Watch on the Rhine Opens January 18 at Church Hill Theatre

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Lillian Hellman’s Watch on the Rhine, directed by Mary A. James, continues at Church Hill Theatre through February 3.  An “effective historical drama and a prescient look at today’s world” according to a review by Peter Heck – you do not want to miss this show!

Watch on the Rhine takes place in 1940 at Fanny Farrelly’s estate near Washington, DC, where she and her lawyer son David eagerly await the arrival of his sister, Sara Muller, and her family. Sara, married to a German patriot, for twenty years has made a new life in Europe, far from her domineering mother.  Tensions arise when Fanny’s houseguests, a titled Romanian couple, meddle in family affairs. What is going on between the Countess and David Farrelly? And is the Count a Nazi—or just a cad? Matters are resolved during a long cocktail hour that reveals secrets and rips apart Fanny’s comfortably complacent life.

David Farelly (Howard Mesick) and his sister Sara Muller (Darlene Greer) are delighted to see each other after many years apart.

Jane Copple “is in her element” in the role of Fanny Farrelly, a cosmopolitan and well-connected matron who is perhaps too used to getting her own way.  Darlene Greer portrays Fanny’s daughter, Sara Muller, stronger than we first think. Robert McGrory plays Kurt Muller, a former engineer and anti-Nazi activist.  Heck notes that he “gives the character a good balance between the sympathetic family man and tough freedom fighter.”  Lisa Wojehowski, Calla McCluskey, and Connor Christopher play their children, Joshua, Babette and Bodo, all three doing “an excellent job.” Complicating matters are Fanny’s houseguests, the sinisterly attractive Count Teck de Brancovis, played by Will Robinson with “an effective blend of menace and aristocratic disdain.”  His American-born wife Marthe is played by Genevieve Croker who Heck notes does a “good job” at portraying a woman stuck in a dead-end marriage.  Howard Mesick is Fanny’s lawyer son David, a man who finds more backbone as his comfortable world changes. Sheila Austrian is “well cast” as Fanny’s French housekeeper/companion Anise.

James, with substantial experience at St. Martin’s Community Theatre and the Colonial Players, is making her directorial debut at Church Hill Theatre. Her production team includes Producer Hester Sachse and Lighting Designer Doug Kaufmann. The set was designed by the director and Temple Worth and constructed by Carmen Grasso and Tom Rhodes. Speedy Christopher helps backstage.

Watch on the Rhine continues until February 3. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 pm and Sunday afternoons at 2 pm.  Reservations can be made on line at churchhilltheatre.org or by calling (410) 556-6003.

Watch on the Rhine Opens January 18 at Church Hill Theatre

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Lillian Hellman’s Watch on the Rhine, directed by Mary A. James, is Church Hill Theatre’s first 2019 show. The play is a vintage American drama, with several heroic characters, an attractive villain, charming children, and a few comic moments along the way. It’s also a “traditional” CHT production, with an elegantly furnished living room set and costumes that match the period. The production opens on Friday, January 18 and will run for three weekends.

But Watch on the Rhine is much more than a drawing room comedy—it is an eloquent defense of American democratic values and responsibilities. Although written shortly before the outbreak of WWII as an anti-Nazi statement, it still resonates strongly and has enjoyed a number of recent revivals. The original play won the 1941 Drama Critics’ Circle Award and was made into a film starring Bette Davis.

Watch on the Rhine takes place in 1940 at Fanny Farrelly’s estate near Washington, DC, where she and her lawyer son David eagerly await the arrival of his sister, Sara Muller, and her family. Sara, married to a German patriot, for twenty years has made a new life in Europe, far from her domineering mother.  Tensions arise when Fanny’s houseguests, a titled Romanian couple, meddle in family affairs. What is going on between the Countess and David Farrelly? And is the Count a Nazi—or just a cad? Matters are resolved during a long cocktail hour that reveals secrets and rips apart Fanny’s comfortably complacent life.

David Farelly (Howard Mesick) and his sister Sara Muller (Darlene Greer).

Jane Copple takes on the role of Fanny Farrelly, a cosmopolitan and well-connected matron who is perhaps too used to getting her own way.  Darlene Greer portrays Fanny’s daughter, Sara Muller, stronger than we first think. Robert McGrory plays Kurt Muller, a former engineer and anti-Nazi activist.  Lisa Wojehowski, Calla McCluskey, and Connor Christopher play their children, Joshua, Babette and Bodo. Complicating matters are Fanny’s houseguests, the sinisterly attractive Count Teck de Brancovis, played by Will Robinson, and his American-born wife Marthe, played by Genevieve Croker.  Howard Mesick portrays Fanny’s lawyer son David, a man who finds more backbone as his comfortable world changes. Sheila Austrian plays Fanny’s French housekeeper/companion Anise.

James, with substantial experience at St. Martin’s Community Theatre and the Colonial Players, is making her directorial debut at Church Hill Theatre. Her production team includes Producer Hester Sachse and Lighting Designer Doug Kaufmann. The set was designed by the director and Temple Worth and constructed by Carmen Grasso. Speedy Christopher will be helping backstage.

Watch on the Rhine will open on January 18, 2019 and run until February 3. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 pm and Sunday afternoons at 2 pm.  Special two-for-one ticket pricing is available for the opening night. Reservations can be made on line at churchhilltheatre.org or by calling (410) 556-6003.

Auditions for “A Flea in Her Ear” at CHT on January 15, 17, 19

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Georges Feydeau’s hilarious farce adapted by David Ives comes to the stage this spring at Church Hill Theatre. Directed by Toph Wallace, the play will run for three weekends from March 29 to April 14. Rehearsals will begin on January 24.

A Flea in Her Ear has a simple premise, Madame Chandebise suspects her husband of cheating, and with the help of her best friend sets out to entrap and catch him.  With comic roles for men and women, you want to be a part of this show!  Auditioners will be asked to do cold readings from the script.

Wallace is a member of the CHT board and last directed the 2017 Church Hill production of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution.  He has been on stage recently in the title role of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at the Garfield Center and as Pat in CHT’s 2018 production of The Hostage.

Auditions will be held:

January 15 & 17 at 6:30 in the CHT rehearsal space located at 502 Main Street in Church Hill

January 19 at 12:00 on the CHT main stage

The characters in A Flea in Her Ear are:

Raymonde Chandebise: (Female: late 20’s – late 30’s)
Victor Chandebise’s  suspicious wife who plots to catch her husband being unfaithful to her.
Victor Chandebise / Poche: (Male: mid 30’s – mid 40’s)
As Victor: Raymonde’s faithful, sometimes meek husband/ As Poche: An alcoholic porter at the Frisky Puss Hotel who is often confused for Victor.
Tournel: (Male: early to late 30’s)
A handsome and confident ladies-man who has his eyes set on Raymonde.
Lucienne: (Female: late 20’s to late 30’s)
Raymonde’s witty friend who aids the plot by writing a seductive letter to Victor.
Don Carlos Homenides de Histangua: (Male: mid 30’s to mid-40’s) You’ll want to play this guy just because of his name! Lucienne’s hot-blooded husband. Thrown into a fierce rage when he sees her letter.
Camille: (Male: late 20’s to mid-30’s)
Antoinette’s lover. Has a cleft palette and speaks without pronouncing any consonants throughout most of the show.
Antoinette: (Female: mid 20’s to mid-30’s)
The maid of the house. Married to Etienne, but having an affair with Camille
Etienne: (mid 30’s to mid-40’s)
The Chandebise’s valet. Thinks he controls his wife, but… is oblivious to her affair.

Dr.  Finache: (Male: late 40’s to early 60’s)
The family doctor who is a frequent patron of the Frisky Puss Hotel.
Ferraillon: (Male: early 40’s to early 50’s)
Owner of the Frisky Puss Hotel. An army colonel, he runs the inn like his troupe.
Olympia: (Female: late 40’s to late 50’s)
Ferraillon’s wife. A beauty queen in her youth who won’t let go of the past.
Eugenie: (Female: early 20’s to early 30’s)
A somewhat dimwitted and flirtatious chamber maid at the Frisky Puss Hotel.
Baptiste: (Female: early 50’s to mid-70’s)
Ferraillon’s elderly uncle. Used as the hotel’s “distraction” when lovers are caught.
Rugby: (Male: late 20’s to mid-40’s)
A drunken Englishman who is stood up at the hotel. Will take any woman he can get.

Contact the Church Hill Theatre at 410-556-6003 or execmanager@churchhilltheatre.org with any questions about the play, the roles, or the audition schedule.

Church Hill Theatre Announces 2019 Season Plays

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Church Hill Theatre proudly announces an eclectic and significant 2019 season of plays in its historic art-deco playhouse. As always, CHT strives for a mix of contemporary and classic, laughs and tears, music and words that may change our lives.

The season will begin early in 2019 with the every-popular comedy The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. It will be followed by a March production of Watch on the Rhine, a gripping drama about the impending Nazi threat, by the 20th century playwright Lillian Hellman. The June musical, a highlight of the Delmarva arts scene, will be the rock classic Jesus Christ, Superstar. September will feature a play-with-music, 33 Variations, by Moises Kauffman. In it, a present-day musicologist and Beethoven himself help bring meaning to some of the composer’s most important piano pieces. The season will end in November with Feydeau’s antic farce A Flea in Her Ear, in a modern script by David Ives. Each production will run for three weekends, with evening performances on Friday and Saturday and a matinee on Sunday.

Interested directors are encouraged to contact the CHT Office at 410-556-6003 or execmanager@churchhilltheatre.org for further information and application materials. Completed applications will require a theater resume and detailed production proposals. All shows also will need producers, assistant directors, sound, set, and light designers, so please let the office know of your interest in these positions. Visit the website at churchhillthatre.org. to learn more about CHT and its previous seasons.

CHT Celebrates 35 Years of Musical Theater with Drag Revue

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Marti Gould Cummings

Join Church Hill Theatre for a saucy and sexy celebration of Musical Theater at the CHT Drag Revue on December 7 & 8.  Hosted by Marti Gould Cummings and featuring the talents of four Queens from NYC, this fundraiser is sure to entertain.  A native of the area, some of Marti’s earliest stage experiences were right here, as a member of the annual summer Green Room Gang.  Now he returns to the CHT stage as he and his talented troupe help to recall musical numbers from productions throughout the last 35 years.

Marti has taken his love of theater to the Big Apple, where he created and produced Fusion’s hit show, Shade Queens of NYC.  He is a frequent guest on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, and his weekly talk show has had over 100 Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Grammy, and Golden Globe nominated guests. Marti is also building a reputation as a political activist,serving on the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Nightlife, sitting on Community Board 9, and founding the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats.

Joining Marti onstage will be: Didi Cumswell, Golden Delicious, Selma Nilla, and Sierra Miste–fantastic performers with their own bands of loyal followers.

You won’t be disappointed! So, as Marti would say, “put on your Mary Kay makeup and Avon jewelry” and be prepared to laugh, frolic, and join in with the queens of NYC.

Only two nights of performances, Friday December 7th and Saturday December 8th.  Tickets are $85 for this special fundraising event. Call the Church Hill Theatre at (410) 556-6003 or visit their website at www.churchhilltheatre.org for tickets and more information.

The Hostage Closes November 18 at Church Hill Theatre

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Brendan Behan’s The Hostage is, “bright and bawdy, irreverent and tender” at CHT says Peter Heck in his review. Pat Patterson directs this dark Irish comedy that runs through November 18, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Reservations can be made by calling 410-556-6003 or online at churchhilltheatre.org.

Set in 1960 Ireland, between the glory days of Easter Uprising and the horrors of the Troubles, Irish nationalism flourishes but is without firm direction. Pat and Meg, who run an informal brothel in Monsewer’s house, reluctantly agree to house a British hostage seized by the IRA in hopes of saving a condemned Irish terrorist. But the ensuing mix of part-time militiamen, prostitutes, and nostalgic patriots leads to confusion and misunderstandings. Heck notes that, “The Hostage is an exhilarating experience with a talented cast delivering a script that ranges from the scurrilous to the poetic – sometimes hitting both extremes in a matter of moments.”

Photo: Residents of the boarding house see the Hostage (Max Hagan, center, forward) for the first time. From L-R they are, Eamon Murphy, Christopher Wallace, Maya McGrory (behind) Christine Kinlock, Natalie Lane, Hester Sachse, Michelle Christopher, Herb Ziegler, Julie Lawrence (behind), Charles Michael Moore, Howard Mesick, Kellan Paddy. Photo by Steve Atkinson

Christopher Wallace plays Pat, the landlord; Christine Kinlock plays his consort, Meg; and Herb Ziegler plays Monsewer, the Anglo-Irish owner of the house. Max Hagan portrays the hostage, Leslie Williams. Residents include two prostitutes (one mostly retired), played by Natalie Lane and Michelle Christopher; a seedy civil servant and an improbable social worker, played by Howard Mesick and Hester Sachse; and a couple of promiscuous men of fluid gender, played by Michael Moore and Kellan Paddy. Maya McGrory plays Teresa, the young and innocent housemaid. An extremist IRA officer is played by Paul Briggs, assisted by an eager volunteer played by Eamon Murphy. Troy Strootman is a Russian sailor, perhaps the only one in the house with money in his pocket.

Julie Lawrence, the show’s Music Director, and Phil Dutton take turns playing Kelly, an onstage presence throughout the play, providing piano accompaniment for songs, a friendly place to sit, and even cash when the beer runs out.

Patterson’s production team includes Producer Sylvia Maloney, Set Designer Michael Whitehill, Choreographer Cavin Moore, Costumer Juanita Wieczoerck, Lighting Designer Douglas Kaufmann, Dialect Coach Sally Borghardt, Photographer Steve Atkinson and Sound Designer Kat Melton. Stage Manager Sheila Austrian and her assistant Speedy Christopher work behind the scenes. Randy Welch, the bagpipe consultant, recorded music especially for the show and provided a full piper’s kit for Monsewer.

Auditions for Watch on the Rhine at Church Hill Theatre

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Lillian Hellman’s powerful and timely Watch on the Rhine will open the 2019 season at Church Hill Theatre. Directed by Mary Averill James, the play will run for three weekends from January 18 to February 3. Rehearsals will begin as soon as possible after auditions to allow the cast time to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas with their families.

Watch on the Rhine takes place near Washington DC, just before the outbreak of World War Two, at the wealthy Farrelly home. Tensions arise when Fanny Farrelly’s visiting daughter Sara and her German patriot husband interact with a titled Romanian houseguest. Watch on the Rhine received the 1941 New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for the best play and was widely praised for its anti-Nazi theme.

James is making her directorial debut at Church Hill Theatre but brings substantial experience from St. Martin’s Community Theatre and the Colonial Players. She looks forward to working with both CHT veterans and newcomers. Watch on the Rhine has roles for men, women and children, spanning a flexible range of ages and ethnicities, with even the smaller parts playing key roles in the drama. Auditioners will be asked to participate in cold readings from the script. James also invites those interested in backstage or technical positions to come to an audition.

Auditions will be held on: Saturday, November 3, at 1 pm and on Monday, November 5 at 6 pm on the Church Hill Theatre stage. If needed, call-backs will be held on Wednesday, November 7.

The characters in Watch on the Rhine are:
Fanny Farrelly, 60s -70s, a wealthy and well-connected Virginia matron
David Farrelly, her son, 30-40s, attracted to Marthe
Sara Mueller, Fanny’s daughter, in her 40s
Kurt Mueller, Sara’s German husband, 40s to early 50s
Joshua Mueller, their teen-aged son
Babette, Mueller, a 10-12 year old daughter
Bodo Mueller, a younger son
Joseph, the Farrelly butler, is an older African-American
Anise, Fanny’s long-time French housekeeper
Teck de Brancovis, a sophisticated Romanian count, 30s – 50s
Marthe de Brancovis, his wife 20s – 30s

Contact the Church Hill Theatre at 410-556-6003 or execmanager@churchhilltheatre.org with any questions about the play, the roles, or the audition schedule.

The Hostage Opens November 2 at Church Hill Theatre

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Brendan Behan’s The Hostage, directed by Pat Patterson, is the final production of Church Hill Theatre’s 2018 Season. The Hostage will open on Friday, November 2 and run through November 18, with performances on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 pm and Sunday afternoons at 2 pm. Reservations can be made by calling 410-556-6003 or online at churchhilltheatre.org.

A mid-20th century classic, the play, as a New York Times review notes, “demonstrates how tyranny masquerades as liberty and how humanity is trapped in the bone-crushing embrace of political expediency.” Despite its serious themes, The Hostage is filled with music (from bagpipes to ballads), bar room humor, and genuine affection amongst the down-and-outers who inhabit a shabby Dublin boarding house. While there is not a single curse word in the script, the play contains adult themes and some violence, so is not recommended for elementary school students.

Set in 1960 Ireland, between the glory days of Easter Uprising and the horrors of the Troubles to come, Irish nationalism flourishes but is without firm direction. Pat and Meg, who run an informal brothel in Monsewer’s house, reluctantly agree to house a British hostage seized by the IRA in hopes of saving a condemned Irish terrorist. But the ensuing mix of part-time militiamen, prostitutes, and nostalgic patriots leads to confusion and misunderstandings. Behan obviously found the whole situation tragically absurd—and responded by using comedy to mask the pain. With onstage piano accompaniment, actors sing and dance as the spirit takes them, using music to reveal their emotional conflicts.

Photo: Members of the cast sing around the piano. From L to R they are: Herb Ziegler, Maya McGrory, Howard Mesick, Hester Sachse, Michael Moore, and Music Director Julie Lawrence (seated). Photo by Steve Atkinson

Christopher Wallace plays Pat, the landlord; Christine Kinlock plays his consort, Meg; and Herb Ziegler plays Monsewer, the Anglo-Irish owner of the house. Max Hagan portrays the hostage, Leslie Williams. Residents include two prostitutes (one mostly retired), played by Natalie Lane and Michelle Christopher; a seedy civil servant and an improbable social worker, played by Howard Mesick and Hester Sachse; and a couple of promiscuous men of fluid gender, played by Michael Moore and Kellan Paddy. Maya McGrory plays Teresa, the young and innocent housemaid. An extremist IRA officer is played by Paul Briggs, assisted by an eager volunteer played by Eamon Murphy. Troy Strootman is a Russian sailor, perhaps the only one in the house with money in his pocket.

Julie Lawrence, the show’s Music Director, and Phil Dutton take turns playing Kelly, an onstage presence throughout the play, providing piano accompaniment for songs, a friendly place to sit, and even cash when the beer runs out.

Patterson’s production team includes Producer Sylvia Maloney, Set Designer Michael Whitehill, Choreographer Cavin Moore, Costumer Juanita Wieczoerck, Lighting Designer Douglas Kaufmann, Dialect Coach Sally Borghardt, Photographer Steve Atkinson  and Sound Designer Kat Melton. Stage Manager Sheila Austrian and her assistant Speedy Christopher work behind the scenes. Randy Welch, the bagpipe consultant, recorded music especially for the show and provided a full piper’s kit for Monsewer.

Special two-for-the-price-of-one tickets are available for the opening night show on Friday, November 2, by calling the box office at 410-556-6003.

Large Cast Chosen for “The Hostage” at Church Hill Theatre

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The final production of Church Hill Theatre’s 2018 Season is the mid-20th century classic, Brendan Behan’s The Hostage, directed by Pat Patterson. Behan uses the Irish music hall tradition to incorporate song and dance throughout the performance, mixing sometimes-broad humor with a profoundly humanistic message. Set in a Dublin rooming house (and part-time brothel), the socially marginal characters confront society’s rigid expectations, finding their own ways to patriotism, friendship, treachery, and even love in the political nightmare of the “Irish Problem.” Patterson first encountered The Hostage while serving as an Air Force Officer in Italy, where military audiences responded positively to the play’s questions about power and responsibility. He hopes Delmarva theatergoers will find The Hostage as relevant today as it was in 1958, the year of its first production in Dublin.

The Hostage will open on Friday, November 2 and run through November 18, with performances on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. Reservations can be made by calling 410-556-6003 or online at churchhilltheatre.org.

The characters in The Hostage are the residents of a run-down rooming house, IRA militants, and the unfortunate hostage, a British soldier captured to be exchanged for a condemned Irish terrorist. Christopher Wallace plays Pat, the landlord; Christine Kinlock plays his consort, Meg; and Herb Ziegler plays Monsewer, the Anglo-Irish owner of the house. Max Hagan portrays the hostage, Leslie Williams. Residents include two prostitutes (one mostly retired) played by Natalie Lane and Michelle Christopher, a seedy civil servant and an improbable social worker, played by Howard Mesick and Hester Sachse; and a couple of promiscuous men of fluid gender, played by Michael Moore and Kellen Paddy. Maya McGrory plays Teresa, the young and innocent housemaid. An extremist IRA officer is played by Paul Briggs, assisted by an eager volunteer played by Eamon Murphy. Troy Strootman is a Russian sailor, perhaps the only one in the house with money in his pocket.

Julie Lawrence is the show’s music director—and also an onstage presence throughout the play, providing piano accompaniment for songs, a friendly place to sit, and even cash when the beer runs out.

Patterson’s production team includes Producer Sylvia Maloney, Choreographer Cavin Moore, and Stage Manager Sheila Austrian.

Michael Whitehill designed the set, Douglas Kaufmann does the light design, and Juanita Wieczoreck finds appropriate late 1950s costumes. Randy Welch is the bagpipe consultant, recording music especially for the show and providing a full piper’s kit for Monsewer.

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