Month: June 2016

Blog: It’s Farce Time

 

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowNoSex-14It’s farce time at Hedgerow, and this year the style returns to its Cooney roots with Marc Camoletti, Beverley Cross, and Francis Evans’ madcap Boeing Boeing. Bernard (Andrew Parcell), an organized architect, tries to date three stewardesses, each from a different country. His best friend, Robert (Mark Swift), a fun-loving neurotic, comes to visit and finds himself in the worst possible hot-water imaginable as each of the stewardesses arrive at the same time.

Amongst all the mayhem is Bernard’s witty French maid, Berthe, played by Trice Baldwin, who keeps the entire scheme together. Armed with deadpan wit and lightning fast quips, Berthe keeps each of the fiancees at bay, while Bernard tries desperately to fix the situation.

“It reminds me of those old Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movies. The playboy and his buffoon friend. To me it epitomizes the idea of the ‘swinging 1960’s’,” says Baldwin.

Baldwin is also a co-founder of the Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company. WideEyedStudiosHedgerowNoSex-18Although a first time player at Hedgerow, she has deep roots with the company as her husband was a fellow with the company in the late 90’s and her brother-in-law, Paul Parente, has played at Hedgerow multiple times. She received a Bachelor’s in English from Penn State University, and trained with Tom Teti at People’s Light & Theatre Company in Malvern, PA.  From the age of 12, she would visit her oldest sister in New York to see performances of The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park performances.

“Berthe keeps Bernard’s house and ‘affairs’ in order. Without her, Bernard’s plan would be chaos. She’s really just overworked and a bit misunderstood. Underneath it all she’s a kitten. Poor Berthe,” said Baldwin.

Written by Camoletti, Boeing Boeing first premiered December 10, 1960 at the Comédie-Caumartin in Paris, France.  The show is directed by Damon Bonetti, who has previously directed The 39 Steps and No Sex Please, We’re British, and features an all-star cast of Hedgerow favorites including Allison Bloechl and Meredith Beck, and new faces including Hanna Hammel and Baldwin.

“I am so glad I get to the chance work with Damon again. Damon and I first worked together as actors at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater about 12 years ago. He has acted and directed for the theatre company I helped found (Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company). He was the Benedick to my Beatrice and most recently directed our world premiere of Rage of Achilles last summer,” said Baldwin.  

For more than two decades, Hedgerow has been bringing audiences the joy of farce, a comedy that aims at entertaining the audience through highly exaggerated and extravagant situations. Stemming from the French word meaning ‘stuffing,’ or ‘padding.’ In the 1650s, French comedy began to fuse with Italian commedia dell’arte to form a new kind of play.

“It’s such a release and who doesn’t need an escape? I love how  these characters are, extreme, absurd, and inflated parodies of real people. The stakes are so ridiculously high. It’s a way of laughing at ourselves and how (for lack of a better word) stupid we can all be sometimes. It’s just pure, smack-you-in-the-face, FUN.”

The public’s subliminal search for sex, pathos, brutality, and absurdity through entertainment was often satisfied through this theatrical genre and shows how the lower classes often used entertainment to mock the elite. By the end of the 17th Century, France had developed the two principal styles of comedic farce that we still have today: the older Italian style, very broad and physical and acrobatic, and the newer French style, where the acrobatics are verbal, and quick wit dominates over slapstick.

“Timing is everything. A cast with a good chemistry and great timing is what makes a comedy work, in my opinion. Farce is the most difficult, I think. The timing needs to be spot on or it can throw everything off. “

In the 1920s, a new form of farce – the bedroom farce – began to emerge, bringing the comedy of too many doors, hidden onlookers, and sexual innuendo to match the Jazz Age. This is the form of farce Hedgerow audiences have loved for so long, and Boeing-Boeing brings this form to life as good as any play.

“There is so much heaviness in the world right now. In our lives, in the lives of those around us. I think theatre plays an extremely important role in working through some of that heaviness and raising awareness and giving a voice to those who may not have one. But, damn it, sometimes you just need to LAUGH and be entertained.”

For more information on farce, click here. To buy tickets, click here. To see a video of a cat, click here.

Podcast: Trice Baldwin’s Busy Summer

Trice Baldwin HeadshotTrice Baldwin, a first time actor at Hedgerow, is a co-founder of the Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company. Although a first time player at Hedgerow, she has deep roots with the company as her husband was a fellow with the company in the late 90’s and her brother-in-law, , has played at Hedgerow multiple times. She received a Bachelor’s in English, and trained with Tom Teti at People’s Light & Theatre Company in Malvern, PA.  From the age of 12, she would visit her oldest sister in New York to see performances of The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park performances.

Blog: Carlo Goldoni’s Commedia

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowTwoMastersEarlyHigh-7Carlo Goldoni was born in Venice in 1707 and spent his early childhood in the house of his grandfather, a keen enthusiast for the theatre. A toy theatre was the boy’s favorite plaything, and plays his favorite reading.

He was sent to school at Rimini and escaped back to Venice with a theatrical company; he studied law at Pavia, but was expelled from his college on account of a satire which he had written. He took his degree in law at Padua in 1731 and practiced as a lawyer for some time at Venice. But the theatre always interested him more than the law, and from 1734 onwards he wrote regularly for the stage.

His earliest efforts were tragedies in verse and libretti for operas; in 1747 he definitely abandoned the law for the theatre, and produced some hundred comedies and a large number of comic operas. It is by his comedies alone that Goldoni is generally remembered, but his comic operas, set to music by Galuppi, enjoyed in their day a popularity, both in Italy and in England, comparable to that of Gilbert and Sullivan.

The Servant of Two Masters is one of his earliest plays; it was written in 1743 at the WideEyedStudiosHedgerowTwoMastersEarlyHigh-12request of the actor Sacchi, who suggested the subject and himself played the part of Truffaldino. The Italian theatre of that day was dominated by the improvising actors who wore the traditional masks, and in the original form of this play the comic scenes were left to the actor’s own invention. Goldoni wrote them down when he printed the play in 1753, and there can be no doubt that he incorporated a great deal of Sacchi’s traditional business. Mozart had a great admiration for The Servant of Two Masters, and in 1783 contemplated turning it into a comic opera.

The improvised Comedy of Masks, the history of which goes back to the days of ancient Rome, was frequently coarse and obscene. In the early eighteenth century, as Goldoni himself says, there was an English theatre and a French theatre, but no real Italian theatre. The Opera had become the most popular entertainment of the cultivated classes, and even the opera stood badly in need of reform until Apostolo Zeno and Metastasio gave it real literary distinction. Goldoni made it his mission to give an artistic form to the spoken comedy. The four traditional masks which appear in his plays are Pantalone, the Doctor, Brighella and Arlecchino. Pantalone is the old Venetian merchant, wearing the dress of the sixteenth century. By tradition he was merely senile and lascivious; Goldoni made him a model of respectability, while never losing sight of his comic character. The Doctor represents the old man of the educated classes; he is a Doctor of Law of the University of Bologna, pompous and pedantic, much given to Latin quotations. He plays a small part in Goldoni’s plays. Brighella and Harlequin come from Bergamo and represent the two types of servant, knave and fool. Truffaldino is also from Bergamo and is much the same person as Harlequin.

Goldoni is at his best when he lays his scene in his native Venice. His heroes and heroines are conventional figures, often of little interest, but he gives a vivid presentation of types from humbler life, porters, waiters, fisher-folk and gondoliers.

The trend of the age was towards sentimental comedy, and this becomes more and more noticeable in Goldoni’s later plays, especially those written after 1762 for the Théâtre Italien in Paris. The masks disappear and the scene is laid in more aristocratic circles. The earlier plays, written for Venice, deal with middle-class family life; Goldoni’s Venice is the Venice of the remoter streets, not the gay international city of pleasure shown us in Volpone and in the Memoirs of Casanova. Goldoni’s plays are conventional in construction, trivial in incident, undistinguished in dialogue and strictly moral in intention; yet when they are seen on the stage, especially if acted by a Venetian company, no one could fail to enjoy their delightful humour. Goldoni’s puritanism was in fact of an entirely negative type; he simply ignored the coarser and rougher jests because, like Mozart’s Don Alfonso, he saw every little event of daily life from a comic point of view.

Blog: A Note from Aaron Cromie

This is director and adaptor Aaron Cromie’s Director’s Note for the current production of “The Servant of Two Masters.” With four performances left, we wanted to share his words with you.

servant (148)Welcome to Hedgerow’s premiere adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters (1746), a play that has had multiple versions and permutations over the past few hundred years, from the Italian stage to Russian screen and is considered one of the great classic comedies (most recently Broadway’s One Man, Two Guvnors – British Music Hall interpretation).

The characters of this play were born into the Italian Renaissance theatre style of Commedia Dell’Arte (roughly translated as the ‘craft’ of comedy), a highly broad and comedic theatrical style – a precursor to vaudeville, burlesque and Saturday morning cartoons (our hero, Truffaldino, is remarkably similar to Bugs Bunny).

In classic Commedia tradition, actors portray stock characters (often wearing a mask) as the performing company plays off of improvised scenarios, called a canovaccio, each with a very basic plot, replete with wordplay, physical comedy, and slapstick, called lazzi.

Goldoni was a fan of Commedia but felt that its practice of utilizing strictly improvisation as a means of performing had become stilted and predictable. He wished to create a more curated version of the dialogue – built around the skills of the actors he was for which he was composing to showcase his own skills as writer. Where it was once completely improvised, Goldoni’s version of the story became a large step in the uncharted world of the Italian scripted play. It was a huge success.

Similarly to Goldoni’s approach, I’ve tried adapt this script for the strengths of Hedgerow’s performers, which lie primarily in word play, comic folly and straight up silliness.

Long before we ever met, I had the pleasure of seeing Jared Reed perform in Stephen Wadsworth’s Marivaux adaptation of The Game of Love and Chance at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre and knew he had the comic chops to lead our production.

We spent much of our rehearsal period revising the adaptation to include the many things that made us laugh along the way. What you see is a culmination of contributions from the cast and stage management and myself, in what we hope is a wonderful evening of laughter for you all. Enjoy!

Blog: Connecting Audience and Actor

Blog by Brock D. Vickers

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowTwoMastersFinalHigh-218The month of June has came and went, almost. As we reach the end of another month, Hedgerow Theatre Company is in full Summer-Mode with The Servant of Two Masters in its final four performances, the summer farce Boeing-Boeing on its way, and summer camps starting with The Secret Garden.

Like Hedgerow, this has been a busy time for me: learning the part of Florindo and relishing every bare-chested moment of it, studying physical theatre with the Pig Iron Theatre Company, adapting the novel of The Hound of the Baskervilles for the fall Storyboard, and beginning a new project with Hedgerow friend Kittson O’Neill and Shakespeare in Clark Park’s production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona under the direction of KC MacMillan.

And this is what we do. We write. We play. We create. We produce. We play some more. And then, we do it all over again. At Pig Iron, the phrase is “Find the jeu,” jeu being Jacquos Lecoq’s word for “play.”

Since my time at Hedgerow, Jared Reed and Penelope Reed have encouraged creative growth by offering opportunities to create children’s theatre, build more dynamic characters, and learn from the best directors and actors in Philadelphia.

For 92 years now, Hedgerow has stayed true to Jasper Deeter’s mission of artistic growth. As we rap up this production of The Servant of Two Masters, a 400 year-old comedy adapted by multi-disciplinary artist (and currently my teacher) Aaron Cromie, we can see in this play all the things Hedgerow values: new works, a sense of play, bold choices, laughter, excellence, classics, farce, and a sense of bringing the audience and the actor together.

For those of you who have seen Servant, you know that everyone from Truffaldino to the Porter break the fourth wall, and welcome you into the action with quips. For those of you who have not seen the production, well, spoiler alert.

This show has been a true ensemble production from the start. We have laughed our way through the last four weeks of this production, finding new jokes and honing the original ones to make them sharper, using the audience as our greatest gift to find what is funny. With four more performances on the way, we the players, get four more chances to be with an audience and learn what makes them laugh.

 

Blog: The Truth About the Summer Farce

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowNoSex-68Boeing Boeing:  Truing it up.

By Allison Bloechl

Everyone loves a good farce, but not everyone realizes just how much work goes into one.  We’re into our second week of rehearsals for our summer farce, Boeing Boeingand we’re flying (get it?).  We blocked the whole show in one week, and have devoted the second to fine tuning.

Farce is mechanical.  It’s all about timing.  What’s wonderful about Boeing rehearsals is how quickly we’re covering everything.  The sooner we know what, when and why we’re doing what we’re doing, the sooner we can perfect it.

Most of the good stuff happens once the actors are off book, and farce is no exception.  Gigantic physical comedy stunts cannot be crafted and polished fully until scripts are out of hands.  Minuscule moments of timing are painstakingly choreographed to ensure that the jokes land and the audience gets a great laugh.

We’re at one of my favorite points in rehearsal, where we really get to grind out the comedy.  We might work the same five-second bit for half an hour, but it is undeniably worth it.  We get into the nitty gritty details and everything starts flowing.  A mentor of mine calls it the “true-up”.  It comes from a carpentry phrase.  Once all of the walls of a house are up and everything’s in place, it’s time to true it up.  That means, in the carpentry world, making sure joints are flush, all is in place, and there are no loose ends.  It translates perfectly to the theatrical world.  In our true-up, we tighten up our jokes, make sure our choices are good, and figure out how everything flows.  We find the truth in the true-up.

At this point in rehearsal, we’re on our third time through the show.  The first was the initial blocking, the second was broader tweaking, and now we’re at the beginning of the truing phase – the minute details that make a farce a farce.  Of course, nothing is set in stone until opening, but we can now watch the work get better and better and truer and truer with every step.

Everyone loves a good farce and Boeing Boeing is no exception.  Our audiences will love the perfectly timed calamity of one man with three internationally eccentric fiancées.  A lot of work goes into these fast-paced and hilarious shows, all so our audience can get every last drop of comedy goodness.

The Comedy of Maskers

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowTwoMastersEarlyHigh-12Timeless jokes come to life on the Hedgerow Theatre stage when The Servant of Two Masters gets to work from May 26 to June 26 in director Aaron Cromie’s world premiere adaptation of the Carlo Goldoni classic farce.

Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed plays Truffaldino, joined by Hedgerow Company members Zoran Kovcic as Pantalone; Allison Bloechl as Beatrice; Mark Swift as Silvio; Susan Wefel as the innkeeper, Brighella; Brock D. Vickers as Florindo; Josh Portera as Dr. Lombardi, Silvio’s father, and also the second waiter and porter; and Shaun Yates as the first waiter and porter. The cast is completed with guest artist Sarah Knittel as the maid Smeraldina; and guest artist Madalyn St. John as Clarice, Pantalone’s daughter and Silvio’s betrothed.

“This form still works today because it’s how we still work today. Actors like Robin Williams are given a script and make it their own, they riff, they bring their own take to the character and give the world something new about it. We recognize these characters as a culture. We say, ‘That guy’s funny’,and, ‘That guy gets mad,’ so let’s put them in a room and see what comes out. The form lives on because it is so versatile and relevant,” said Reed.

Goldoni first wrote The Servant of Two Masters in 1746. His original version was based on improvisation, but he revised it to make the characters more complex and had it printed in 1753. It retains, however, many of the traditional characteristics of its origin, such as physical comedy and general ongoing silliness, enhanced by clever wordplay. “It’s cartoons….It’s Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. We recognize folly and we laugh at it,” said Reed.  

The play opens at the home of Venetian merchant Pantalone with the celebration of his daughter Clarice’s engagement to her beloved Silvio. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of Beatrice, a lady of Turin disguised as her twin brother Federigo–who was originally betrothed to Clarice before losing his life in a duel with Beatrice’s lover, Florindo–in the hopes of deceiving them long enough to collect the dowry owed to her brother. In the meantime, Florindo arrives in Venice after fleeing Turin to escape punishment for Federigo’s death. The title character is Truffaldino, a servant with an insatiable appetite who wants to double his intake of food, so he secretly takes jobs with both Beatrice and Florindo. He shuttles back and forth between assignments, receiving letters, messages, and money for “his master”, although he’s never sure which one they’re for. The escalating misunderstandings lead to multiple comical complications before all is resolved.

“Aaron and I were talking about what we could do with the talents of the company, and what we could create. It came up, with the success of One Man, Two Guvnors [Richard Bean’s acclaimed update of the play], ‘why not do the original Goldoni?’” said Reed.

The Commedia dell’arte (literally, “comedy of the profession”) was concerned mostly with tangled love intrigues and clever tricks to get money or outwit some simpleton. There were plotting maids, bragging captains, aged fathers and wily widows, all archetypes we recognize in an instant.

“People find truth done in a new and fresh way, funny… Comedy is truth you didn’t expect to have happen. I’ve always thought about it as ‘Comedy is tragedy viewed through the prism of time,” said Reed.

They’re directed by Cromie, who helmed the critically acclaimed Or, this past winter and has adapted the original Goldoni. The self-described multidisciplinary theatre artist is perfectly suited for the job, having studied at the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in California, and been involved in three previous productions of this play.

“Funny is funny no matter the era. So we recognize the connections of comedy, improv, and mask work and the stories come from a place of love. I’ve dedicated a part of my creative life to it, and the stories you can tell are endless,”  said Cromie.

The improvised Comedy of Masks, with a history that goes back to the days of ancient Rome, was frequently coarse and obscene. In the early eighteenth century there was an established English theatre and French theatre, but no real Italian theatre, as Goldoni himself observed. Goldoni made it his mission to give an artistic form to the spoken comedy.

“I’ve always had a love of this style. It’s the birth of cartoons: it’s fast-paced, it’s silly, it’s joyful and it’s meant to entertain people, and to celebrate our folly as human beings,” said Cromie.

The four traditional masks which appear in his plays are Pantalone, Il Dottore, Brighella and Arlecchino. Pantalone is the old Venetian merchant, wearing the dress of the sixteenth century. Traditionally he was senile and lascivious; Goldoni made him a model of respectability, while never losing sight of his comic character. Il Dottore represents the old man of the educated classes; he is a Doctor of Law of the University of Bologna, pompous and pedantic, and prone to bursts of irrelevant Latin. Brighella and Arlecchino come from Bergamo and represent the two types of servant, knave and fool. Truffaldino is also from Bergamo and is a variation of the typical stock character Arlecchino.

The Commedia style of improvisation required actors able to make a serious study of their parts; these disciplined comedians changed forever the standards of acting. The best of them stamped their characters with individuality, freshness and brilliance, and gave value to pieces which often were otherwise worthless. The Commedia dell’arte introduced the professional actor into Europe.

“Comedy is scientific. You have to have the timing and control over the audience to set up the beat, to set up the laugh. A painter has the luxury of painting what he or she feels, but with comedy we have to keep the audience in mind. We do the things that make us laugh, but we have to keep the pattern in mind: the content: the joke. We have to surprise them. We have to bring them truth at an extremity under pressure,” said Cromie.

Goldoni created a new form of comedy by taking the best elements of the improvised style of commedia dell’arte and adding witty dialogue in longer, more complete stories. Commedia dell’arte was primarily short scenarios with stock characters, featuring love triangles, mistaken identities, and disguises. It was the source of slapstick, with lots of physical comedy and an actual “slapstick” used to create a slapping sound.

As a boy, a toy theatre was the Goldoni’s favourite plaything, and plays his favourite reading. He was sent to school at Rimini and escaped back to Venice with a theatrical company; he later studied law at Pavia, but was expelled from his college because of a satire he wrote. He took his degree in law at Padua in 1731 and practised as a lawyer for some time at Venice. But the theatre always interested him more than the law, and from 1734 onwards he wrote regularly for the stage.

The importance of these typical stage characters, which enjoyed at least four centuries of popularity on the European boards, lies in the influence they had on the famous dramatists that followed. Already one can catch a breath of the Shakespearean comedies in the names of the heroes; and one can see that Molière, both as actor and author, learned much from this branch of Italian art. Its influence passed through Holberg into Denmark, where it became a powerful factor in shaping the romantic drama of a later age.

“It’s infectious and it’s fun. Maybe some kid will see this and want to make his own play, with his own jokes. So for the time being we’re telling the story and hopefully somebody will laugh and somebody will be inspired by what we do,” said Cromie.

Timeless Comedy Served-up Double

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowTwoMastersFinalHigh-98Hedgerow Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters Delivers “Timeless Comedy”

Director Aaron Cromie had two major goals when he set out to adapt Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, now playing at Hedgerow Theatre through June 26. First, he wanted to make the cast laugh out loud at the first read-through, knowing that their enjoyment would be incorporated into their performances, and then passed on to the audience. Second, he hoped to make the 1746 masterpiece accessible to present-day theatergoers.

Critics have universally confirmed that Cromie has succeeded in accomplishing both, saying he “reinvents the genre,” and praising the “broad, boisterous buffoonery,” “winking modern references” and “charming personal feel” of the “timeless comedy” brought to life by a “terrifically comedic cast, whose high energy is simply contagious.”

In writing the original, Goldoni was himself attempting to create a new form of comedy improving the then popular commedia dell’arte, which used improvised dialogue and short scenarios with stock characters and situations. He retained the four main character types, a merchant, a doctor, a knave and a fool, and the typical love triangles and mistaken identities, adding witty, written wordplay to longer, more complete stories.

The play begins at the home of Venetian merchant Pantalone where his daughter Clarice is celebrating her engagement to her beloved Silvio. She was previously betrothed to Federigo, who died while defending his twin sister Beatrice’s honor in a duel with her lover, Floridino. At least that’s what Clarice believes until Beatrice arrives disguised as Federigo, hoping to collect the dowry he was owed. Across town, Florindo has fled to Venice to escape punishment for Federigo’s death. Neither Beatrice or Florindo know the other is there, nor that they’ve both hired the title character, Truffaldino, a servant with an insatiable appetite who take two jobs to get more food. He shuttles back and forth between them, never quite sure which master should receive the various letters, messages, and money he’s given. It all adds up to a series of hilarious misunderstandings until the inevitable happy ending.

Hedgerow’s Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed, who plays Truffaldino, suggested the show to Cromie. “Aaron and I were talking about what we could do with the talents of the company,” Reed recalled, “and what we could create using his talents as well. It came up, with the success of One Man, Two Guvnors (Richard Bean’s acclaimed 2012 update of the play), ‘why not do the original Goldoni?’ We love doing farce. The show is meant to be fun, and meant to be shared and laughed at by all.”

It was a perfect fit for Cromie, who studied at the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in California and Antonio Fava’s School for Commeda in Reggio Emilia, Italy. “I’ve always had a love of this style,” he explained. “It’s the birth of cartoons: it’s fast-paced, it’s silly, it’s joyful and it’s meant to entertain people, and to celebrate our folly as human beings.”

With Reed on stage is a cast that a reviewer says matches his “mischievous, energetic brilliance.” Hedgerow veterans Zoran Kovcic and Susan Wefel play Pantalone and the innkeeper, Brighella, respectively; Allison Bloechl is Beatrice; Mark Swift i Silvio; Brock D. Vickers ss Florindo; Josh Portera is Dr. Lombardi, Silvio’s father, and also the second waiter and porter; and Shaun Yates, who also designed the set, is the first waiter and porter. They’re joined by guest artists Sarah Knittel as the maid Smeraldina and Madalyn St. John as Clarice.

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).