Misha Riley listened to theatrical pop and hip-hop numbers emanating from the 99-seat theater. He was sifting through tech rehearsal schedules and publicity statements before opening night.
Riley, a UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television alumnus, is an assistant producer for the musical “Future Sex, Inc.” playing until Feb. 19 at the Lounge Theatre 1 in Hollywood. As assistant producer, Riley was involved in casting, contacting set designers, locating venues and marketing.
Set in a dystopian, futuristic Los Angeles, “Future Sex, Inc.” follows four pop stars as they meet at an underground speakeasy in an attempt to bring down the tyrannical CEO of Monocorp. Monocorp monopolizes the sale of orgasm-inducing bracelets on which the public relies during a sex prohibition era.
Riley grew up with an affinity for theater while attending a private arts school in Berkeley, California from kindergarten to sixth grade. There, he gained experience in several branches of the arts such as drama, dance and musical theater.
“I experimented with several varieties of arts growing up,” Riley said. “I did straight plays for a while but realized musical theater was meant for me because it brought together all that I was passionate about, like dancing, singing and acting.”
UCLA’s program appealed to Riley for its emphasis on a holistic arts education that covers a range of performance disciplines from musical theater classes to stage combat workshops, Riley said.
Alex Vergel, a UCLA alumnus and the emcee for “Future Sex, Inc.,” has watched Riley perform since they worked together on the play “The Killing Game” during Riley’s first year at UCLA. Riley has evolved from a performance artist to producer, with the responsibility of taking the writer’s script and arranging everything from the direction to the venue, Vergel said.
“As an actor, I sadly do not get to work as closely with Misha because he deals with the bigger picture,” Vergel said. “But Misha and I go way back so it is nice to keep it in the family.”
Riley was introduced to the production side of plays when he took adjunct theater professor Michael Donovan’s business for actors course held at the Geffen Playhouse while pursuing acting at UCLA.
After learning about the logistical side of theater, Riley decided to continue exploring production.
During his senior year, he interned with Donovan to gain more insight into the production process. Riley said he learned mostly about casting for productions.
The casting expertise Riley gained through his internship and his prior knowledge of auditioning prepared him to handle some of the casting for “Future Sex, Inc.,” he said.
“I learned to gauge who feels right for a part by seeing who asks the right questions, who has put in the time to do their research and who embodies the attitude of the character,” Riley said. “Also, being a performer, I can understand the actor’s point of view during an audition and further understand who fits a role best.”
Donovan eventually recommended that Riley move on to work for the production company Theatre Planners to help cast, publicize and market “Future Sex, Inc.”
Although Riley has been a performance artist most of his life, his new interest in play production is essential to his understanding of the theatrical profession as a whole, Donovan said.
“I emphasize professionalism in my class because students should have a broad understanding of what it means to be on both sides of the production table,” Donovan said.
With the help of Donovan, Riley grew to enjoy finding the perfect person for a role and remains thankful for Donovan’s tutelage, Riley said.
Even though Riley is no longer performing in front of an audience, he still gets nervous before shows, he said. Because producers are intimately involved with troubleshooting behind the scenes, Riley has to stay focused during the show much like he had to as an actor, he said.
“The show is a reflection of your work as a producer and you want it to be worth the thousands of emails and phone calls,” Riley said.
Riley plans to pursue production professionally because it allows him to be intimately involved with a variety of aspects of the performance, including overlooking set design, direction and casting, he said. Production allows for the most hands-on experience running different facets of a play, Riley said.
“If I were to use an analogy, production is like delivering a baby,” Riley said. “Producers take a play from conception to delivery on opening night and are helping every step of the way.”