In live theater it’s called “opening night” and it is when the action just begins with its run of the show.
“Post Haste” had a splendid opening night at the Hedgerow, followed by a festive gathering of audience members, management, cast and crew. In my opinion both Penelope Reed and Brock Vickers delivered the message of their respective characters, Emily Post and Edwin Post, Jr., with complete believability and amusement.
As author and director this result was quite satisfactory, to say the very least!
The “buzz” during intermission and after the performance was exciting, filled with the sound of people being pleased, entertained, and that’s a good thing.
That evening and the next day’s matinee concluded my month stay at the Hedgerow, in beautiful Rose Valley. During this time the weather was beautiful until the last few days when the heat and humidity hung over us like a wet blanket, but failed to daunt our spirits.
I lived in a small room at the Little School House, or “dorm” if you will, with seven young, talented, energetic actors in training, along and Hedgerow’s legendary actress cum “house mother”, Susan Wefel, with whom I would often share a glass of wine and good show biz talk at days end. For me the entire experience provided an atmosphere of comfort and support, a memory that will long live with me as I travel onward.
My main concern was not one of the work I was at the Hedgerow to provide or the weather, accommodations, etc., but of what I was going to eat in order to survive my month long stay. Wonderful lead-in to the ever popular Trader Joe’s and their endless supply of frozen delights, French Roast coffee, which I purchased for the house for my own pleasure and can only assume shared by my roommates. Oh, don’t forget the raisin-pecan bread! The next issue was when to eat in order to keep my energy level from dropping to the floor and that was a matter of strategy which I eventually became very adept at conquering.
The daily routine consisted of hours of rehearsal with the actors, re-crafting sections of the script, resulting in many revisions and subsequent rehearsals. For me the work was rarely over after rehearsal, regardless of the time of day or night, as I would most likely find myself at the round table in the kitchen looking for new ways to streamline the flow of my play and new approaches to directing the actors. As I’ve said in previous blogs being the writer and the director often found me in conflict with myself, not wanting to cut dialogue but at the same time knowing it will fly better on the stage. Eventually this process became second nature to me as the rehearsals progressed and I could see what was needed to make a scene work more effectively.
A month without seeing any television, reading a national newspaper, tapping into AOL, listening to a radio (except for an occasional ride in Brock Vickers classy new auto) and guess what; never missed any of it!
When ever time permitted I would either walk into town, attempt to catch the 118 bus or secure a ride from Susan or Ally, and go into town (Media not Philly) and explore the restaurant scene, usually with great satisfaction and some local conversation. However, there would be the issue of getting back to the house or theatre and that often presented a dilemma for me.
My first time out I walked down State Street expecting to “hail” a taxi and when none was evident I asked a bartender to call one for me and then proceeded to wait, and wait until I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and simply approached a friendly face and asked if they were going in the direction of Rose Valley Road, a method I used at least a half dozen times thereafter, for almost everyone knew of the venerable Hedgerow Theatre, and, furthermore, when I told them I was the playwright and director of “Post Haste”, the theatre’s next offering, well let me just say I was “golden”. I actually believe that I became so popular in my quest that kind drivers would look for this lost soul wondering around town seeking transportation!
Well, I think this is a “wrap” for me but not for “Post Haste” and the cast and crew at the Hedgerow where my play will continue to run until June 28. I and my wife, Sharon, are en route to our home in Portland, Maine, via Amtrak, after my bittersweet adieus yesterday with my new found family at the Hedgerow.
Until another time,
Frank E. Reilly
Playwright and Director Frank E. Reilly
Glibly stated, because, as the writer, each cut of precious dialogue is painful, but as the director you absolutely know this surgery is necessary if your play is to have a successful life.
I’m impossibly in love with writing and directing, the way I was with stage acting for many decades, but never had I experienced tackling the job of playwriting and directing together until this fine assignment at the Hedgerow with the world premiere of my play Post Haste.
At the beginning of my work at the Hedgerow I thought it would be a rather simple matter, after all the play was already written and accepted, after many iterations, and hell, I’ve directed a truck load of plays, so what could be so difficult I thought.
About two days into rehearsal my delusion was shattered into tiny pieces, all over the work table, pieces that were once my finished play. Like some immense jigsaw puzzle it lay there disassembled as we began to cut, tape, eliminate, reattach one scene to another, all accompanied by the author’s gritting teeth. However, surgery was necessary if the patient, was to survive and have a successful stage life!
The idea is tackle the dialogue first and be merciless because, as the director, you know what is going to work on stage and what is probably not going to work, no matter how heartfelt is was when you were in the composing stages.
As I went through this process with the cast and dramaturge I began to relax (let go), gain trust, go with the flow, as the director’s vision became clearer with each adjustment.
With Post Haste we had several problem areas that required accuracy; recording the mileage along the journey, the basis of the play, and the geographic tracking of said journey. Consequently, whenever a change in the script was made we had to be certain that these two areas still made logical sense. Not easy!
I say this because you can be sure someone in the audience will be tracking you to find the error, just waiting to “trip” you up!
Being the author you value every agonizing word, phrase, sentence you wrote at 3:00 AM and certainly don’t want to see it casually altered, or simply removed, simply because it hurts. However, you know, as the director, if you are responsible to put this play on the stage you have to be pretty sure it has good legs, and that those legs can walk.
“Author as Director”
Live theater is all about bringing reality to the stage, creating magic for the audience, an escape form their daily routines, and perhaps even elevating their consciousness.
Therefore, this “stuff that dreams are made of” must begin on the page, where the creative process is birthed, the mind free to say what it wishes, not to be hampered by social dogma, perfect grammar (that comes later) or personal inhibitions.
No one can assist you in improving this initial stage unless they have something in writing. It all begins with you the writer before the process of preparing it for the stage can happen.
In summary, as the writer, I had to step away from this initial stage if I were to also direct my work, and not be afraid of criticism, but, rather, to accept alterations to the script as positive break throughs in preparation for clearing the script for the stage.
Now, having written this blog I feel so much better about my job as playwright cum director! Thank you Hedgerow!
Meredith Willson’s classic musical tells the tale of Hill, the traveling salesman who hopes to con the residents of the small midwestern town into buying instruments by promising he’ll create a band and teach the children how to play. The only problem isn’t doesn’t even know how to read music. The 1957 original won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and story has been retold in a 1962 movie, two Broadway revivals and a 2003 TV-movie.
The production has a 31-member cast of students ages 9 to 18 who have been taking a musical-theatre performance class at Hedgerow since early April. The class was led by Joel Guerrero, assisted by Hedgerow Fellow Allison Bloechl and music director Ann Byun. Three cast members also helped out behind the scenes. Caitlyn and Moira McKniff were the choreographers and Armida Flores served as assistant director.
In the cast are Ellie Barrickman and Elizabeth Caulfield of West Chester; Sofia Brzezicki of Springfield; Megan Corner, Caroline Field, Josie InTham, Emma Nederostek, Leah O’Neill and Madeline Theveny of Media; Gabby Dove of Sharon Hill; Jayla Eddins and Armida Flores of Philadelphia; Jaime Fleming of Glen Mills;; Kian Ganbari of Rutledge; Andrew Goren of Mt. Laurel, N.J.; Ella Grossman, Abigail Kanes, and Anna and Michael Tang of Swarthmore; Eric Hadley of Rose Valley; Gabrielle Harrison of Coatesville; Marin Lent and Meagan Walker of Wallingford; Amahd Lopes and Titus Primeeaux of Chester; Caitlyn and Moira McKniff of Brookhaven; Tyler Motlasz of Milmont Park; Allison Rollo of Broomall; Camille Williams of Newtown Square; and Aidan Zimmerman of Morton.
The junior version of the show features most of the famous songs, including 76 Trombones, Goodnight, My Someone, Til There Was You and Ya Got Trouble. The run time is condensed to an hour, making it appropriate for younger children.
Tickets are $10. For reservations, call (610) 565-4211, or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org. Stage One is located at 101 Plush Mill Road in Wallingford, just off Providence Road (Route 252).
Playwright at Large
“Post Haste” is a two act drama based on a true story that appeared in Collier’s Magazine in 1915 and concerns the etiquette doyenne Emily Post and her 20 year old son, Edwin, Jr., as they embark on a cross country journey in a custom made roadster over the Lincoln Highway, the first in America.
The “seed” of this play was begun seven years ago in San Francisco where it was read for the first time to a hand picked ($) audience, at a private home.
It all began, however, at an Off Broadway play while during intermission a casual discussion with a fellow audience member and my wife, Sharon, lead to the story about Emily Post and her legendary cross country journey
Initially it didn’t ring any bells with me, except the “idea” of this privileged woman roughing it, as it were, over unpaved roads, some shabby hotels, bad food and unpredictable weather conditions. How far could this go as a play I pondered that evening trying to sleep, tossing and turning with ideas of tackling the job of developing this incredible story into a play?
I believe in hunches and so I decided to pursue this one upon my return to Portland, Maine, and the first good indication that hunches can pay off was discovering the yellow copies of the original series of this journey in Collier’s Magazine in the library in Bangor, Maine; 9/ 1915, chronicling Emily Post’s entire trip from New York City to San Francisco and the Panama Pacific Exposition.
After piecemealing the information I began my own journey into the personal life of Emily Post and her family, especially her son, Edwin Jr., whom she had taken out of his junior year at Harvard, stating he would learn more traveling with his mother cross country as her chauffeur than finishing out his spring semester.
It was here that the story, i.e. play, began to intrigue me where I was able to visualize how it could look and be played out on stage. My problem, however was that I couldn’t find much information of a personal nature on Edwin so I had to abandon his participation on the journey, leaving it a one woman play. This of course makes the task of writing a play more difficult as there is no interplay on stage, resulting in the actress having to carry the load, and I don’t mean just “line load” but emotions, physical demands and maintaining sustained general interest for the audience.
The first actress to read it publicly was a know film and stage actress and liked it very much but after a producer at the reading approached us with his proposal my actress declined, as she feared her short term memory could not handle the line load. In the reading she was “on book”.
The second actress to read it was at the Dramatists Guild in New York and although a superb actress she was physically wrong for the role of Emily Post, which for me was a priority. I then presented it to a well known Broadway actress who found the concept interesting enough to read it. Here again in the consequent dialogue with her it was obvious, that if she were to accept it, or merely pursue it, I would have to alter the over all message of the play, from a woman undertaking this brave trip to one who was expressing her independence as a “woman”. I felt then as I do now that Emily Post did need to be described so singularly. Although, having said that, I did appreciate this actresses remark “It can’t be all bonbons!”
All during this time I continued to research the life of Emily Post including contacting the Post Institute in Burlington, Vermont where I talked with one of Emily’s Great Grand Daughters who enthusiastically accepted my intentions with her Great Grand Mother’s story as a play. She also put me in touch with her legal people in San Francisco for copyright protection.
I had put, as I said, Edwin aside as a character but now decided to explore him, including him in the play and making it a two character play, but again set it aside until I was introduced to the Hedgerow Theatre and Penelope Reed, the incredible actress who will portray Emily Post.
Also happy to say that through my work at Hedgerow I was able to develop Edwin into a significant character in “Post Haste”, and to plumb the relationship between Edwin and his Mother.
The birth of “Post Haste” will take place at Hedgerow Theatre with Penelope Reed and Brock Vickers, previewing at a matinee on June 10 and running throughout the month.
Playwright and Director of the upcoming Post Haste, Frank E. Reilly, sits down to talk about his days as an advertising agent in New York to returning to his first love, theatre. After seven years with Emily Post, Frank now shifts to the director’s chair to guide Penelope Reed in finding the originator of American etiquette.