Last April, junior Austin Lamewona’s idea for a musical, one he came up with as a junior in high school, was realized when “Octets” completed a four-show run in Studio 88.
Lamewona said that producing the completely student-run show was probably the second biggest risk he has ever taken in his life.
His biggest risk? The “Octets” tour he’s in the midst of planning.
After showing to a full house at Miami, “Octets” will be touring from May 30-June 8, 2019 at various venues in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. The tour will include seven workshop performances, which will not feature full sets or costumes.
However, a tour of this scale was not something Lamewona thought would actually happen. For a while, the idea seemed daunting.
“A lot of people asked me jokingly after the production, ‘When’s Octets going on tour?’ and I’d be like, ‘Uh, what do you mean?’” Lamewona said.
Miami alum and now producer Michael Ingersoll happened to be visiting campus the weekend of “Octets” last semester. Theatre department chair Julia Guichard was impressed by “Octets” and arranged a meeting between “Octets” creators and Ingersoll.
When Lamewona and Nick Witzeman, Miami Class of 2017 graduate and composer for “Octets,” met with Ingersoll, one of the first things the producer asked them was where they saw the show going.
“I was like, ‘Well obviously Broadway would be nice,’” Lamewona said. “I felt weird saying it, but that’s where I want to be, that’s what I want for this show, and he took it at face value and was like, ‘Ok, let’s work back from there.’”
Lamewona took the producer’s advice and spent the summer working on the business side of “Octets,” in addition to the production elements. He made a website for the show, gathered friends to record songs and continued to develop his portfolio.
“It’s gonna be hard to just submit this show to companies,” Lamewona said. “We don’t have any credentials other than I’ve written a couple plays and Nick has an album on Spotify. There’s nothing within us that would make people think that this is a good show before watching it.”
To help find and secure venues, junior Julia Jones has transitioned from stage manager of “Octets” to company manager. As the team’s resident Cleveland native, she is in charge of all of the logistics for the Cleveland leg of the tour.
“The atmosphere of the team has definitely changed between the Studio 88 performances and now, as we prepare for the 2019 summer tour, because we know that this is an intense venture,” Jones said. “We’ve been treating the tour as a serious professional opportunity for all of those involved because that’s what it is.”
One of the venues Jones has helped book is Near West Theatre in Cleveland. Though there are still a few details to work out before it is official, this is the type of venue that the team is looking for — 275 seats, located in the Gordon Square Arts District and, most importantly, enthusiastic about the production.
“That was a big breakthrough for us because we have been unsure of venues and wondering, ‘can we get this show to happen in a way that’s not like we’re just performing at high schools or random events?’” Lamewona said. “We have a legit theater with an already established audience base that we have reserved.”
The “Octets” team knows they have a long way to go in planning and executing their tour, but Lamewona has been working on the production every day for the past two years and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“People have sacrificed their time to put into this project,” Lamewona said. “I almost feel a responsibility to those people to make sure that this reaches its full potential.”