Hedgerow Theatre Extends and Streams THE PUZZLE

Performances now run through Sunday, June 4th at 2pm.

By: Jun. 01, 2023
Hedgerow Theatre Extends and Streams THE PUZZLE

Hedgerow Theatre has announced both a one-week extension and a virtual streaming option of the company’s Barrymore Recommended world premiere production of The Puzzle by Juliette Dunn. The Puzzle follows two clowns, Finneas and Quinton, as they strive to escape a surreal scrap yard, and The Boy - a non-speaker with autism - whose arrival upends their plans. Together these characters reveal our capacity to transcend barriers, turn struggle into joy, and reach a new depth of human understanding.  Legendary clown David Shiner anchors the cast, reuniting with Broadway veteran Daniel Passer, and joining Philadelphia talent Michael Stahler. Shiner also co-directs the piece with Bill Fennelly - both have directed on Broadway, with Cirque du Soleil, and across regional stages in the US and abroad.

In-person tickets cost $35 for adults and $20 for youth (ages 18 and under) available through June 4th and are available online at Click Here. All in-person performances are held at Hedgerow Theatre located at 64 Rose Valley Rd in Media, PA.  

Added in-person performances are:

Wednesday, May 31st at 2pm

Thursday, June 1 at 7:30pm

Friday,  June 2 at 7:30pm

Saturday  June 3 at 7:30pm

Sunday, June 4th at 2pm

Hedgerow partners with the League of Live Stream Theater  (LOLST) to make this production available through virtual streaming June 16-18. Streaming tickets cost $35, plus a $9 fee and can be purchased at the Hedgerow Theatre Company website.  The League of Live Stream Theater, a new nonprofit founded in 2022, provides the production, technical, financial, and marketing solutions to bring nonprofit theater to a global audience, via live stream. Founders Jim Augustine and Oren Michels, veterans in the theater and technology industries, have a vision to make Broadway and regional theater more accessible than ever before, driving new audiences to new works, increasing awareness for world-class stages and artists, and helping these nonprofit institutions to thrive for another generation. Founding support for The League of Live Stream Theater has been provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sherrill Family Foundation. To learn more, visit lolst.org.

As-live streamed performances are:

Friday, June 16th at 7:30pm

Saturday, June 17th at 7:30pm

Sunday, June 18th at 2pm

According to Augustine and Michels, "We are excited and proud to collaborate with Hedgerow Theatre for the world premiere of Juliette Dunn's The Puzzle. At The League of Live Stream Theater, we believe in the power of streamed performances to increase accessibility, connect with new audiences, and support the mission of nonprofit theaters. We are eager to work together and enhance the impact of this extraordinary production."

This production has already  enjoyed robust houses and heartfelt patron response, which inspired the extension and the virtual streaming option. “It is a pleasure to collaborate with the League of Live Stream Theater to expand access to this powerful production beyond our immediate region,” notes Marcie Bramucci, Hedgerow’s Executive Artistic Director. “Juliette Dunn has crafted a singular work of art. We could not be more excited to share this work with a wider audience.”

The Puzzle introduces the world of a young person with a vast inner life, who is a non-speaker with autism. This production explores what it means to meet one another where we are in full humanity. 

This play is a celebration and elevation of a particular lived experience of a non-speaker with autism, inspired by the playwright’s son. According to Dunn, “My inspiration was and is my beautiful, smart, funny, warm-hearted son who has autism. His purity brings me the greatest joy. His struggles bring me the greatest agony. I wanted to tell not only his story, but the story of those on the spectrum who are underestimated and devalued. Additionally, my love for the clown, who constantly walks the balance between joy and agony, fused together with that desire to become The Puzzle.”

For Dunn, “the puzzle” imagery addresses the many unanswered questions in life, “There are many puzzles in the play, but the boy is not one of them, in fact, he is the most whole character in the story.”

Returning to the Hedgerow stage is Philadelphia artist Michael Stahler performing in the role of The Boy.  Stahler notes, "as an actor with autism, it's rare to see stories about people like me told respectfully or accurately on the screen or stage, much less get the chance to tell those stories myself. The Puzzle is the kind of play that would have meant a lot to me as a kid growing up neurodivergent, and so it is my greatest honor to play this part and share this part of me on the stage for the very first time.”

For the playwright, Juliette Dunn, “All of these characters touch my heart. They are all suffering in some way. They all want happiness. They all want to belong. Their pain is our pain. This play uses these three characters to talk about the human condition—what we long for and hope for and suffer through as people trying to make sense and meaning of our lives.”

“I’m beyond excited to be working with an incredible team of artists,” notes Dunn, “most especially, the incomparable David Shiner, who is a theatre icon and clown royalty.” Shiner, a Tony Award winning artist, plays Quinton and as co-director brings this pioneering play to life with his powerful vision and virtuosic humor.  According to Dunn, “[David] was a huge influence for me. Seeing Fool Moon right after college was a seminal and transformative moment. I knew right then this was the kind of theatre I wanted to make. At any point after that, if you had asked me who I would want to work with, if I could work with anyone in the world, my answer would have been David Shiner… the whole experience has been thrilling and overwhelming.”

Shiner is excited for the challenge of this new work. “This play is not an abstraction. Its scope is vast, its purpose lucid—communication,” said Shiner. “This only happens through listening and the gentle surrendering of all that we know.” 

Shiner, Dunn, and Passer have teamed on several workshops of the production in partnership with actor and self-advocate Mickey Rowe, and dramaturg Wendy Bable, who contributed to the play’s evolution. Bable returns to the production at Hedgerow along with lighting designer Lily Fossner (The Pillowman and A Christmas Carol Comedy) and costume designer Rebecca Kanach (The World…Snoopy). Shawn Fisher joins the team as scenic designer,, and celebrated choreographer and dancer Karen Getz as choreographer. Alexis Wells joins as stage manager and Kate Fossner engages as Production Manager. 

According to Co-Director, Bill Fennelly, “I am honored to be a part of the team that is bringing Juliette Dunn's beautiful play to life. And I am thrilled to be reunited with my Cirque du Soleil collaborators, the celebrated clowns David Shiner and Daniel Passer. My time at Cirque working with David and Daniel changed the trajectory of my life and career. It was at Cirque that I was schooled in the transformative art of clowning. The Clowns, like Juliette's play, will disarm us and discombobulate us so we can see our world (and hopefully ourselves) from a new and unexpected perspective.”

Dunn adds, “I hope audiences will go on this rollercoaster ride with us—and laugh and cry and feel and learn that we have more similarities than differences and that people who are non-speaking have so much to offer and so much intelligence. I hope that inspires them to treat the next non-speaker they meet with the highest respect and admiration.”

Stahler expresses, “Every autistic person's story is different, so I can only speak to my own life experience, but it is my hope that this piece will bridge gaps between different communities and broaden the horizons for what's possible for anyone who is different. I cannot thank the Hedgerow Theatre enough for their support and their passion for telling new stories from new voices."

Hedgerow is honored to have this show and such incredible talent on stage in this 100th season. “Working with this team has already been incredibly exciting and meaningful,” shares Bramucci. “The Puzzle is wonderfully disarming and swiftly draws you in. Juliette approaches her work with such generosity and specificity as she centers a perspective that has been misunderstood or sidelined for too long. This bold and beautiful play, in the hands of our exceptionally talented creative team - available to more people in person and online - is exactly the way to anchor Hedgerow’s 100th season.”  

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