Tag: Farce

Finding the Jeu of Jules Verne

When asked how you play multiple colorful characters in the upcoming Summer Farce Around the World in 80 Days actor Sarah Knittel said, “Find the jeu.”

Knittel is a graduate of the Pig Iron School of Physical and Devised Theater and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.  She appeared in last summer’s The Servant of Two Masters (Smeraldina), and has worked with Automatic Arts, Hella Fresh, Untitled Eva Steinmetz Project, Pig Iron, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, and Philadelphia Shakespeare. She is the 2017 Automatic Arts Artist in Residence and is creator of  The Joseph Davenport Experience cabaret.  

“Jeu,” the French word for game, is a derivative of the Jacques Lecoq method of acting and is a core principal of Pig Iron’s training program. The idea is to always search for the play in a moment, to make the most of whatever material is available, theatrically, and bringing it to life in the moment, and in Jules Verne’s epic adventure, play is certainly a key component.

I’m drawn to these comedies because they are so technical. If your timing is off or  you’re not present, you might not get the laugh. That sweet sweet laughter. I love the challenge. Physical comedy transcends language and age…. But mostly for that sweet laughter,” said Knittel.

Stampeding elephants, raging typhoons, runaway trains, and unabashed slapstick fill Around the World in 80 Days from start to finish. Hedgerow Theatre tackles the challenge of Jules Verne’s epic adventure with its talented cast in its beautiful rustic setting and brings the joy and humour of Mark Brown’s adaptation to life.

Every role is different. Passepartout is such a clown it made the most sense to start with his physical rhythms and posture.”

Around the World in 80 Days returns familiar funny faces and puts them in an exciting, and incredibly silly, rollercoaster spectacle.  Danger, romance and comic surprises abound as five actors – portraying 42 characters – traverse four continents in this race against the clock. Zoran Kovcic (Boeing Boeing and No Sex Please, We’re British), Mark Swift (Boeing Beoing and No Sex Please, We’re British), Hanna Gaffney (Boeing Boeing), and Knittel take on the mountainous task of creating a world of characters.

“Hanna Gaffney is bringing so much heart and elegance to her performance of Aioda. Mark Swift is so funny that I want to kill him and wear his skin.  Jared Reed and Zoren are class acts…. especially Jared’s baby blues. Damon Bonetti is fine.”

Opening night is Friday, July 7, at 7:30 p.m. There will be a Wednesday matinee on August 2, at 2 p.m., and Fogg’s balloon lands for a final time on Sunday, August 13, at 2 p.m.

Adult ticket prices are $35, with a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those 30 and under, as well as for 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).

Podcast: Hanna Gaffney’s Italian

Hanna Gaffney is a new face to Hedgerow Theatre audiences. She has delighted audiences for three weeks now with her performance of Gabriella in Marc Camoletti’s Boeing Boeing. In this week’s podcast, get to know Hanna and what makes her laugh.

Blog: An All American Girl

Gloria is a bit, over the top.
Gloria is a bit, over the top.

It’s important for people to be able to laugh at themselves. Comedy can provide commentary on the world and insight into higher truths, and especially in the current political times, we all need to laugh at how foreigners view what it’s like to be “an American.” In Marc Camoletti’s Boeing- Boeing, running at Hedgerow Theatre now through August 21, Meredith Beck brings the French playwright’s clichéd vision to life.

Beck revels in playing Gloria, a ditzy New Yorker with fire in her belly, in the critically acclaimed production. Gloria opens the play in the arms of her lover, Bernard (played by Andrew Parcell), in Paris. Yet, as flights get delayed and her views are challenged, her ditzyness slips away revealing a strong feminist stance and carnal, power-hungry desires.

“I find how bold Gloria is to be quite amusing,” Beck said. “It’s hard to find characters

Andrew Parcell and Meredith Beck
Andrew Parcell and Meredith Beck

who are not like yourself, but I think they largely become your favorite characters to play. What she feels comfortable doing with total strangers is something I cannot relate to. She is 100% confident. I’ve joked with cast members about her table manners and dining experience… she’s absurd”

Beck loves the challenge of playing someone so different from herself. With the help of director Damon Bonetti, Beck has taken this brash New Yorker and developed a loving, if not ridiculous, send-up to the essential quirks of being “an American.”

“I thought of characters like Adelaide from Guys and Dolls,” she recalled, “adding in the gum-smacking tough factor that Marisa Tomei brought to My Cousin Vinny… and that started me off with a direction I thought I could play with. Damon has helped me out a lot with this process and was incredibly patient, it really took time for me to find Gloria.”   

Beck had to find a way to get into the mind of Camoletti to play with the part. Physically, she fits the French stereotype of an “American” Gloria to a “T”: petite, blonde and larger than life. Yet, her talent as an actor reveals a hilariously authentic, yet wonderfully clichéd Gloria that is delighting both audiences and critics alike.

“I actually approached Gloria initially in a very different way than she has ended up,” Beck explained. “I first was reading Gloria to be a ‘perky faux cheerleader type’ and I kept hearing her lines as having a southern influence, even though she is referenced as a New Yorker. Perky cheerleader still exists, but now there’s a lot of bossiness layered in, and she’s quite aggressive and sassy.”

Parcell and Beck at top of show.
Parcell and Beck at top of show.

The aforementioned Bernard, an American architect living in Paris, has what he believes is the perfect system for having three fiancées: make sure they are airline hostesses on different routes.  Yet, by the end of the play the normally cool Bernard learns that some of his loves play the game better than he. Gloria, brings American things into the mix, including sports,  junk food and an A-type temperament.

“In addition to personality, there is a big point made of the stereotype of Americans eating large amounts of fairly disgusting food,” Beck laughed. “I’m probably lucky that the worst thing I have to eat is pancakes and ketchup.”

Comedy loves clichés, though there is certainly an art to color commentary and “not knowing your funny.” Directors and actors love finding the essential truth of a scene, but reveling in the things that make audiences laugh is what makes a farce spark.  

“I think clichés and stereotypes have a foundation of truth, but it’s just funny seeing every single characteristic combined into one ‘Super Stereotypical Person,’ Beck noted. “You hear about loud Americans and bossy Americans, the massive amounts of food we eat, ill-mannered, sexually aggressive—but surely those characteristics didn’t all exist in the same person… Well in farce, they do”

A long-time Hedgerow favorite, Beck has been seen in Educating Rita, An American Tragedy and Vanities, as well as last year’s summer farce, No Sex Please, We’re British.

“I love getting to play at Hedgerow in their summer farce!  Farce requires a lot of trust

Mark Swift and Beck
Mark Swift and Beck

of cast members, and a responsibility to make sure you do your best to set up others for success.  This cast trusts each other, and I look forward to a solid and silly run.

Adult ticket prices for Friday, Saturday evening and Sunday shows are $34; Saturday twilight shows are $29. 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).

Blog: Swift Comedy

Mark Swift is a second year company member of Hedgerow Theatre from New Jersey. He has been seen in No Sex Please, We’re British, Dracula, A Christmas Carol, The Mysterious Affair at Styles and now Boeing Boeing. 

This week has been a big week in the press for the Hedgerow Theatre Company as their production of Marc Camoletti’s Boeing Boeing continues to be recognized for its mastery of farce. With a Barrymore Recommendation and rave reviews from Philly.com and DC MetroArts, this year’s summer farce is one of the best in Hedgerow’s long history of performing this genre.

Directed by Damon Bonetti, Boeing Boeing features Bernard (Andrew Parcell), a playboy who, with the help of his witty maid Berthe (Trice Baldwin),  is “engaged” to three gorgeous airline hostesses: Gloria (Meredith Beck), an American, works for TWA; Gabriella (Hanna Gaffney), an Italian, is with Air Italia; and Gretchen (Allison Bloechl), a German, flies with Lufthansa. During a visit from an old college friend from Wisconsin, Robert (Mark Swift),  Bernard’s perfect flight plan is thrown into severe turbulence when weather and a new jumbo jet upset his timetables and bring all three women to Paris at the same time.

Swift, who worked with Bonetti on last year’s No Sex Please, We’re British, is once again the comic foil as Robert, and has once again wowed audiences. DC MetroArts raves about his “physical hijinks,” and Philly.com says, “Like a clown, he [Swift] exists to make us laugh; like a great comic actor, he elicits sympathy, and in his character’s reversal, a hint of admiration.”

“I really do love the show as a whole, but if I had to pick one moment in particular,” Swift observes, “it would be during the second half of act one, once Bernard realizes that two of his fianceés are in his flat. From this point on the farce kicks into overdrive and it’s such a fun ride. I couldn’t be more pleased with my fellow castmates. If it weren’t for their skills and on/off stage generosity, I can’t imagine myself having nearly as much fun.”

Having Bonetti as director was once again a positive experience. “I learned from Damon that farce is a machine. Every single line, physical gag, and even the slightest pause for silence are all part of an enormous ticking comedic clock,” notes Swift. “During the rehearsal process I watched as all my castmates experimented with new things, everyday coming in with some new joke and it was really inspiring. I love working with people who challenge me at every corner to up the ‘funny ante’.”

In last year’s British comedy, Swift played Brian Runnicles, the uptight chief cashier at a London bank, who finds himself having to dispose of vast shipments of pornography when his friend Peter’s wife accidentally signs them up for a mail order service. In this year’s French farce, Swift’s portrayal of Robert, a simple Wisconsin boy visiting his philandering friend Bernard in Paris, is on point, filled with all the physicality of Jerry Lewis and the wit of John Cleese.

I have always loved Jim Carrey, and seeing what he was able to do definitely inspired me at a young age to pursue acting,” Swift explains. “I have always appreciated physical humor and practiced falling down and being an all around ‘goofy mover’ ever since I was a little kid. As I grew older and discovered TV Land, I fell in love with Three’s Company and of course, the late and great John Ritter. To me, he was much like Carrey in that he was a very physical comedian—but I felt like I was able to learn more from Ritter in the ways of balancing physical humor and dry delivery.”

Swift graduated from Rider University with a B.A. in theatre performance in 2015, landed a job as an Acting Fellow at Hedgerow, and went straight to work in No Sex Please. Now a seasoned veteran at Hedgerow, with shows like Dracula (Renfield) and The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Alfred) under his belt, he has embraced the playful side of Hedgerow.

“The single most important thing I have learned through my time here at Hedgerow Theatre is that stupid is good,” Swift states. “There have been zero instances during any rehearsal process where someone has said ‘That’s so dumb’ and meant it as anything but the highest praise.”

If you want to see Swift and his fellow actors at work, head to Hedgerow by August 21 to “LOL” at Boeing Boeing. Adult ticket prices for Friday, Saturday evening and Sunday shows are $34; Saturday twilight shows (4 pm) are $29. 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).

 

Blog: Damon Bonetti Loves Ridiculousness

Damon Bonetti
Just look at this handsome devil.

For three years now, Damon Bonetti, actor, director, and co-founder of the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, has loved coming out to Hedgerow in June for its beauty, its actors, and to help create and continue its ridiculous tradition, “The Summer Farce.” He helmed the critically acclaimed The 39 Steps in 2014 and No Sex Please, We’re British in 2015. This year, he’s in Rose Valley once more to guide the production of Marc Camoletti’s Boeing Boeing, which runs from July 7 to August 21.

“It’s the summer time, the weather is beautiful, and people want to come to the theatre and have a good time,” Bonetti observed. “They want to go to a party, and a farce is absolutely a party. Hedgerow is a beautiful place to come and perform, and an even better place to experience a show, and I love coming out here to bring the audience a great experience.”

As any farce should, Boeing Boeing features unwitting characters dealing with improbable situations that escalate to ridiculous levels, with lots of double entendres, physical comedy and general hilarity along the way. It takes place in the 1960s in the Paris apartment of American businessman Bernard, a playboy who is “engaged” to three gorgeous airline hostesses: Gloria, an American, works for TWA; Gabriella, an Italian, is with Air Italia; and Gretchen, a German, flies with Lufthansa. By keeping meticulous track of their different schedules, he’s able to juggle their arrivals and departures so none of them learn about the others, with the help of his grumpy, long-suffering maid Berthe. During a visit from an old college friend, Robert, from Wisconsin, Bernard’s perfect flight plan is thrown off course into severe turbulence when weather delays and changes in timetables bring all three women to Paris at the same time.

After graduating with a BA in theatre from Allentown College (now DeSales University), the South Philadelphia native worked with a touring company in Boston. While there, he went  to see Stephen Wadsworth’s translation and adaptation of Pierre de Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance at the Huntington Theatre in 1997 and met Jared Reed, Hedgerow’s current Producing Artistic Director, who was playing Harlequino. Although it wasn’t a result of that meeting, Bonetti came to Hedgerow the next year after earning his MFA in acting at Florida State University, to appear in Marat Sade. He returned in 2010 to play Ross Gardiner in Visiting Mr. Green. He met Reed again in Philadelphia a few years later, and was offered the opportunity to direct The 39 Steps, after having just performed in that play as Richard Hanney at Theatre Horizon.

Bonetti equally enjoys acting and directing, although he finds them very different. “As an actor my main concern is the role,” he reflected. ““My job as a director is to make sure the story gets told.” Explaining that comedy is very “precise and mathemetical,” he added that “there’s a reason comedy comes in threes and fives. The math and timing of farce is essential, and it is my job to make sure we are hitting all the jokes, and discovering all the physical bits, and then to let the actors do their work.”

Asked why the genre remains so popular, he answered,“People love farces because they are funny, because they are stupid, because they are dumb and they get to see people doing ridiculous things, and the audience gets to be glad that it is not them up there. Farce is it is controlled chaos. It helps if the play is good, and this play is very good…and it helps to have funny people in the play, who are also good actors. Directing is 90 percent casting, and I am so lucky to have this cast. Everyone brings their A game, every rehearsal and every show.”

Adult ticket prices for Friday, Saturday evening and Sunday shows are $34; Saturday twilight shows are $29. There is a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those 30 and under and students are $20. Tickets for the previews on July 7 and 8 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).

 

Podcast: Trice Baldwin’s Busy Summer

Trice Baldwin HeadshotTrice Baldwin, a first time actor at Hedgerow, is a co-founder of the Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company. Although a first time player at Hedgerow, she has deep roots with the company as her husband was a fellow with the company in the late 90’s and her brother-in-law, , has played at Hedgerow multiple times. She received a Bachelor’s in English, and trained with Tom Teti at People’s Light & Theatre Company in Malvern, PA.  From the age of 12, she would visit her oldest sister in New York to see performances of The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park performances.