Last season, the Olympia Little Theatre took a lengthy midseason break for renovations, removing a dropped ceiling to make room for lights and a new heating and air conditioning system.
This season, Olympia’s oldest theater company is making up for lost time, packing in 10 plays — eight full productions and two staged readings. The season begins Friday night with Neil Simon’s “Last of the Red Hot Lovers.”
“We expanded the space upwards, and we expanded the season,” said Toni Holm, president of the theater’s board.
The connection is fairly direct. The theater’s new heating and air-conditioning system makes summer productions comfortable.
“Having the HVAC means we can go year-round,” Holm said. “‘Last of the Red Hot Lovers’ got going basically when ‘Love, Loss and What I Wore’ closed.”
Of course, the theater can only fit in so many productions, but OLT is cutting the lead time where possible by including two productions that are being prepared elsewhere: “The Cemetery Club,” produced by the Primetime Players of Jubilee, a theater group based at Jubilee Retirement in Lacey, and “Educating Rita,” a two-person production of the play that inspired the 1983 film.
“Our patrons like having choices,” said Kathryn Beall, the theater’s artistic manager. “The more choices we can give them, the better they like it.”
Last season the theater hosted an outside production, the one-man show “Give ’Em Hell, Harry,” and it was popular with audiences.
“John Pratt, who had done that play at other theaters, asked if we would be interested in having it at OLT, and because we had such a short season last year, I thought it would be great to offer our patrons another show,” Beall said. “That went over very well.”
“Rita,” a comedy in the “My Fair Lady” mold, is another of Pratt’s projects. The actor also appeared in the theater’s “Premiere” last season.
The theater also is making the most use of the space with two staged readings, which it’s calling “pop-up plays.”
“We had more plays to stuff into the season than we could get to fit,” Holm said. “We had the idea of trying out a couple of plays as staged readings. They will be auditioned and they will be rehearsed. There won’t be special effects. There won’t be sets.”
The readings are Neil LaBute’s “Reasons To Be Pretty,” part of a trilogy about the modern obsession with physical appearance, and David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” about a struggling single mother and her former lover, now a wealthy doctor who would rather forget his days growing up in working-class South Boston.
“We’re doing 89 performances this year with the regular shows and the staged readings,” Beall said. “That is about 20 percent more than our typical season.”
Rounding out the season are:
“Shadowlands,” a romance about British author C.S. Lewis’ relationship with American poet Joy Gresham. Lewis is best known as the author of “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
“Sorry, Wrong Chimney,” a farce about a man who takes a job as a department-store Santa to earn money to buy his wife a special gift. His attempts to keep the temporary job a secret go awry.
“Boeing, Boeing,” a slapstick comedy about a man with three fiancées — all flight attendants.
“Exit, Pursued by a Bear,” a very dark comedy about a wife who’s been abused by her husband and decides to take revenge in a most creative way: He awakes to find himself duct-taped to his recliner and covered in honey.
“The Tempest,” one of Shakespeare’s fantastical plays and only the second Shakespeare play ever produced by Olympia Little Theatre.
Director Terence Artz also directed “Much Ado About Nothing” for the theater two years ago.