Month: September 2016

Blog: A Painfully Relevant Play

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Jared Reed, Jennifer Summerfield, and Brittany Holdahl photo by Kyle Cassidy

Few plays have the staying power to be successfully performed 74 years after their creation. Even fewer plays have a premise so powerful, they coin a term still used by psychologists today. Gaslight (known in the United States as Angel Street) by Patrick Hamilton, running September 29 through October 30, is one of those plays.

To helm a play like this takes an understanding of difficult material, as well as an eye for good drama. Cara Blouin, Hedgerow’s director of Hamilton’s riveting piece, is best known in Philadelphia for work with a social message, including Dan Rottenberg Is Thinking About Raping You and The Republican Theater Festival.

“Gaslight is painfully relevant today ,” states Blouin. The term ‘gaslighting’ came into the world of psychology and then into popular culture via this play. The play—which premiered long before the concept of ‘gaslighting’ illuminated a certain type of abusive relationship—presented an extremely accurate depiction of such a relationship. “So accurate that the script and the movie versions of the play are used as teaching tools for counseling and psychology students.” Blouin explains that gaslighting doesn’t always take place within the context of romantic relationships, “This story will resonate particularly with women, because all women at some time in their lives have been told that they were overreacting, being too emotional or simply misconstruing reality. The play lays bare how helpless the victim becomes when she begins to stop trusting herself, and looks to her abuser for the truth.”

The play and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944 respectively masterfully illustrate the feeling of being In a world where you don’t know if you can trust your senses. With the power of this premise in mind, Blouin seeks to bring the truth of Hamilton’s thriller to light.

Gaslight is a tightly written mystery.  The characters are layered and depthful– as is evidenced by the play’s place in psychology and the larger culture. These characters resonate deeply with me as real people with very real obstacles,” notes Blouin. “Horror is only horrifying if you care about the person that is suffering. The stakes for Bella are very high, and if the audience cares about her, her struggle to keep her head above water will be compelling.”

Blouin was introduced to Hedgerow Theatre by lead actress Jennifer Summerfield, who was immediately attracted to the play and the possibility of taking on the challenging role of Bella.  

“I’m incredibly excited to see what director, Cara Blouin, brings to the table. I’ve long said that she is probably one of three people in Philadelphia who could jump off a cliff and I’d follow. She is incredibly smart and a great communicator and one of my all-time favorite directors,” said Summerfield, “and then to have another opportunity to act with Jared Reed, who is one of Philadelphia’s greatest actors, and one of the most exciting I’ve worked with, is not something I would ever turn down. And it’s just wonderful to be back at Hedgerow, among such kind and giving theatre artists.”

Summerfield is no stranger to Hedgerow, appearing in Macbeth, Hamlet, On the Verge, Don Quixote, and most recently Dracula; however, recently Summerfield has taken to producing her own work, and creating new experiences for Philadelphia theatre lovers.

“This has been an unusually busy season for me, theatrically, which has been really exciting. I’m used to there being months between acting jobs, which is partially why I decided this would be the year to begin producing some of my own work.”

Since that time she and her husband, Kyle Cassidy, produced a site specific production of Hedda Gabler with their theatre company,  Laurel Tree Theater, at the historic Physick House, featuring Jared Reed as Lovborg. Then, Summerfield spent a large part of the spring at People’s Light in the ensemble of Sense and Sensibility and during her down time each night, she memorized the text of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ a one-woman performance at the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion in Germantown.

Summerfield has a deep connection to Hamilton’s story. She grew up watching Bergman in classic films such as Gaslight, and jumped at the opportunity to “be Ingrid Bergman!”

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Cast of Gaslight photo by Kyle Cassidy

“Of course, when I calmed down, I realized what a perfect conclusion Gaslight is to my year of unhappily married Victorian women and what a note of hope the play strikes in this trilogy of plays. Hedda ends in death, Wallpaper ends in entrapment and insanity, but Gaslight is the ultimate vindication for all those 19th century wives living thwarted lives,” said Summerfield, “a woman, long subjugated by the will of another, discovering her true self and coming into her own and persevering. Add in suspense, and you have a perfect play in my opinion.”

The team of Blouin, Summerfield, and Reed is like the aligning of the stars. Though they each come from different backgrounds, and different walks of life, the three found each other to make this play happen.

Adult ticket prices are $34, with a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those 30 and under, as well as students, are $20. 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).

 

Blog: Gaslight Begins September 29

Angel Street (Gaslight) Begins September 29 at Hedgerow

Hedgerow Theatre Company tackles its toughest and most thrilling piece this season with Patrick Hamilton’s Angel Street, better known as Gaslight.

To helm a play like this takes an understanding of difficult material, as well as an eye for good drama. Cara Blouin, Hedgerow’s director of Hamilton’s riveting piece, is the Art Pastor at the Art Church of West Philadelphia. She is best known in Philadelphia for producing Dan Rottenberg Is Thinking About Raping You and The Republican Theater Festival. She also directed Afterlife and Glossolalia, both finalists in the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Theater Festival (NYC).

Gaslight is a tightly written mystery and a horror story for women. The characters are layered and deep as is evidenced by the play’s place in psychology and the larger culture. These characters resonate deeply with me as real people with very real obstacles,” Blouin noted. “Horror is only horrifying if you care about the person that is suffering. The stakes for Bella are very high, and if the audience cares about her, her struggle to keep her head above water will be compelling.”

At the opening of the drama, Bella, played by frequent guest artist Jennifer Summerfield, is on edge, and the stern reproaches from her husband, Jack, portrayed by Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed, make matters worse. Jack is attempting to convince his wife that she is losing her mind by manipulating small things around the house, such as pictures and jewelry, and then insisting that Bella remembers things incorrectly, but the mystery the audience must solve is why.

“Gaslight is painfully relevant today,” Blouin stated. “The term ‘gaslighting’ came into the world of psychology and then into popular culture via this play. It’s about the process of making someone doubt their own reality. The play—which premiered long before the concept of ‘gaslighting’ illuminated a certain type of abusive relationship—presented an extremely accurate depiction of such a relationship. So accurate that the script and the movie versions of the play are used as teaching tools for counseling and psychology students.”

The story has attracted artists such as Vincent Price, who appeared in the original Broadway production in 1941, and Ingrid Bergman, who played the wife in the 1944 film.. It is a deeply moving, and shocking drama that touches audiences profoundly. In a world where you don’t know if you can trust your senses or your spouse, where do you turn?

Adult ticket prices for are $34. There is a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those 30 and under and students are $20. 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).

Get to Know Your Cast

AllieWebHeadAllison Bloechl is a Hedgerow Theatre Company member heading in to her third year. She has previously been see on stage in Hound of the Baskervilles, Boeing Boeing, and Bullshot Crummond. Below, Allie answers a few quick questions about her time at Hedgerow and the upcoming show Angel Street, better known as Gaslight. 
1) What is your experience with Hedgerow Theatre? How did you learn about the theatre?
I’m a fellow going into my third year at Hedgerow where I’ve been able to work in all aspects of the theatre in addition to honing my craft as an actor.
2) What makes a great play for you?
A great play is something that evokes a response whether that’s laughter, tears or learning.  A play should change the people experiencing it from actors to audience.
3) What is one book every artist should read, one class every artist should take, or one play every artist should see?
My absolute favorite book in the history of ever is Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  It’s an amazing story, but what’s more, it delves into the act of storytelling itself, both explicitly and through it’s many stylistic oddities.  Also Meisner’s “On Acting” – particularly the chapter on Duse’s Blush.
4) Why do you like Gaslight?
I love Gaslight.  I studied it in college in a Feminist Theories of Theatre class and it has always stuck with me.  It tells such a realistic story that a form of psychological manipulation after it.  It is characters acting in ways that real people act – holding the mirror up to nature, if you will – and show us as people the ugliness that can lie in the dichotomies of power and sex.  It’s so important for people to experience it.  I am certain that many of our audience members will leave our theatre knowing a lot more about manipulation and will hopefully be to use their experience at Hedgerow to stand up for themselves when they are being gaslight (an experience that happens to virtually everyone) or realize when they are gaslighting someone else.
5) Who inspires you?
In third grade I did a project on Jim Henson, the founder of the Muppets, and I fell in love with something he once said.  He was asked if he subscribed to any particular faith and he responded “my hope in life is to leave the world a little better for having been there”.  It’s a philosophy that I think everyone should try to live by and that’s what I respect so much in other people.  Whether it’s artists tackling important shows like Gaslight, scientists finding life-saving vaccines or someone who just makes people laugh.
6) What’s a great story from a previous show you would like to tell? Tell it:
Every fall Hedgerow does a dramatization of the works of Edgar Allan Poe where different middle schools bus their students to our theatre.  It was the last day before the show opened, and our director, Penelope Reed, wanted us to do a run through in the morning when the shows would be, so our bodies could get used to it.  So we’re all backstage, kinda just hanging out getting ready to go when Zoran Kovic, who does the curtain speech for all of the Poe shows, comes into the theatre and calls out “The Buses are Here” which is the usual sign to get ready to go on show days.  All of us backstage thought he was practicing for the next day when real buses would be there, and one of us called back to him something along the lines of “ha ha very funny”.  Then Penny swoops into the theatre and says “Nobody Panic!  Nobody Panic!” which of course makes us all panic.  We all went into action mode, turned our final dress into our opening performance, and it all turned out great!

Blog: The Adventure of a Lifetime

Hedgerow Sets Sail on the Odyssey Project

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Students from recent production of The Little Mermaid

Hedgerow Theatre School is looking for students who are daring enough to take the adventure of a lifetime, facing down mystical creatures and battling Greek gods, as it embarks on “The Odyssey Project,” a yearlong developmental workshop. During the three-part course, students 12 and up, including adults, will learn about Homer’s Odyssey, work together to create a performance piece based on the epic, and then present it on the historic Hedgerow stage.

At the core of this project is Hedgerow’s drive to train the creators of tomorrow. Since its foundation by Rose Schulman, Hedgerow Theatre School has sought to do more than train actors, but to also give its students skills that will help them in all areas of life as they learn to be independent thinkers, problem solvers and how to collaborate with others. Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed believes in teaching students how to “create for themselves” and “tell stories that have meaning to them.”

Under the guidance of teaching artist Penelope Reed and the Hedgerow Theatre Company, the students will take the tale of Odysseus’ 10-year journey home after the Trojan War and make it their own. Their creative voices and individual talents will drive the process of developing a multi-generational performance work that will incorporate all aspects of theatre.

The first part in the series, Ensemble Building and Storytelling, will take place during the fall semester on Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m. from September 10 to October 29. During the eight-week course, the focus is on learning Homer’s story and the theatre techniques needed to adapt it into a play.

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Students from the recent production of Hairspray Jr.

The next step is Writing the  Play, held during the winter semester on Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m. from January 14 to February 18. The students will take the  knowledge they learned during the fall and and write the script for their own unique play. They’ll choose which characters and scenes to use, whether it should be a drama or a musical fantasy, and craft the dialogue.

The last piece, Creating the Play, will take place during the spring semester, on Sundays from 5 to 8 p.m. from March 11 to May 21. The students will cast the different roles, rehearse, design and help create sets and costumes, and perform their play.  

Students can participate in all three sessions, or choose any that best fit their interests. New students can join in any session. No student is ever turned away at Hedgerow because of need, so scholarships are available.

For more information or to enroll, visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org or call 610-565-4211. The classes will be held at the Hedgerow Farmhouse Studio at 146 West Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).