Orin Wolf loves the Fiasco Theater production of “Into the Woods,” the James Lapine-Stephen Sondheim musical on tour at Playhouse Square. At the same time, the president of NETworks Theatrical Presentations cautions against bringing very young children to the show, a conflation of fairy tales long on the Brothers Grimm that features characters such as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk.
Where the first act ends with the characters living happily ever after, the second “deals a lot with what happens when you get what you wish for,” said Wolf, who grew up in University Heights and Cleveland Heights. “It’s a little darker … some parents will think it’s perfectly fine to bring their kids, while some will want to have caution.
“I think it’s a beautiful show; it’s just with very young kids, are you prepared to talk to them about it? Twelve years old and over, fine. But very young kids, I think it might be challenging for them.”
Wolf, who became president of NETworks Theatrical Presentations in May 2013, lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife, Shiri, and their children: Nomi, 5, and Ruben, 3. Wolf, 37, attended Sinai Synagogue in Cleveland Heights, went to the former Agnon School (now the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School) in Beachwood and Gross Schechter Day School in Pepper Pike and graduated from University School in Hunting Valley.
Then he left the area to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem and graduated from The Hartt School in Hartford, Conn., with a bachelor of fine arts degree. Since then, he’s been deeply involved in productions on Broadway and on national tours like the one bringing “Into the Woods” to Cleveland.
“As the executive producer, as a representative of them, I was sort of tasked with diving into the details,” he said of the Cleveland presentation, a co-production of NETworks and a theatrical company called the Dodgers. “So I really helped with the casting, helped with the tour, worked with the Fiasco guys on all the design elements, putting them on the stage … there were a lot of things to make the show road-ready.
“On behalf of the producing team, I was really the one to sort of manage that.” His role was to coordinate “everything, the casting process, the staging process, and really making sure everyone had all the support they needed.”
Comparing himself to a line producer, Wolf said he wasn’t financing the tour personally but was working on behalf of the organizations that were. “I was really there to manage the process.”
He stressed that he loves this production, which, in its New York debut last year, prompted New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley to fall “head over heels” in love.
Keeping a show running smoothly also is one of his tasks, which explains why he’s coming to Cleveland on Jan. 14 to help ease a new actor into the cast. It’s common for actors to change during a national tour, he said, noting he’s responsible for getting the details right.
An executive producer casts a “wider net” than an actor, Wolf suggested. “I can help create an experience. It’s not just about a performance. … I get to have more effect on the experience as opposed to an actor; acting is very specific. It’s great artistry and I admire it, but ultimately what I found to be most satisfying was in helping build the entire experience, to launch a show.
“It’s a behind-the-scenes role and you get to have your hands in all the pieces,” helping determine what “helps make the experience more clear, more transparent.” he said.
“You can have the most beautiful production, but if the lights aren’t right or the advertising doesn’t look right, nobody’s going to buy tickets.”
Carlo Wolff is a freelance writer from South Euclid.