The Joys of Hatcher’s Mystery

We asked company member Eric Lee, who can currently be seen as Dr. Evans in Holmes and Watson, what performing the twisting mystery has been like.

Last fall, when we were looking at the season to come, I had one role I knew that I wanted for sure: Dr. Evans in Jeffrey Hatcher’s Holmes and Watson.

First of all, I love a good mystery. In elementary school, I must have read every Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew book in the school library. Then I found a treasure trove of old Ellery Queen mystery magazines at a neighbor’s garage sale! What a day that was!

Holmes & Watson production photo - 3 Holmeses
Eric Lee (far left) alongside the rest of the cast. Photo by Peterson Creative Photography and Design

Fast forward to last year. I’m reading Holmes and Watson, and the first thing that strikes me is that signature Hatcher cleverness and wit. I just love his way with language and how he tells a story. I was intrigued, engaged and drawn forward. I couldn’t wait to find out where he was taking me as I was reading—and not every play engages me in that way. When I first read the big reveals, I was just delighted!

Now that the show is on stage, you can hear the shock of the audience at every performance. I certainly didn’t see the twists coming. And why would we? Hatcher reveals the answers to all of his questions with his classic wit and charm. I take great joy in sharing those moments with each audience, and getting to see how they react to the twists and turns I got to take such pleasure in the first time.

Holmes & Watson production photo - dying Inspector
photo by Peterson Creative Photography & Design

I’ve heard it said that one reason we love mysteries is because we know there will be an answer. In a world in which there are rarely clean resolutions to our big problems, what a satisfying feeling it is! As always, I am so grateful to share these moments with you, our Commonweal family. Come and experience all the twists and turns for yourself!

Be sure to catch Eric’s work, and the rest of this stellar cast, before Holmes and Watson closes for good on July 6th.
For Tickets —> Performance Calendar

A Feminist Farce: The Women of “Boeing Boeing”

A Feminist Farce: The Women of “Boeing Boeing”

By Rachel Kuhnle

Women in the Boeing Boeing cast backstage
The women of the Boeing Boeing cast pose in the dressing room
Boeing Boeing opened to audience acclaim on May 18th!

Rehearsing and performing Boeing Boeing sure is fun, but it’s a far cry from doing important, radical, earthshaking theatre… Or is it? Rachel here, looking for the feminist silver lining is a very unexpected place – the French farce Boeing Boeing.

One might assume feminism and farce are like oil and water, and sure, most of the time that probably is the case. But the women of Boeing Boeing are not to be underestimated – Gloria, Gretchen, Gabriella, and yes, even Berthe, are actually great role models!

For example…

Boeing Boeing is one of very few period farces where the women outnumber the men.

This really is a big deal. Despite theatre audiences being between 70-80% women, and the majority of theatre students being women, female characters on stage amount to only about 35% of all available roles. Even the Commonweal Theatre’s 2019 season only has 12 female character roles out of 35 total roles.

All four women in the script are named.

This might seem silly, but it’s very common in media, especially in film and television, for female characters to go unnamed – some studies find as few as 32% of female characters in television and film are named.

Gretchen, Gabriella, and Berthe are bilingual.

Ok, mostly, I just think this is cool. But hey – I’m making an assumption. They could speak MULTIPLE languages, not just two!

All four women are employed, speak intelligently about their work, and find some degree of identity and satisfaction in their professions.

Considering only about 38% of the workforce in 1960s was female, for all four women to be employed is pretty progressive. Will they stay employed once they marry? Who cares – that’s their choice!

All four women are knowledgeable about advancements in their field.

Of course, who wouldn’t be excited about turbo jets and a thrust of 19 thousand pounds?? These women must read Popular Mechanics.

They know what they want, they don’t need to be told what they want.

Think of your favorite love stories – how many of them are a guy-gets-the-girl scenario? It can be fun to watch guys pursuing girls with grand romantic gestures, but in those instances the guy is always “in the driver’s seat” so to speak. In Boeing Boeing, the women drive the action! Bernard and Robert are lucky – if Gloria, Gabriella, Gretchen and Berthe didn’t tell Bernard and Robert exactly what they want, Bernard and Robert would still be rolling around in their beanbags. And Berthe is worth every penny of that additional 40%!

Women in the Boeing Boeing cast backstage
The Women of Boeing Boeing (Left to Right: Lizzy Andretta, Rachel Kuhnle, Adrienne Sweeney, Elizabeth Dunn)

You don’t want to miss out on these incredible women in action. Be sure to catch a performance of the hilarious farce Boeing Boeing. For Tickets —-> Performance Calendar

The Makings of A Farce

By Brandt Roberts

When I am wandering the countryside like a rural maniac, the question I am most often asked is, “Where’s the nearest Wawa?” The second-most-often asked question is, “What’s a farce?” The answer is Hamburg, PA. The second question will require an in-depth exploration.

First and foremost, a farce is a comedy. A comedy is not a tragedy. The word tragedy comes from the Greek word tragoidia, meaning “goat song.” If you have ever heard screaming goats, then you now have a comprehensive knowledge of tragedy. Tragedy deals with the fall of a man from a high status. Comedy deals with men of a low status falling. Tragedy is focused on philosophical explorations while Comedy is focused on carnal explorations.

Brandt is well known to Commonweal audiences for his physically demanding and hilarious performances (Charlie’s Aunt, 2015)

Naturally there is a spectrum to comedy. On the high end is comedy of manners, which satirizes high society and concentrates on wit. Farce is found on the low end and concentrates on the common man and his lack of wit.

The word farce is probably based on the French word farcir—to stuff. When dramatic presentations were more of an event farce was used to fill the time between the screaming goats. On a basic level, the word farcir also suggests the genre is stuffed chockfull of physical bits, gags and other tomfoolery like a Thanksgiving turkey at a boardinghouse for clowns.

The humor stems from an everyman wanting to have his cake and eat it too. As we follow the exploits of the fellow striving to achieve the ludicrously impossible, the situation becomes increasingly more absurd. Thus entertainment is born. After all, the main purpose of any comedy is to entertain. I have had a lifelong love affair with farce and clowning. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Throughout life I have found that laughter is indeed the best medicine.

Lizzy Andretta (Gabriella), Rachel Kuhnle (Gloria), Elizabeth Dunn (Gretchen) and Josiah Laubenstein (Bernard) in Boeing Boeing, May through August.
Boeing Boeing begins performances on May 10th!

The fact that farce is on the low end of the comedy spectrum does not mean that it is “less,” but that it is more accessible to an audience. A fall does not have an age restriction or a language barrier: it is universal. This is why clowns are sent into refugee camps and hospitals. They can impart their medicine freely without the need of a prescription. To me, there is no greater honor than to share a healing laugh with an audience.

If you are in need of medicinal laughter, then come and visit the Commonweal theatre and become immersed in the zany world of Boeing Boeing. You’ll be glad you did. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find a closer Wawa…    

Don’t miss Brandt’s work this season, as he appears in both Holmes and Watson, and the hilarious Boeing Boeing. For Tickets —-> Performance Calendar