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Humanity as It Is

Enter the provocative world of master playwright Anton Chekhov’s Russia as tension and secret ignite into comedy at Hedgerow Theatre in Uncle Vanya, February 9 to March 5.

Vanya and his niece, Sonya, have toiled for years to keep the family estate going, when Sonya’s father, retired Professor Serebryakov, returns with his new wife Yelena. All work comes to a halt as buried resentments and forbidden feelings resurface. Vanya thematically focuses on the idea of a “wasted life,” as each character is consumed by lethargy and regret over their unsatisfactory lives; however, through Chekhov’s wit the dialogue is both pointed and comic.

Under the direction of Barrymore Recommended director of On the Verge Kittson O’Neill, Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed steps into the role of Serebryakov with his mother Penelope Reed as Maria along with an all-star Philly cast including Adam Altman as Vanya and Jennifer Summerfield as Sonya.

“It’s wonderful for us as a theatre company, because Chekhov is one of the great writers of drama and you have to be working at your best to meet him…He shows us that people don’t change – we still feel and process and laugh and cry over the same wonderful and absurd things, and to experience life that is funny at the same time it is sad, and the sad makes it funny, as the fact that you laugh makes it sad,” said Reed.

A founder of both the modern short story and modern prose drama, Chekhov was intimately acquainted with nineteenth-century provincial due to the debts amassed by his father. He became a tutor and writer in order to support himself, ultimately choosing to study medicine. Throughout his life Chekhov would have two loves, famously quipping that medicine was his lawful wife, while literature was his mistress.

“Chekhov is always relevant. His characters are like us in every possible way, with love, and sorrow, and caring. Chekhov is unmatched when it comes to showing us humanity, as it is,” said Reed.

Though he would not live to see it, Chekhov died of tuberculosis in Germany in 1904, he would transform the modern theatre. Chekhov’s plays use indirect action, focusing on understatement, broken conversation, off-stage events, and absent characters as catalysts for the dramatic action of a realistic play.

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).

Painting the Colors of the Universe

When given the opportunity to return to an absurd, gleefully dark galaxy, artist Phoebe Titus jumped at the chance. After drawing last year’s first instalment of Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Titus again puts her pencils and brushes to use to create images from Adam’s words.  

“Drawing, painting, and creating are funny things.  They take a lot of time and a lot of work.  Actors probably have a similar experience when they’re in a role; you inhabit your work while you’re doing it, so it invades your whole life.  It’s fun to have a project where all the images are imaginative and fun…There are also some unique challenges to making images that get projected live behind people.  Brush strokes, movements, and colors look very different in that context and it’s fun to see it all come together,” said Titus.

Though all rules are bent in Adams’ Galaxy, it is the limitations of the medium that make the story powerful, and also give Titus the inspiration to paint.

“One of the best things about doing this project is trying to come up with what everything and everyone is going to look like.  How do I really get the character of Majikthise across?  What’s so magical about his thighs? What about the couch that comes alive?  What sort of couch comes alive? Is it cushy? Ratty? Modern? These are fun questions to ask!”

With these questions in mind, and many more, Titus creates the art of Adams’ Universe. It is a time and place reminiscent of the Twilight Zone if it were written by Monty Python. Hitchiker’s is an absurd look at reality through the guise of satire. By allowing the listener, or the reader depending on your favorite version of the story, to laugh at the banality of the Galaxy we are better able to laugh at ourselves.

To Titus, the genius of Douglas Adams’ writing is that he’s able to turn everything on its head:  Eternity is a joke, people are people, aliens are fundamentally flawed in the same way people are, and time plods on no matter where you are in it.

“Nothing and everything matters.  It’s comforting, almost cozy.  Then there’s the wonderful way he drags everything to its absurd logical conclusion, like the creatures who evolve several times a day because they’re so impatient, and how inconvenient that is for them.  The common theme is that everyone’s lives are annoying, full of idiots who don’t know what they’re doing, and destined to end at any moment.  Yet somehow he makes that all seem hilarious and endearing.”

Titus was first attracted to the “gleefully” dark humor of the material. “They get flung all over time and space while this planet or that gets exploded yet they’re all hung up on bickering with each other and trying to get a drink.”

Philosophy, stupidity, and the mundane mix as Adams’ worlds collide, reconfigure, and expire. With odd characters at every turn and clever turn of phrases lurking in every narration, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is bound to entertain young and old.

“My kids saw Part 1 last year and have been familiar with the stories for years, so that cat’s out of the bag; however, if I was to try to pinpoint what I’d like them to take away from this I’d want them to know that they shouldn’t bother trying to figure out the meaning of life and just focus on living.  Then I’d remind them to make sure they keep their phones clean and sanitary.  It’s the little things, you know?”

In part two, the characters visit the legendary planet Magrathea, home to the now-collapsed planet-building industry, and meet Slartibartfast. Through archival recordings, he relates the story of a race of hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings who built a computer named Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Ford and Arthur find themselves trapped on primitive Earth as Zaphod makes a run for it.

 

Wisdom Through Madness

Wisdom through Madness

Click here to install your Babel Fish Reader.

Douglas Adams is one of the most recognizable authors of our time. Next to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and perhaps John Grisham or Stephen King, Adams brand is easily one of most memorable and enjoyable series to ever be produced.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a radio play that was adapted into a book that became trilogy in five parts that then became a television show which was adapted into a movie that did not quite live up to the hype that then returned to television. Somehow or another this story has ended up here at Hedgerow Theatre, and that is exactly what this fascinating ride is: a story.

No matter the form, no matter the method, the arc stays the same. Adams wrote in a witty, sardonic tone that equalled that of Charles Dickens. Each character seems to posses a quick whip or a beautiful simplicity, but either way it is Adams way with words that draw us in.

It is as if the Trickster god has stepped behind the keyboard, and is offering up sage wisdom through irony and puns.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened,” writes Adams.  

If Adams is a bit of Loki or Anansi, his desire is to transgress. He breaks social taboos by placing them in far off vessels and allowing us to see the ridiculousness of a belief, crosses between worlds and time as a passenger unnoticed, and presents multiple contradictory truths.

It is as if Harlequinno or Truffaldino has taken hold of the pen and become the scribe. The Fool stands the test of time, whether he is in commedia or cartoon, because he places for us, a context of madness.

“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans…” writes Adams.

If we look at another dramatic example from Shakespeare’s King Lear, Lear’s Fool functions as the same role. Loyal and honest, he comments upon the king’s actions as well as functions as the king’s conscience. The Fool is able to point at the faults of the king, and through irony, sarcasm, and humor he eases the truth to protect and educate his friend.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be,” writes Adams.

In this example, we are Lear: mad, betrayed, heart-broken, confused, and lost. It is the Fool who writes to us and allows us the opportunity to see truth through comedy, to swallow the sugar-pill of knowledge with a smile. Adams zanny Universe offers us a chance to laugh at our own stupidity, at our own futility, and our own fragility.

Whether it is Loki or Harley, Adams or Mel Brooks, the clown speaks the truth that no one else can say. He plays the trick that forces us to see reality. He bends the laws in order to show us what things could be.
As we prepare to open The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Part 2, we prepare to imagine how the Universe might be, what aliens might be like, and how we would act if faced with utterly ridiculous circumstances.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams

by Allison Bloechl

The worlds of science fiction and snarky humor received the most fantastic joint gift on March 11th, 1952.  On that day, far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy on a little insignificant blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea, Douglas Adams was born.

Perhaps best known for his radio play series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which he then adapted into a five-and-a-half novel “trilogy”, Adams is known for his ability as not only an author and scriptwriter, but as an essayist, dramatist and all-around funny dude.

In his remarkable life, Adams also authored Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (now a TV series starring Elijah Wood) and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.  He co-wrote several other stories as well as several episodes of the beloved BBC classic Doctor Who.

A classic staple of science fiction and literature in general, Adam’s works have gone on to influence its genre and pop-culture in general.  Similarly, Adams’ work was inspired by the art of his time.   As is clear to any fan of British humor, Adams drew inspiration from Monty Python, having been discovered by the group’s Graham Chapman in 1974.  In fact, Adams was one of only two non-Python members ever to be credited with writing a Python sketch.  He additionally made two appearances on the show during its time.   Pink Floyd references also feature in many sections of The Guide.

Adams was a man of steadfast views.  A self-proclaimed “devout” or “radical” atheist, one can find a myriad of different religions or debunkings of them in his work.  Famously, Adams wrote of Great Green Arkleseizure, an omnipotent being who sneezed creation out of its nose and whose worshippers live in “perpetual fear of the time they call ‘The Coming of the Great White Handkerchief’”.

As is also apparent in his works, Adams had a great passion for environmental causes.  He produced a non-fiction radio series called Last Chance to See featuring many rare and endangered animals.  In 1994, Adams climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with the Save the Rhino International organization dressed in a Rhino suit.  Since 2003, the organization holds an annual memorial lecture to raise money for environmental causes.

In May of 2001, Adams suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 49.   His funeral service was the first church service ever broadcast by the BBC.  He leaves behind his remarkable works, two asteroids (one named for Arthur Dent and one for himself), a legacy of towel-toting nerds and geeks, and an international holiday on May 25th for those tote-ers known as Towel Day.

Adams to Adams: Elements of Comedy

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” –Douglas Adams

There are six elements of funny, according to cartoonist Scott Adams: naughty, clever, cute, bizarre, mean, and recognizable, and for a joke to land it must have at least two of these elemensts. For example, if we take a cartoon like Garfield, then we, usually, have two animals, Garfield and Ottis (cute), and one of them can talk (bizarre). If we would like to push it a tad further, then we could say that Jon represents the recognizable, a middle-aged man going through life with a troublesome cat.

Now, if we take the theory of one successful cartoonist, how can we apply it to the humor of a novelist? Douglas Adams created one of the most absurd, and delightfully witty radio shows/”trilogy in five parts” ever written.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—running at a small Volgonian watering hole near you from January 13 through the 29, is assuming they have not destroyed your planet, yet—is a savory satire on life, existence, and banality.

Arthur Dent, is a delightfully droll young man (recognizable). He is then swept across the galaxy (bizarre) into surprisingly familiar and yet tastefully odd Universe.

Actor Mark Swift put it, “I think Arthur is a tragically dragged about individual. This is what makes him so fun to play, he’s hapless and trying to gauge just how insignificant he is with every mind boggling bit of information thrown his way. Honestly, I think that the Earth’s destruction was freeing for Arthur in many ways, as he didn’t really have many prospects there.”

So this everyman from nowhere, and even when he had a somewhere its nowhere now, becomes the center of our comedic Universe and his utter lack of any heroic skills make him the perfect foil on which to hang our towel.

“Last year when I played Arthur, there was constantly a balancing act of being amazed and horrified by every event that transpired. It was really fun to play someone desperately trying to grasp the concepts being thrown at him,” said Swift.

This childish since of wonder—although, how else would one act when faced with the reality that humans are, 1) not alone in the Universe, and 2) things are vastly more complicated and yet equally trite—puts our everyman in bizarre situations.

It is this use of the commonplace and the wondrous that sets Adams apart.

Douglas Adams – Master Jokester  

 

By Allison Bloechl

Douglas Adams is by far one of the funniest authors I have ever experienced and certainly one of my favorites.  His works are filled to the brim with wit, satire and humor.  One would think this would get boring over the course of radio plays and half-dozen books comprising his most famous work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  And it would, if it were just one style of joke.  But Adams was a master joke-teller and never let you see where the joke was going.  He was particularly adept at deadpan, satirical, and absurdist humor as well as the classic bait-and-switch.  As a towel-toting fan, here are some of my favorites of each.

Deadpan humor is just how it sounds – delivered mater-of-factly and without emotion.   The Hitchhiker’s Guide is chock-full of it. One of my favorite lines from both the radio plays and the novels – the creation of the universe.

“In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

Another example would be the overzealous man who disproves God and goes on to prove that “black is white and gets killed on the next zebra crossing”.

 

Satire mocks specific humans or humanity in general.  It is meant to point out flaws and weaknesses.  More often than not it has political or social ramifications.   One of the most obvious examples is that of Lady Cynthia Fitzmilton, and obvious dig at Margaret Thatcher.   We can tell how Adams felt about the former PM by making Fitzmilton ignorant, offensive and oblivious.  In the first fit (or radio play) she commends a construction team for bulldozing a town in front of the very people whose homes are being destroyed.

“And I must say immediately what a great honour and a great privilege I think it must be, for you, the people of Cottington, to have this gleaming new motorway going through your cruddy little village. I’m Sorry, sorry, your little country village of cruddy Cottington. I know how proud you must feel at this moment to know that your obscure and unsung hamlet will now arise reborn as the very splendid and worthwhile Cottington service station. Providing welcome refreshment and sanitary relief for every weary traveller on his way.

Absurdist (or surreal) humor is the deliberate violations of causal reasoning, producing events and behaviors that are obviously illogical.  Throughout the story, our heroes travel by the infinite improbability generator which makes the extremely improbable into reality.  Arms melt off, people become couches, and, perhaps most famously, missiles turn into sperm whales and bowls of petunias, keeping readers always guessing as to what the hell will happen next

And finally, we come to the bait-and-switch, my favorite type of humor employed by Adams.  The bait-and-switch requires the author to set up and the audience to invest in one particular narrative, where, at the end, the author reveals not what the audience expected.  Adams uses this technique frequently and to great effect.  In my favorite joke in the entirety of The Guide, our heroes travel across the universe to “the far side of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains in the land of Sevorbeupstry on the planet of Preliumtarn, which orbits the star Zarss, which is located in the Grey Binding Fiefdoms of Saxaquine” to see the last words of God inscribed on the mountain for all to see in thirty foot tall fire.  And they are “WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE”.  Adams sets up the narrative of an impossible quest for truth, knowledge and glory, and then pulls the rug out from under us and gives us a sign found frequently on out-of-order toilets.

Thers are, of course, just a few of my favorite examples of the wit and humor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide.  For more examples, come see Hedgerow’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy: Part Two this January!

Happy New Year…Almost

2016 is almost in the books. It’s been an exciting year, one filled with Gala’s and Guild’s, new works and old favorites.

Onstage we’ve traveled across the galaxy, met kings and playwrights, conversed with murders and mistresses, laughed at clowns and catastrophes, prayed for scams and scoundrels, deduced with heroes and hounds, examined sadness and sanity, and celebrated tradition with spirits.

At Hedgerow, however, we don’t look back, we move forward (we learned our lesson from Orpheus). Over our 94 years in Rose Valley, we’ve performed countless productions such as The Maikado, Long Days Journey Into the Night, and just about every play the Bard has to offer. Throughout this storied history, we’ve learned how to create our way.

More than anything else, Hedgerow is a haven for artists. We offer a place for the best and brightest to come and work on their craft, and then we offer it to you.

Intimacy is a point of pride at Hedgerow. We value our audience, and their input, to produce plays year in and year out. Every laugh is registered. Every tear tallied. Every gasp jotted down.

So as we move in to 2017, we are keeping in mind the most important component: you. This season of shows is original, artistic, fun, expansive, thrilling, and classic. The entire line-up is designed to give every patron from Delco to Brandywine the best experience possible.

We look forward to seeing you in the new year!

 

 

 

Merry Christmas Week

Here at Hedgerow we celebrate Christmas all month long; even today, we have schools coming in to celebrate the season with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. For the past 24 years, this story has tied us together with friends, family, and community.

Just like Scrooge, each year we look back at our past, examine our present, and prepare for the future.

We know exactly where we came from, the spark of creativity from Jasper Deeter,the ashes of a devastating fire that could not stop the intrepid Hedgerow theatre, and the amazing leadership of Penelope Reed who guided us into a new era.

We examine our present with Jared Reed at the helm the Company, as well as this authentic production of A Christmas Carol he wrote and directed after the success of his one man show: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

We prepare for the exciting year to come with shows like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Part 2, Uncle Vanya, The Prisoner of Zenda, and (news drop) Around the World in 80 Days, bringing our patrons the best, most original Hedgerow season in years.

From our inception Hedgerow has been about bringing actor and audience together in an intimate setting. We take pride in creating every aspect of the story each patron sees, as we build the creative team, the set, the sound, and every part of the show from the ground up.

This past year we brought our audience an intergalactic odyssey with Hitchhikers, a regional premiere with the Barrymore Recommended production of Or, a world premiere Agatha Christie production, and a zany romp of zannis with The Servant of Two Masters. 

Along with these original plays, we toasted the summer Farce and gas lit our theatre with Boeing Boeing and Angel Street. Hedgerow has stayed true to its mission, and continues to bring relevant, amazing works of art to the tiny grist mill.

This is the final week Dickens’ tale, but we are excited for the season to come. Enjoy this Christmas week, and all the joy Christmas can bring: the Holiday parties, the family gatherings, the delayed travel schedules, all of it.

Merry Christmas.

Meet the Cast of A Christmas Carol

Stacy Skinner is a Hedgerow pro. She has been seen in Hamlet, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and for several years Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. She is also one of the best people you could ever meet. Today, get to know one of the best actors Hedgerow has ever had:
1) Why do you enjoy doing A Christmas Carol?
What better way to spend December than steeped in this beautiful story of hope and redemption? While everyone around me is scurrying around to prepare for the holiday, I am feasting on the delicious words of Dickens and sharing them with school students, folks in our community, and the other artists with which I get to “play in the Hedgerows”. This is my fifth year being a part of Hedgerow’s A Christmas Carol. It has become my holiday tradition, spending this season with the Hedgerow company and the beautifully crafted characters of Dickens. I have a much loved family of my own, mind you, but they have indulged my yearly desire to spend a great deal of December in Victorian England!
2) Why do you think people enjoy Charles Dickens?
At our core, there is so much of the human experience that we share that transcends culture and even time. Dickens speaks to that sameness, in the way that Shakespeare did, and in the way many a great writer does whose work endures. This quote, I think, sums it up well:
“We read Dickens not just because he was a man of his own times, but because he was a man for our times as well. We read Dickens because his perception and investigation of the human psyche is deep, precise, and illuminating, and because he tells us things about ourselves by portraying personality traits and habits that might seem all too familiar. His messages about poverty and charity have traveled through decades, and we can learn from the experiences of his characters almost as easily as we can learn from our own experiences.” Jon Michael Varese
3) What is your favorite part of doing this story?
I will answer that by sharing one of my favorite passages of the story, which as a narrator I spoke in years past but which a version of is now spoken by Scrooge: “Much they saw and far they went and many homes they visited. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close to home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hopes; by poverty, and it was rich.”  What these lines communicate is so rich, helping me to re-adjust my own heart and find perspective. There were some lines in Hamlet that also struck a cord within me every time I heard them. To have such powerful language with which to make theatre, there is nothing like it!
4) Who do you play in the piece? Which is your favorite part? Why
Every year my main character has been one of the narrators, or storytellers as I prefer to call them. Most years I have also played the solicitor and other minor characters. This year, for the first time, I am playing Mrs. Cratchit and Caroline, which is a great treat for me. Although I love the opportunity to play different characters, narrating is really my favorite part. It feels like I have this gift to give the audience, helping to unfold this story for them, and I really enjoy that. It also reminds me of the many, many hours of reading aloud to both of my now grown sons, being the main storyteller in their lives. And isn’t sharing great stories what theatre is all about?