awful lot in rehearsal,” Fennimore says.
Museum, by Tina Howe, Directed by Michael Fennimore, runs from Dec. 3 through 11, at the McCormack Theater, performances 7:30 pm, with a 2 pm matinee on Dec. 5. Tickets and information is HERE