"I've been sitting here making props all day," says actor Christopher Haines, "which is what you end up doing when you start a theater company with no money and no staff."
It's what you do, too, when your union won't let you hire any help. Haines is a professional actor who's working in his own company's show with special permission from Actors Equity.
"I can appear in the show, but Equity won't let me hire a stage manager or a props person or really anyone," he says. "My wife and I and our director are putting this whole thing together."
This "whole thing" is Underneath the Lintel, the première production of iTheatre Collaborative, downtown's newest theater arts company. The show is currently running off-Broadway, where Haines saw it and – after some struggle – secured the rights.
Then Haines made a beeline for Charles St. Clair, a former Duke University theater professor and founder of Cleveland's Fairmount Theater for the Deaf who's now teaching at ASU. "He's someone I knew would understand the direction we wanted to take this new theater."
St. Clair agreed to direct the company's première, which Haines selected "because it was easy to produce." Lintel is a one-person show about a librarian obsessed with finding the scoundrel who returned a book 113 years after its due date. His search leads him to the usual profundities, as well as some surprises.
"The myth of the Wandering Jew becomes a big part of the story," Haines says, "because the librarian thinks that this Jew is the person who returned the late book. Which he then has to prove to others."
Underneath the Lintel is about human struggle, Haines says, "Something we all have in common, and something that iTheatre has in common with its audience. We want to succeed at bringing new plays, but we're certainly going to have a struggle along the way."