Category: Uncategorized

Former Company Member Mark Swift Makes the Leap from Stage to Ears

Former Hedgerow fellow Mark Swift is making his transition from the stage to the airwaves with his independent company “Oh, The Fool.” The first project of Oh, The Fool is Life In Sonderville, which found its original audience at Hedgerow Theatre Company.

Life In Sonderville is a daunting story to write because of its choose your own adventure nature and will boast a whopping ninety seven episodes. If that already makes your head spin as an audience member, don’t fret: the story is broken down into chapters and each path only takes seven to ten sections to complete. Therefore,  a one time listener can fully engage in this dark comedic mystery in just over an hour.

During his time as a fellow, Swift came up with the idea of a choose your own adventure story, bringing an interactive element to both stage and podcasts, and combining the two mediums into performance.

After being given the go-ahead by Producing Artistic Director, Jared Reed, to pen a rough pilot for Life In Sonderville, Swift made the first steps on his new journey.

Thanks to his training at Hedgerow, Swift feels prepared for any eventuality. Having adapted stories for the stage, Swift learned about the importance of being a concise and compelling storyteller.

A particularly useful skill that Swift gained from his Hedgerow experience came from his time as an actor, where he learned the mastery of the verb. As an actor and storyteller, it is more important to show rather than to tell. However, if you are going to say, then emphasize the verbs.

Swift uses these skills in his writing of Life In Sonderville. As the show is written for radio, the visual medium is gone, and since it is a play, there is nothing but dialogue. The result is a dialogue that is active, informative, and most importantly, entertaining.

Currently, Oh, The Fool is running a Kickstarter for the production of Life In Sonderville. With the success of its Kickstarter, Swift hopes to honor his Hedgerow home with the fully first few episodes of Life In Sonderville, later this month to be enjoyed online!

 

Nöel Coward’s Blithe Spirit Delights Audiences in this Life and the Next

Nöel Coward’s stylish comedy, Blithe Spirit, is Barrymore Recommended. This otherworldly farce is perfect for the fall season and is delighting audiences in this life and the next. Playing now through October 29, this outrageous farce, written seventy-six years ago, brings an eclectic cast, suburb direction, and a delightful story.

Named in honor of the famed Philadelphia-based first family of theatre, the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre have served as Philadelphia’s professional theatre awards program since 1994. The Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre are a nationally recognized symbol of excellence for professional theatre in the Greater Philadelphia region, honoring local artists and theatre companies while increasing public awareness of the richness and diversity of our city’s thriving theatre community.

“Like most of Coward’s work, Blithe Spirit contains his signature flippancy. If the departed possessed voices, they too would laugh, and yet they might also pause to appreciate how both time and the Hedgerow have infused an endearing quality into this seven-decades-old masterwork,” Jim Rutter, Philly.com.

In the spring of 1941, as Londoners endured the Blitz of World War II, playwright Noel Coward slipped away to Wales to draft a new script centered on death and the great beyond. “Title [is] Blithe Spirit,” he wrote in his diary. “Very gay, superficial comedy about a ghost. Feel it may be good.” Then, six days later, the play was finished. Now seventy-six years old, Blithe Spirit is still delighting audiences around the world.

“Universal button-perfect delivery of delicious Noël Coward lines takes Carly L. Bodnar’s production of Blithe Spirit at Hedgerow Theatre miles into gratifying comic territory, but rollicking payoffs come from the cast’s physical antics and Goldilocks-right facial reactions.” Neal Zoren, DCMetroTheatreArts.com

Dubbed “An Improbable Play in Three Acts,” Blithe Spirit features novelist Charles Condomine and his second wife, the stiff and rigid Ruth, as they prepare to host a seance conducted by clairvoyant Madame Arcati. For him, it’s a lark, research for his novel The Unseen; however, the scheme backfires, and Charles’ first wife, the temperamental Elvira, is summoned. Now, Charles finds himself torn between two loves: a passionate dead wife and an unfeeling living one.

“The engaging ensemble takes this entertaining story with its fun supernatural overtones and serves up Coward’s play like a delicious seasonal pumpkin latte for the audience to savor. “ Margie Royal, DelcoCultureVultures.com

Coward had been plotting a comedy about ghosts for some time, but could never quite work it out in his mind. The title of the play is taken from Percy Shelley‘s poem “To a Skylark” (“Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! / Bird thou never wert”).

The play itself pulls from Gothic literature, British farce, and the comedy of manners. No one quite captures the wit and whimsy of the upperclass trapped in a ridiculous situation quite like Coward.

Directed by Carly L. Bodnar, the cast of Blithe Spirit includes Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed, board member Michael Fuchs, veteran Susan Wefel, and fan favorite Stacy Skinner. The show also returns the three cast members of the Barrymore Recommended production of On the Verge: Jennifer Summerfield,  Maryruth Stine, and playing the coveted role of Madame Arcati will be this year’s recipient of the Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award, Penelope Reed.

For more information call the box office, 610-565-4211, visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org, or email company@hedgerowtheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media). Adult ticket prices are $35, with a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those age 30 and under are $20. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18, please contact Art Hunter at ahunter@hedgerowtheatre.org. Prices include all fees and are subject to change. Shows are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

 

Noël Coward’s Ghostly Farce

In the spring of 1941, as Londoners endured the Blitz, playwright Noël Coward slipped away to Wales to draft a new script centered on death and the great beyond. “Title [is] Blithe Spirit,” he wrote in his diary. “Very gay, superficial comedy about a ghost. Feel it may be good.” Then, six days later, the play was finished.

Dubbed “An Improbable Play in Three Acts,” Blithe Spirit features novelist Charles Condomine and his second wife, the stiff and rigid Ruth, as they prepare to host a seance to conducted by clairvoyant Madame Arcati. For him, it’s a lark, research for his novel The Unseen; however, the scheme backfires, and Charles’ first wife, the temperamental Elvira, is summoned. Now, Charles finds himself torn between two loves: a passionate dead wife and an unfeeling living one.

With its plot full of ghosts, seances, and mystics, Blithe Spirit is a witty take on an old theme, like Mel Brooks lovingly parodying Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Young Frankenstein, only Coward’s target is high culture and the Gothic literature.   

Coward had been plotting a comedy about ghosts for some time, but could never quite work it out in his mind. The title of the play is taken from Percy Shelley‘s poem “To a Skylark” (“Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! / Bird thou never wert”), and is the descendent of a long line of British traditions, namely farce and Gothic literature.

The 18th century nourished two opposing trends: the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Proponents of the Enlightenment valued objectivity and reason, whereas the Romantics preferred passion and a desire to feel things.

In 1764, Horace Walpole wrote The Castle of Otranto and planted the seeds of Gothic literature. This short novel combined elements of terror and medievalism with Romantic ideals and set a precedent for a thrilling new genre.

Focused on the individual, Romantics asked,  “Why get lost in a crowd when you could shine alone?” Like a nightmarish demon brother, the kid sibling of Romanticism, taking all the good things about the genre and dipping them in shadow and sin, the Gothics combined life and death in one theatrical rendering.

The plot of Gothic novels typically involves people who become mixed up in a complex, paranormal scheme, often involving a desperate heroine, such as Anne Radcliffe’s classic Gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794).

Originating from the ornate architecture created by the Goths, medieval castles shrouded in mystery, these Gothics proved the past to be the ideal backdrop for a literary style concerning itself with superstition, horror, and the absurd.

Taking elements such as atmosphere, clergy, paranormal, melodrama, omens, and epic settings, Gothic literature twists them into a compelling, dark story.

Gothic novels established a new movement. Whereas today we are no longer surprised by a lurking butler, a shadowy figure in the night, or a coven of witches, Gothic authors paved the way for the macabre and mysterious.

Every plot held a new surprise; every novel, a new ending. These stories enthralled readers by enticing them to look behind the veil and wonder where those mournful wails hailed from, turning the atmosphere of the story into character.

Yet, the real beauty of the genre lies in the reflection it represents. Like a grimy, cracked mirror sitting on the wall of the House of Usher, this genre of fiction gives us a twisted look at reality.

Traditional romantic heroes morph into hellhounds, sometimes literally, but more often than not as trusted metaphors for order, decay, and rot. In essence, the Gothic is the birth of the antihero.

Why are these books so appealing? Why do these plays touch our soul? It’s because all the demons, all the crooked monks and monsters, are really extensions of ourselves.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde offers a literal protagonist-antagonist trapped in one body. In essence, a man is his own worst enemy. What happens when the monster that lurks inside of all of us is set free?

This idea would later be expounded by Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray, turning an innocent protagonist into a decidedly repulsive antagonist. To the outside world, Dorian is a handsome example of high culture. Yet Wilde’s dramatic imagery of a decaying portrait reflecting the inner workings of its hero exposes the weight of choice, guilt, and malevolence.

Much like Coward’s earlier successes Hay Fever and Private Lives, or Wilde‘s classic comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, Blithe Spirit is both a condemnation and a celebration of all things uniquely British.

Cantankerous novelist Charles Condomine is married, but haunted (literally) by the ghost of his late first wife, the clever and insistent Elvira, who is called up by the visiting medium Madame Arcati.

Director Carly Bodnar leads an all-star cast of Hedgerow favorites in Nöel Coward’s stylish supernatural comedy, Blithe Spirit, playing October 5 through 29. The cast includes Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed, board member Michael Fuchs, veteran Susan Wefel, and fan favorite Stacy Skinner.

The show also reunites the three cast members of the Barrymore Recommended production of On the Verge: Jennifer Summerfield,  Maryruth Stine, and playing the coveted role of Madame Arcati will be this year’s recipient of the Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award, Penelope Reed.

Is it our enjoyment of a well-plotted farce, or our obsession with life after death, that charges this intelligent and enduring Gothic play? Coward’s timeless and distinct voice, combined with superb direction and a killer cast,  give us insight into human interactions and relationships that make up all the fun in this one-of-a-kind production.

For more information call the box office, 610-565-4211, visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org, or email company@hedgerowtheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media). Adult ticket prices are $35, with a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those age 30 and under are $20. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18, please contact Art Hunter at ahunter@hedgerowtheatre.org. Prices include all fees and are subject to change. Shows are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Audition for Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Dear Hedgerow friends,

Please join us for our Annual A Christmas Carol Auditions, Sunday, October 8th, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. at Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley, PA 19063.

This year we are featuring a special choir of all ages to sing carols during the performance.  We are also auditioning for the named roles of Past, Fan and/or the Cratchit children: Peter, Martha, Belinda, Tiny Tim & the two little Cratchits (male or female).  

All who audition please be prepared to sing a Christmas carol of your choice (a Cappella) and have a funny joke or story to tell. If you auditioning for The Ghost of Christmas Past please see the side below for auditioning.

Because planning for the busy holiday season is challenging, and because conflicts weigh heavily in all casting decisions, the conflict form at the link below must be completely filled out before any audition.

 

CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT YOUR AUDITION FORMS

 

To save time on audition day, please fill the forms out online in advance.   Otherwise, you may have to wait until forms are filled out.

If auditioning with multiple family members with the SAME conflicts, fill out the form and email Ariel Baker, abaker@hedgerowtheatre.org, with the names of your participating family members. If you have family members with different conflicts, you will need to fill out separate forms.

Thank you! We look forward to seeing you and enjoying another wonderful year of Christmas Carol. Thank you for being a part of this special tradition!

Sincerely,

 

The Hedgerow Company

 

Christmas Carol Audition Sides: Pick One

( Pasts Must Audition With This Side)

 

SCROOGE

Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?

PAST

I am!

SCROOGE

Who, and what are you?

PAST

I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.

SCROOGE

Long Past?

PAST

No. Your past.

SCROOGE

What business brings you here.

PAST

Your welfare!

SCROOGE

A night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end.

PAST

Your reclamation, then. Take heed! Walk with me!

SCROOGE

I am a mortal, and liable to fall.

PAST

Bear but a touch of my hand there, [touches his heart] and you shall be upheld in more than this!

 

For all other roles: prepare a funny Joke or Story and a Christmas carol

 

Maryruth Stine

MARYRUTH STINE (Elvira) is a performer and educator focused on community-driven projects balancing silly stories and social critique. Hedgerow: Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood (Irene), Pride & Prejudice (Lydia/Lady Catherine), On the Verge (Alex). Philly stages & classrooms include The Painted Bride, Cabaret Verité, IRC, Philadelphia Opera Collective, PhillyShakes, EgoPo, Little Fish, Theatre Horizon, WolfPAC, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Montreal: Teen Sleuth and the Freed Cyborg Choir, Organizer, Monster. Vancouver: Beaver Dreams, Herban Adventures. Chennai: Aanmaiyo aanmai! (with Marapacchi) Jujubee (with Perch). Bangalore: Turntables (with LesBiT). Thank you Hedgerow, much love!

 

Kate Sparacio

Kate Sparacio (Stage Manager) hails from Philadelphia where she has worked as an actor, director, designer, teacher, administrator, and stage manager. She has worked internationally in Greece, Cyprus, and England, and has served as visiting artist at Harvard University, Lock Haven University, Selwyn College, and Chesapeake College among others. She joins Hedgerow after spending years teaching young theatre artists in New Jersey and producing theatre in Philadelphia. She earned her B.A. in Theatre from Stockton University where she directed Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake). Other favorite productions include Tales of the Grotesque and Mysterious, The Bacchae, and The Profession.

Owen Corey

Owen Corey (Acting Fellow) Owen is excited to begin his first year as a Hedgerow Acting Fellow. He is originally from Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. Before coming to Hedgerow, Owen directed, produced, and performed theatre at Fairfield University in Connecticut (Rhinoceros, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Measure for Measure), the National University of Ireland (Twelfth Night, The Vagina Monologues), and St. HOPE Public Schools in California (Check Please, The Struggles, Twelfth Night). He is currently in Hedgerow’s touring productions of Peter Pan and Snow White, and will be appearing in the upcoming StoryBoard production of Treasure Island.

Matthew Windham

Matthew Windham (Acting Fellow) is a writer, director, actor and set designer. He is the Founding Director of the Utah Children’s Theatre’s annual Shakespeare Festival, with a mission to help young people develop a lifelong passion for Shakespeare. He has written or co-written a dozen plays produced on the Utah Children’s Theatre’s stage, including a history of the Wright Brothers, and the 2014 Utah Best of State award winning play Breakfast with Shakespeare. Favorite directing projects include The Comedy of Errors and Henry V, both at the UCT Shakespeare Festival. Favorite roles include Katurian in The Pillowman (Hive Theatre), Dr. Givings in In the Next Room: The Vibrator Play (Babcock Theatre), Dr. Coppelius in Coppélia (Salt Lake Ballet), Tigger in Winnie the Pooh (UCT), and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (UCT). Matthew most recently completed a tour of Peter and Wendy with the Missoula Children’s Theatre. www.mwindham-portfolio.com

The Classic Tale of Buccaneers and Buried Gold

An adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, most famous for his novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), Treasure Island is the classic tale of “buccaneers and buried gold.” The story’s influence on popular perceptions of pirates is unrivaled as it introduced the idea of treasure maps with “X’s”, schooners, the Black Spot, and, most notably, one-legged sailors with witty parrots.

At its core, Treasure Island is a coming-of-age story, following Jim Hawkins as he is forced to make the difficult decisions involved with becoming an adult.  We see Hawkins’s development from a sheltered, protected young boy into a responsible, freethinking, charismatic young man.

Noted for its atmosphere of tropical islands and romantic views of the sea, dynamic characters that have ascended into archetypes such as Captain “Long John” Silver, and rapid-paced action and drama, Stevenson’s story, in its purest form, is part of the monomyth, or the hero’s journey.

In comparative mythology, the monomyth, as established by scholar/philosopher Joseph Campbell, is the template shared by cultures around the world: the story of a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.

Campbell built upon the studies of Edward Taylor, Otto Frank, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, Lord Raglan‘s unification of myth and rituals, and most notably Carl Jung‘s teachings on myth, dream, and the psyche. Campell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces describes the narrative pattern as follows:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

In the case of Treasure Island, Hawkins, who lives a mundane life, is thrust into a world full of crisis where he must learn new tactics to overcome obstacles and ultimately claim the treasure.

Stevenson’s story is one that presents us with difficult choices. What is loyalty? What is honor? What value is treasure worth? Is it worth the price of our own humanity?

It is easy to forget these sorts of questions when presented with a good pirate story, but the desires of each character are very clear. There is more to this little buccaneer tale than meets the eye.

Stevenson casts both the reader and Jim into an unknown world of sea and treasure with this call to adventure as Billy Bones stumbles into the serene atmosphere of the Admiral Benbow Inn. Accepting the words of Bones, Hawkins decides to go and seek his treasure.

Aboard the Hispanola, Hawkins will be tested in every imaginable way: physically, socially, and mentally. His naivety will be put to the challenge as he meets charismatic anti-heroes, and he must develop his own moral code. Most notably, Hawkins meets the sea cook “Long John” Silver, a one-legged Bristol tavern-keeper, and becomes entranced by the cook; however, just before the island is sighted, Jim—concealed in an apple barrel—overhears Silver talking with two “gentlemen o’fortune” who have planned a mutiny. It is then that Hawkins’ transformation truly begins.

Hawkins is tested physically when he encounters the evil first mate, Israel Hands. When Hands tries to manipulate him, Jim sees through the deception and, acting with considerable courage and dexterity, manages to outmaneuver the experienced pirate.

The closer to the treasure they get, the more dangerous the events become, and slowly a deeper bond is forged between the anti-hero Silver and Hawkins, including the old pirate protecting Hawkins against his mates.

Jim’s final test of adulthood is not physical but moral when he returns to the stockade. Sent by the pirates to negotiate a surrender of prisoners, Hawkins could choose to remain in the safety of the company. However, he says, “Silver trusted me, I passed my word, and back I go.” Jim puts his word above his life, thus signaling the transition not just from boy to man but, more important to Stevenson, from boy to gentleman.

After the treasure is claimed, some of it at least, the crew members make their first port in Spanish America, where they will sign on more crew. True to character, Silver steals a bag of money and escapes rather than face the authorities back home, breaking Jim’s trust. The rest return home to Bristol and divide up the treasure.

This test also shows us the difference of character between Silver and Hawkins. All critics have noted that Silver is both bad and good, cruel and generous, despicable and admirable. Some have tried to fuse these elements into a single character “type,” a “hero-villain,” in which the good and the evil are traced back to a common source.

Numerous other works of popular fiction have been forwarded as examples of the monomyth template, including Spenser’s The Fairie Queene, Melville’s Moby Dick, Charlotte Brontë‘s Jane Eyre, and works by Charles Dickens, Hemingway, Mark Twain, C. S. Lewis, and most notably J. R. R. Tolkien and George Lucas, among numerous others.

We may recast the lead or combine a few characters, but the monomyth is a story told by every civilization. It includes the elements of a story repeated in folk tales, fairy tales, and myths that teach us deeper lessons about life. We find common religious themes such as self-sacrifice and transformation as well as archetypical characters such as the Gatekeeper and the Trickster.

In the same way that commedia del’arte used stock masks to share comedy across languages and regions, it is a way to pass along shared information by using common characters and themes.

Story is a way to communicate deeper truths of mankind. Like the Hispanola, archetypical stories travel beyond the time and culture in which they were written and into the hearts of its audience.

We are all narrative beings. From the days of Oedipus the King and Hamlet to The King of Comedy and Hamilton, we thirst for a good story. Be it on the open seas or endless space, we create these vessels to transport us, not away from reality but deeper into the adventure where “x” marks the spot.

https://youtu.be/Hhk4N9A0oCA