The Prisoner of Zenda

In a new adaptation by Matt Tallman and the Hedgerow Theatre Company, The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope, opens with the King of Ruritania, drugged on the eve of his coronation in an attempt to make him lose his crown.  In the style of The 39 Steps and Bullshot Crummond, The Prisoner of Zenda brings the intrigue and adventure of the silver screen to the stage.  An English gentleman named Rudolph Rassendyll, who is on holiday in Ruritania, resembles the king and is persuaded to act in place of the monarch in order to save the unstable political situation.  It falls on Rassendyll to overcome the plots and counterplots of a triad of scheming villains in order to save the king from his imprisonment in the town of Zenda.

by Anthony Hope, adapted and directed by Matt Tallman

March 30 to April 30

Meet the Director

Matt Tallman: is delighted to return to Hedgerow where he acted in The 39 Steps and directed Bullshot Crummond.  He has directed and assisted productions at American Players Theatre, Nevermore Theatre, and the Regent Theatre among others.  Recent speech and text coaching includes productions at the Delaware Shakespeare Festival, Curio Theatre, and Villanova.  As an actor Matt has appeared in productions for many Philadelphia theatre companies, including the Lantern, Act II Playhouse, 1812 Productions, Shakespeare in Clark Park, Play Penn, Mauckingbird Theatre Company, Quintessence Theatre Group, and Azuka Theatre; acting work elsewhere includes the Dallas Theater Center, American Players Theatre, and the Utah, Delaware, Milwaukee, and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festivals.  Matt currently serves as adjunct faculty for Temple University, and holds his MFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University

Silver Screen to Stage

The novel has been adapted many times, mainly for film but also stage, musical, operetta, radio, and television. Probably the best-known version is the 1937 Hollywood movie. The dashingly villainous Rupert of Hentzau has been interpreted by such matinee idols as Ramon Novarro (1922), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1937), and James Mason (1952).

Many subsequent fictional works that feature a political decoy can be linked to The Prisoner of Zenda; indeed, this novel spawned the genre known as Ruritanian romance. What follows is a short list of those homages with a clear debt to Anthony Hope’s book.

The name of the villain in The Prisoner of Zenda, Rupert of Hentzau, is the title of the sequel novel, Rupert of Hentzau (1898), published four years later, and is included in some editions of The Prisoner of Zenda. The popularity of the novels inspired the Ruritanian romance genre of literature, film, and theatre that features stories set in a fictional country, usually in Central Europe and Eastern Europe, such as Ruritania, the Central European realm that named the genre,[1] which includes the Graustark novels by George Barr McCutcheon.

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