Leslie Ann Boyden and Teresa Kozin take a break from hiding in the wings of the Hedgerow Stage and let us in on a few tried and true secrets about stage managing. Enjoy this exclusive talk about keeping a murder on track
“One of the most famous fictional characters of all time, the inimitable Belgian private detective is synonymous with waxed moustaches, perfectionism and little grey cells. Poirot would be the first to call himself a great man – he has never been known for his modesty – but with such success in his career, it is difficult to argue with him.” From Christie’s website.
- Austin Trevor was the first to play Poirot on screen (1931, Alibi).
- Once famous, Agatha Christie refused to allow Poirot to appear on book jackets.
- Christie thought Sad Cypress would have been a much better read without Poirot.
- Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case was written in the 1940s and locked away until 1974.
- It took David Suchet almost exactly 25 years to film 70 Poirot stories.
- 1971.The Nicaraguan government put Poirot’s face on a postage stamp.
Thanks to dramaturg, Rebecca Cureton.
Audiences can test their crime-solving skills against those of master detective Hercule Poirot in a “whodunnit” contest at the world premiere of The Mysterious Affair at Styles at Hedgerow Theatre from March 17 to May 8. Artistic Director Jared Reed’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s first novel, published in 1920, brings the tale that introduced Poirot to the stage for the first time.
The Belgian sleuth has recently resettled in England because of World War I. He is called in to help his friend Capt. Arthur Hastings at Styles Court, an estate outside London where Hastings is recuperating from a war injury. Its wealthy owner, Emily Inglethorp, is found dying of strychnine poisoning the morning after she was overheard arguing with an unidentified person. It’s a difficult case because there are so many possible suspects, all of whom could have had reason to want to Emily dead: her much younger husband, Alfred; her two stepsons, John and Lawrence Cavendish; John’s wife, Mary; Cynthia Murdoch, the orphaned daughter of a family friend; Evelyn Howard, her assistant; and Dorcas, the eavesdropping maid. Poirot and Hastings team up to search for clues and uncover a tangled web of lies and deceit.
Theatergoers can vote during intermission at each performance for the character they believe is the culprit. The winner, selected from those who correctly name the murderer, will receive two tickets to the next Hedgerow show, The Servant of Two Masters, a classic Italian farce by Carlo Goldini.
Zoran Kovcic leads an ensemble of new and veteran Hedgerow actors as Poirot, a role he’s playing for the fourth time, having received rave reviews for his previous performances in two productions of Black Coffee in 1993 and 2011, and in Alibi in 2001.
Two of his castmates from the 1993 Black Coffee, Shaun Yates and veteran actress Susan Wefel, portray Hastings and Dorcas. They’re joined by company member Brock D. Vickers as Lawrence, Fellows Allison Bloechl as Evelyn, Mark Swift as Alfred and Josh Portera in multiple roles; returning players Stacy Skinner as Emily and Ned Pryce as John; and newcomers Emily Parker as Cynthia and Bonnie Baldini as Mary. Reed also directed the production.
Adult ticket prices for Friday, Saturday evening and Sunday shows are $34; Thursday and Saturday twilight shows are $29. There is a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those 30 and under are $20. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18. Members can purchase half-price tickets for all shows. 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).
At some point in their acting experience, every actor has run into the same problem – forgetting their lines. Whether they’ve been in the business for their entire life, or they’re performing in their very first play, every actor reaches the point where they just can’t remember what they were supposed to say. Sometimes it comes back to them right away, and sometimes it doesn’t; however, actors are trained on what to do in the unexpected latter situation. In the event where an actor would forget their lines or something unplanned would occur, a trained actor knows just what to do – improvise.
Improv, or improvisation, is a crucial part of becoming a skilled, well-trained actor. Every actor has to know what to do in the case that they forget what they have to say, or if someone else does. No one wants to just stand on stage, looking like a deer in the headlights, making it very clear to the audience that they have absolutely no clue what to do next. In order to prevent embarrassment, actors are taught to learn how to improvise.
Often, improvised lines or situations can even end up being a great addition to the show. In some cases, improv is even what certain actors prefer. Special troupes and clubs off acting classes and other opportunities that are rarely scripted, leaving the actors to create entire performances focused mainly on improv. These groups can lead to careers based in improv, such as roles in popular sketch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live.
It was actually during a situation of accidental improv that famous comedian Amy Poehler first realized she wanted to be an actress. During an elementary school production of The Wizard of Oz, in which Amy Poehler was playing Dorothy, she forgot her line and had to improvise. The laughs and reactions she got were what first inspired her to start acting.
I, Gabby, have a similar experience, although I am highly uncomparable to Emmy-winning actress Amy Poehler. I was in my very first performance in the 5th grade, a play called Knights of the Rad Table that was a parody of the time of King Arthur and the Renaissance. I played, if I can remember correctly, a ghost and Damsel #2. During a rehearsal, in which I was playing the damsel role, I messed up and accidentally pointed the wrong direction as I yelled, “Let’s go this way!” The group I had been directing this instruction to promptly went the other way, as they had been instructed to, while I wandered off in the opposite direction. Our director thought it was so funny that she kept it that way, and my wrong, albeit funny, mistake was included in the actual performance.
Here at Hedgerow Theatre School, we believe that improv plays an essential part in building up the skills of a young actor. Not only should an actor be trained to know what to do in the event of forgetting their lines, but having proper improv knowledge can improve both an actor’s skills and the production itself. Improv games such as ‘Freeze’ and ‘Taxi’ can help to demonstrate that a story can go any way, and an actor just has to roll with it – because that is their reality, no matter how crazy it may seem to those looking in. Improv teaches actors how to work on their feet, encouraging creativity and lessening the nerves that are often described as “stage fright”.
Improv encourages actors to insert themselves into scenes and to get involved. I know that, from personal experience, improv has really helped me to come out of my shell and ease some of my stress about performing in front of others. This can be especially helpful in the cases of our younger students, who are more likely to get nervous up on stage. Which is understandable, of course. Getting up in front of people and doing silly things, especially if it’s your first time doing so, can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience. Improv is a tool used by actors to make this experience just a little bit less scary.
Improv is a widely popular acting technique in the Philadelphia region; clubs such as ComedySportz and PHIT Comedy offer classes and other improv opportunities. Hedgerow Theatre’s own teacher and acting fellow, Brock Vickers, is a trained improv actor who participates in these improv groups in the city as well as improv opportunities with Hedgerow.
This coming April, he will be teaching a improv class for teens. Improv Your Own Play will be held on Saturday mornings from April 9th to June 4th. More information can be found on Hedgerow’s website, under the ‘Youth Classes’ section of the Education tab. We as the Hedgerow Theatre School teens are very excited to participate, and we hope to get lots of other students along with us as we explore the wonderful world of improv!
Emily Parker and Bonnie Baldini are new to Hedgerow Theatre. Both recent graduates, from Muhlenburg College and Temple University respectively, the two young actors join the cast of Stylesas tragic heroines, each with a secret to hide. In this podcast, they let us in on secret or two of their own.
Jennifer Summerfield is no stranger to the classics. Summerfield portrayed Lady Macbeth, Horatio in Hamlet and even Van Helsing in Dracula at Hedgerow Theatre, and recently co-produced and played Hedda Gabler. She is now appearing in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility for the second time; she was Elinor in Jon Jory’s adaptation at Hedgerow Theatre, and is taking on two roles in People’s Light & Theatre Company’s adaptation by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan..
“What draws me to Jane Austen is the many layers of communication employed by her characters,” Summerfield explained, “and the importance of language both as a means of conveying information and a method for covering the passions that lie beneath the surface in a supposedly well-ordered society. I have always marveled at how Austen so artfully criticizes the prejudices and hypocrisies of early 19th-century society as her characters navigate their way through the very real dangers of economic and romantic uncertainty with intelligence, wit and strength.”
Summerfield took her first acting classes as a teen at Hedgerow, then continued studying in Paris during a junior year abroad while earning a BA in French literature from Smith College. It was during this time she decided to make acting her career. Later, in New York, she earned a certificate in the Meisner Technique from the Neighborhood Playhouse. Although she had been an actor for many years, Hedgerow’s production was Summerfield’s first time working with Austen, something she’d wanted to do since a teacher gave her Emma to read in the eighth grade.
“To go back and read Austen, whose characters, to a large extent, make their own fates, with humor, integrity and intelligence,” she observed, “is particularly valuable for young readers today. And her characters know how to state an argument and debate it and, in the end, triumph, which in this day of fragment sentences and emoticons, is a particularly valuable reminder of the power and beauty of language.”
By the mid-18th century, sensibility had become idealized as a natural capacity for emotional responsiveness that manifested itself in both men and women as compassion for the unfortunate, an ardent love of nature, delicate artistic tastes and, above all, an instinctive aversion to immorality. Despite its critics, the concept of “sensibility” was a huge influence on the artistic, literary and intellectual movement that became known as “Romanticism” in the early to mid-19th century. Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811 as the first of Austen’s six novels, is a witty social commentary on the society of the time. The Dashwood sisters, the older, rational Elinor and the younger, wildly romantic Marianne, are left with no fortunes and thus have the difficult task of finding suitable husbands after their father dies.
Appearing in two different versions has been a fascinating experience for Summerfield. “Each production was entirely unique, from the adaptation used to the size of the theatre and the size of the cast,” she reported. “Playing Elinor at Hedgerow, I was focused primarily on her track of the story, and realized how so much happens around her while she attempts to hold everything together. Performing in the People’s Light production as a servant and Sophia Grey, I’ve realized how varied the Dashwoods’ experiences are and how many different scenes and worlds they inhabit.”
People’s Light’s production brings a cast of 19 to the Leonard C. Haas Stage through March 20. Summerfield has been fascinated to view Austen through the “peepholes” of the adapters.
“The adapter in this case is a playwright who is bridging two entirely different literary forms,” Summerfield revealed..”He or she interprets the novel for you and decides what the audience should see…In the case of Sense and Sensibility there’s a great deal of exposition in the novel, but not a great deal of dialogue… and I think both Jory and Hanreddy/Sullivan do a wonderful job of making the audience fall in love with the characters on stage.”
The Jory version, used at Hedgerow, is more episodic, using characters popping in and out for comedic effect, and filtering much of its story through the eyes of Elinor. The Hanreddy/Sullivan adaptation at People’s Light, however, spreads the dialogue out between characters so the audience gains admittance to the evenings spent at the Middletons’ and dances in London.
People’s Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355. For tickets, call 610.644.3500 or visit www.PeoplesLight.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media). For more info about their season or for tickets, call 610-565-4211 or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org.
Zoran Kovcic (Hercule Poirot) and Shaun Yates (Hastings) are no strangers. Since Shaun’s arrival at Hedgerow over five years ago, he and Zoran have been a team. Most recently, Shaun and Zoran have been the masterminds behind many of Hedgerow’s sets; however, with Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Stylesthe two rekindle their acting relationship to make up Christie’s dynamic duo.