Hedgerow Theatre’s Gaslight adds an interesting element to the mix with Detective Rough being played by actor Brittany Holdahl. Brittany has been active as both an actor and playwright since 2008 collaborating with Luna Theatre Co., B. Someday Productions, Painted Bride, GDP Productions, the Zacherle Project, Rise & Walk Theatre Co., Philadelphia Dramatists Center, Secret Room Theatre, Save the Day! Productions, Represented Theatre Co., Smokey Scout Productions/Automatic Arts, otherWords Theatre Co., and American History Theatre, however, this is her first time at the historic Hedgerow Theatre Company. Check out her responses to a few questions below:
What makes a great play for you?
B: Raw and empathetic characters. Evocative language and imagery that manages to also be concise. Atypical plots- Both in structure and content. The successful execution of creating a world is by far what I am a complete sucker for, though. I am a fangirl of absurdism and surrealism: Cocteau, Ruhl, Brecht, and Enda Walsh are some of my favorite playwrights, and all of the other bizarre, tattered, overly-loved anthologies in my library are some of my favorite vacation spots that I just need to revisit every once in a while. And my chest and skull just completely burst sometimes when there is no resolution or when a playwright leaves some items undisclosed- Loose ends are obviously always enigmatic and troublesome but there is something to be said about the frustration one experiences as an audience member and the seductive power one feels as a performer or writer that is so satisfyingly dissatisfactory. It’s also a testament to how life, in general, is just a completely sloppy and awkward, gorgeous mess.
What is one book every artist should read, one class every artist should take, or one play every artist should see?
B: Oh man. I have to choose just one book? That’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite kid…I want to put two books down; sorry to be a jerk and break the rules but I can’t decide between these two: “Creativity” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and “Incognito” by David Eagleman. Everyone should give these a read, especially folks who don’t acknowledge themselves as artists, because the truth of the matter is that everyone is an artist despite what society deems is an “artistic” career path- Accountants and lawyers and physicists and customer service representatives aren’t just smart; they have got to be creative, too!
“Creativity” because it goes into how creativity is not restricted to alternatively lifestyled individuals, rather it is a trait of all individuals because all humans have dialectic personalities: sophisticated naïvetes, extroverted introverts, prudish libertines, etc.
“Incognito” is a great follow up because it delves into the actual mechanics of how our brains make us creative, dialetic individuals due to our sometimes contrary expressions due to microkinesiology and our inner multitudinous nature due to the subconscious.
Both books are incredibly humbling and empowering because they embrace how one is an individual vessel containing multitudes yet they also make us acknowledge and appreciate how multitudinous everyone else is, too. And it’s all because we have these grey, wrinkled, meat-computers in our calcium helmets.
Why do you like Gaslight?
B: Oh God, for so many reasons! Seriously. This play is awesome and I am so honored to be a part of it. The play itself: I have always liked mysteries and crime dramas. My maternal granddad and his mother always loved mysteries, too, and some of my fondest memories as a kid were watching noir flicks on TMC with my granddad and asking him questions about the goings-on in those films. I also very much enjoy that Gaslight is a feminist period piece! That sounds almost like an oxymoron, but that’s really what it is!
I really enjoy our adaptation of it. I am so excited to be a female portraying the originally male character of Rough because one of the things that never 100% sat right with me about Gaslight was that a male was needed to validate a female’s observations and suppositions of another male. Bella is a beautiful, strong, incredibly smart character and she is so overly-due that acknowledgement! She isn’t hysterical; her world is actually horrifying, regardless of the gender of the individuals in her defense. Our Rough is an eccentric but equally intelligent and observant female whom goes through similar struggles as Bella just because of her gender identification. Rough’s competency is through the roof, but despite that, her life has probably been little else than constantly defending her convictions and proving her worth to her colleagues and superiors! I love our take on Gaslight because, even though this play is almost 80 years old so the shocking reveals in the plot aren’t so shocking anymore, there is still an element of trepidation for our audience because 1920s society doesn’t fully have Rough’s back, either: She could easily be seen as a hack or as a hysterical female, too, just because she is a female acting contrary to societal norms at the time; in Rough’s potential discredidation, Bella could be discredited. This execution adds a new dynamic to the play.
Who inspires you?
B: Humans, in general. It sounds like a cop out, but seriously: humans are great. Lately I’ve been really paying attention to the following humans: Titanic Sinclair, Chad Vangaalen, Alan Resnick, Nina Hagen, Siouxsie Sioux, Marina Abramović, Tom Waits, and Ian Curtis. Also my dad is awesome.
What’s a great story from a previous show you would like to tell?
B: So, this is applicable to a few past shows: Whenever I’m in a show and my character is supposed to deliver a letter to another, for at least one show of the run, I will always- ALWAYS- draw a hand turkey and deliver that instead. Just to get the other character to try really hard not to break. But now that I’ve confessed that, I will need to think of something else for future productions.
Spoiler Alert: Rough doesn’t write or deliver any letters in Gaslight, so there will be none of my exquisite hand turkeys in this production.