by Susan Tiedeck
Prepare for an adventure as Hedgerow Theatre stages On the Verge from January 8 to February 8, the wonderfully wacky comedy by Eric Overmyer, a playwright also known for his award-winning work on the TV shows St. Elsewhere, The Wire, Homicide: Life on the Street and Treme.
Overmyer’s clever play, a comical celebration of life, language and pop culture, sends three intrepid Victorian-era “lady explorers” on a worldwide trek to find unknown lands, which they call “Terra Incognita.” They begin in 1888, traveling through jungles and over mountains, encountering a series of unusual characters, including a cannibal with a German accent, a Yeti and a troll who recites Beat poetry. They also come across a number of unknown objects, and begin to realize that they aren’t just crossing borders, but somehow moving forward in time as they experience such modern novelties as the jacuzzi, Cool Whip and rock and roll. Before their journey of self-discovery and empowerment ends, the trio discover they have the inner strength and resourcefulness to handle anything.
The actors in the four-person cast are all familiar faces to Hedgerow audiences. Executive Director Penelope Reed plays Mary, an anthropologist whose previous travels have taken her through Africa. Jennifer Summerfield, whose recent roles include Horatio in Hamlet, Elinor in Sense and Sensibility and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, is Fanny, the only married member of the ladies, who is writing about her trip for a tabloid. Maryruth Stine, who previously appeared in The Crucifer of Blood, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, portrays Mary, an aspiring lyricist who documents the adventure with her “Kodak.” All of the other roles are handled by Brock Vickers, a Hedgerow Fellow whose credits include Rosencrantz in Hamlet, Julian in Communicating Doors and Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility.
The production is directed by Kittson O’Neil, a New York actor with 20 years experience on stage, film and TV who currently serves as the Artistic Associate at the InterAct Theater Company. She trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Milwaukee Repertory Company. She’s relatively new at directing, but is quite familiar with this play, having portrayed Fanny while in college. She was excited to revisit Overmyer’s work, which she describes as “a delightful, funny adventure in the unknown for the three ladies, who find their true selves.”
Adult ticket prices for Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows are $34; Thursday shows are $29. There is a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those 30 and under are $20 and $15 for students with valid ID. Tickets for the previews on October 23 and 24 are $20 for adults and $15 for students. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18. Prices include all fees and are subject to change. For reservations or more info, call 610-565-4211 or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).
If not for a Christmas gift from a housepainter years ago, Bruce and Christine Momjian of Newtown Square might never have discovered the Hedgerow Theatre. And that would have been a great loss for their family.
“After moving into our house in 2002, we hired a gentleman from our church to repaint the interior,” recounted Christine. “It was his tradition to attend A Christmas Carol at the Hedgerow each year, and he very generously gave our family tickets as well.” This chance introduction to the historic Rose Valley theatre, one mile south of Media, was to change the course of the Momjian family’s life.
“That very first production of A Christmas Carol brought out an interest in the theatre in our eldest son, Matthew, and in 2003, he got involved with the Hedgerow,” said Christine. “He took to acting immediately. After that, our three younger kids got involved, and then my husband and I joined in. We started out doing street scenes and moved up to speaking parts. Now, I’ve lost count of how many productions we’ve been involved with.” Just months ago, Christine played Mrs. Cratchett in A Christmas Carol, and the youngest Momjian child, Catherine, was the Ghost of Christmas Past.
As homeschooling parents, Christine says, “We are probably more intentional about looking for resources for our children than parents who have so many choices offered by their schools. As homeschool parents, we have to plan a little more, and try more things to see what clicks. It is rare to find an activity where the parents don’t just drop the kids off, leave, and pick them up at the end.”
She continued, “Our children have learned so much from their Hedgerow experience – they’ve learned about who they are, what they can do with their voice, how to work with others, how to be on time, follow a script, be responsible, recover from failure, and understand a character.”
Bruce pointed out that most shows at the Hedgerow feature a “huge range of ages – from 5 to 85 is not uncommon. How many experiences are there where kids and adults can collaborate in creating something? It’s really neat to entertain the audience and try to understand how we impacted them. For us it is certainly a very positive experience. Our kids have benefited from the Hedgerow – way beyond what we could offer them on our own.”
The Momjian family also appreciates the collaborative environment provided by the Hedgerow. “In the theatre world, we all know that there are stage parents with unrealistic expectations for their children,” said Christine. “My guess is that most of the theatre programs for kids are dominated by that kind of parent. The Hedgerow has never been that way. Penelope Reed, producing director, does a very good job of keeping the cast humble. There are no prima donnas – everyone is equally important, even the person with no lines.”
Catherine, age 12, recently appeared in the Hedgerow Theatre School presentation of A Little Princess. Said Christine, who was also on stage, “It is a blessing to do something as a family. Our kids don’t do team sports, but the Hedgerow is something we can all get involved in as a family.” Bruce is just finishing a stint on the board of directors, and both parents have volunteered in seemingly every capacity, both on and off stage.
Said Penelope Reed, “Our program is guided by four core values: company-based storytelling, creativity and critical thinking, professional performance, and kindness in community. Catherine and her family bring such joy to the Hedgerow company – it’s like family inside of family. Our spring semester starts at the end of March with Mother Goose and Charlie Brown performance classes in the lead and then eleven weeks of summer camps.”
For information about the Hedgerow Theatre School, camps or performances, visit www.hedgerowtheatre.org, or call 610 565 4211.
This week on The Families of Christmas Carol series of the Hedgerow Theatre podcast we have the Guildays. Pictured above with The Ghost of Christmas present Jim Fryer are Robert and Robbie Guilday, the oldest and youngest of the family. The Guildays have been with us for over 15 years celebrating Christmas the Hedgerow way with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.