Sierra Stages and Miners Foundry to Present Reading of HAND TO GOD
On Wednesday, April 12, Sierra Stages and the Miners Foundry present the controversial and critically acclaimed play, "HAND TO GOD", written by Robert Askins, as part of "Theater By The Book," a series of informal play readings for the community.
Described as "Sesame Street meets The Exorcist" by The New Yorker, "HAND TO GOD" tells the story of an awkward Texas teen named Jason, who spends his afternoons at his local church, practicing for the Christian Puppet Ministry run by his widowed mother. All hell literally breaks loose, however, when Jason's puppet Tyrone takes on a shocking and dangerously irreverent personality all its own. Nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Play, "HAND TO GOD" explores the startlingly fragile nature of faith, morality, and the ties that bind.
"The play was described to me as being about a kid with an insane hand puppet; it sounded like a perfect fit for local actor Danny McCammon," explains Ken Getz of Sierra Stages and director of "HAND TO GOD." As soon as the rights became available for non-professional productions after the show completed its successful Broadway run in early 2016, Getz contacted McCammon about doing the show as part of the "Theater By The Book" play reading series. "When Danny said he could do the reading this spring, I took on the role of 'director' because it's a show I've really wanted to do in this community," says Getz. "Danny stretches his acting chops to play two characters at once -- the awkward teen Jason and his evil puppet Tyrone. Alone on stage, he delivers several lengthy (and hilarious) conversations between Jason and Tyrone. It's just amazing to watch Danny keep up with the script and manipulate his puppet."
McCammon is joined by a wonderful group of local actors. "The talented Robert Rossman reads the part of Pastor Greg, and the hysterical Jori Phillips and Jay Barker are the two other 'kids', Jessica and Timothy," says Getz. "We also have the pleasure of working with a newcomer to town, Judy Merrick, who plays Jason's troubled mother; Judy is not only a professional actor, but also she was part of the original reading of "HAND TO GOD" in New York and knows the playwright. And finally, we could not have done this reading without the assistance of our good friend, local actor, and 'puppet master' Ken Miele who built our puppets and coached our actors with the puppetry skills."
Now in its fifth season, "Theater By The Book" has allowed Sierra Stages to bring plays to the community that might otherwise be too difficult, too expensive, or too controversial to produce as full productions. However, a couple of the readings have had longer lives: "The Cripple of Inishmaan" started as a reading and was developed into a delightful and beautiful production directed by Sharon Winegar last year, and this fall, Sierra Stages will do a full production of the musical "Ordinary Days" which was presented as reading in 2014 with the same cast and director, Sandra Rockman.
"HAND TO GOD" certainly fits the bill of being "too controversial" to warrant a full production, but you never know what the future may hold. "As I've told many people, if you are offended by adult language, or simulated puppet sex, they might want to skip this one," says Getz about the adult content of this reading. "On the other hand, there's a certain audience for whom that increases the interest! You never know."
Sierra Stages is a nonprofit community theatre based in western Nevada County with a mission to provide quality productions that are affordable and accessible to everyone. Since it began eight years ago, Sierra Stages has presented 31 plays and musicals and almost as many play readings. After "HAND TO GOD", the next "Theater By The Book" play reading will be "THE LARAMIE PROJECT" directed by Sharon Winegar on Wednesday May 10 at the Miners Foundry, and the next full production will be the hit musical "CHICAGO" at the Nevada Theatre July 13-August 5. Information about Sierra Stages and its productions may be found at www.SierraStages.org.