I'm learning that producing a fringe show is a lot like running a successful insurgency. You need to strike first, be flexible, and remember that everyone who isn't for you is implicitly against you. We've lost a couple actors since casting the show, which has created certain difficulties, but this is where we all need to remember rule #2, and my cast members who have remained flexible as we have worked to find solutions to the problems that were created by those who have left us all deserve a big thanks.
Before I came to grad school, I worked under the assumption that any text should be editable to the circumstances of those presenting it, and didn't think twice about adapting play texts to my needs when it was the easy way out of a problem situation. Of course, when you're working under a program designed by the American Shakespeare Center, which has, as part of its mission, the stipulation that not more than 25 words can be changed for performance, you feel a certain pressure to take the words a little more seriously.
Of course, it is noteworthy that ASC shows are commonly performed cut (cuts for time are not the same as changing words), and as my recent readings in Tiffany Stern's Making Shakespeare have reminded me, Shakespeare (or his fellow company members anyway) didn't feel like changing the plays to suit the circumstances was a sin, and so I shouldn't either.
With a couple creative strokes of a pencil, I have reduced the number of players necessary to put up Merry Devil from 11 all the way down to 10. I know it doesn't sound like much of a difference, but really that one extra person is the difference between present success and failure. Also, dare I say that my cuts make the show better? I think I do; the ending that comes down to us is the punchline of a joke that's never told in the text, and it feels linguistically anti-climactic. The changes I've made to the script change that.
Of course, if anyone else leaves, I'll figure out something else. I'm flexible.