World Premiere of Juliette Dunn's THE PUZZLE Extended at Hedgerow Theatre Company

Legendary clown David Shiner anchors the cast, reuniting with Broadway veteran Daniel Passer, and joining Philadelphia talent Michael Stahler.

By: Jun. 01, 2023
World Premiere of Juliette Dunn's THE PUZZLE Extended at Hedgerow Theatre Company

World Premiere of Juliette Dunn's THE PUZZLE Extended at Hedgerow Theatre Company

Hedgerow Theatre 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. Streamed performances are available with closed captioning. 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

As-live streamed performances are:

Friday, June 16th at 7:30pm

Saturday, June 17th at 7:30pm

Sunday, June 18th at 2pm

available with closed captioning.

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."

About the Artists:

Juliette Dunn (Playwright) is an actor, writer, and educator whose favorite acting credits include the world premieres of Incorruptible by Michael Hollinger, Rendezvous with Reality by Murphy Guyer, The Lake by Robert Caisley, and the US premiere of Blood Money by The Heather Brothers. Other favorite credits include Maggie in Brian Friel's Lovers, Waverly in Recent Tragic Events by Craig Wright, the research and development of The Happiness Lecture by Bill Irwin, and a thrilling collaboration with the Philadelphia Orchestra performing scenes from Romeo and Juliet and music by Sergei Prokofiev. Juliette is honored to be world premiering The Puzzle at the legendary Hedgerow Theatre and to share in its rich history of new play development. Her play, cate, was directed by Hedgerow's Executive Artistic Director, Marcie Bramucci, at the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing where she earned her M.F.A. in Playwriting. Juliette is incredibly proud to have initiated the pilot program that became Theatre Horizon's Autism Drama Program through the heart and mind and vision of the incomparable Kate McLenigan Altman.

David Shiner (Co-Director, Performer playing Quinton) David Shiner began his career on the streets of Paris in 1981 and quickly established himself as an artist with a vision. He drew hundreds of spectators at a time to his own form of guerrilla theater. He incorporated audience members and bystanders - from grandmothers to children to businessmen and police - holding up a mirror to both the mundane and spectacular as an antagonistic yet lovable social commentator.

David then began performing in Europe's most prestigious circuses, including starring in the famous German Circus RONCALLI and the Swiss Circus KNIE. Across the Atlantic, David became one of the original creators of Cirque du Soleil, first as a performer in Nouvelle Experience and then as a director with the show Kooza.

In addition to the circus, David also performed in variety theater and film. During the shooting of 1993's Silent Tongue by Sam Shepard, David had the opportunity to act alongside Bill Irwin. From that chance meeting grew a collaboration that would last for over 20 years. Together, they created the Broadway hit Fool Moon. The show won many awards, including a Tony Award recognizing its original, modern spin on vaudevillian comedy. The duo's most recent collaboration, Old Hats, had two successful runs in 2013 and 2016 in New York at the Signature Theatre under the guidance of Jim Houghton. David has appeared on The Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Dick Cavett, and Regis and Kathy Lee shows. Awards include: Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Tony Award, Obie Award and the Lea Live Entertainment Award.

Bill Fennelly (Co-Director) is an award winning stage director whose work has been seen on Broadway, Off Broadway regionally, and Internationally in theatre and on television. His work has been seen in NYC at The Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons; and regionally at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Dallas Theatre Center, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Syracuse Stage, Portland Center Stage, Hartford Stage Company, Goodspeed Opera House, LaJolla Playhouse, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, TheatreWorks in Palo Alto California, TheaterWorks in Hartford Connecticut, Arizona Theatre Company, Actors Express, Ford's Theatre, People's Light, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Walnut Street Theatre, PlayPenn, Guild Hall of East Hampton, The 2006 Cultural Olympic Festival at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, New York City Opera at Lincoln Center, Glimmerglass Opera, and Chicago Opera Theatre.

He recently collaborated with CNN political commentator and Sirius Satellite Radio POTUS talk show host Michael Smerconish on the creation of his one-man political and journalistic retrospective: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking which aired internationally on CNN. He was recently invited by the Taipei Performing Arts Center to collaborate on the creation of TPAC Director's Lab, in Taipei Taiwan; a professional directing laboratory with a focus on directing musical theatre.

Bill was the original Assistant Director on the creation of the TONY Award winning Jersey Boys directed by Des McAnuff, he was the Resident Director for the Broadway First National Tour of Disney's award winning The Lion King directed by Julie Taymour, he was the Associate Director for the world premiere and Broadway production of The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm directed by Mark Lamos; he was also the Assistant Director to Sir Alan Ayckbourn on the U.S. premiere of Sir Ayckbourn's and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical By Jeeves. Bill spent four seasons as a staff director with New York City Opera at Lincoln Center where he worked on over thirteen new productions including the Glimmerglass World Premiere, the NYC Premiere and the EMMY nominated PBS Great Performances Telecast of Central Park by Terrence McNally, Robert Beaser, Wendy Wasserstein, Deborah Drattell, Michael Torke and A.R. Gurney. Additionally, Bill directed the world premiere and Off Broadway production of Frankenstein the musical.

He served as an Assistant Artistic Director at Cirque du Soleil in Montreal, Chicago and New York City, Producing Artistic Director at Actor's Express in Atlanta Georgia, and Associate Producing Artistic Director of the TONY honored The Acting Company in NYC.

Bill's work has received regional awards and nominations around the country. He earned a Bay Area Critics Award nomination for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for the world premiere of the new musical Fly By Night at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, he won the Dallas Column Award for Outstanding Direction of a musical for Fly By Night at Dallas Theatre Center, he earned a Barrymore nomination for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Herringbone at Flashpoint Theatre, he won the New York S.A.L.T. Award for Director of the Year and Production of the Year for his production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Syracuse Stage, and again the following season he won the New York S.A.L.T. Award for Director of the Year and Production of the Year for his production of the musical Hairspray at Syracuse Stage, he was awarded the California K.P.B.S. Patte Award and the San Diego Playbill Award for Outstanding Direction of Brecht's Edward II, his production of Bird Boy at Hartford Children's Theatre won the Moss Hart Award by the New England Theatre Conference, and Bill was also awarded the Phil Killian Directing Fellowship at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Bill is an Associate Professor of Drexel University's Theatre program. Bill has also taught at The Juilliard School, NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, University of California San Diego, Dartmouth College, Syracuse University, Emerson College, The University of the Arts, The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, The Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Indiana State University, and Philadelphia's Directors Gathering.

He earned a contracted B.M. in Music Theatre Performance, Directing, and Dramatic Writing from the Hartt School at The University of Hartford and his M.F.A. in directing from UCSD.

Michael Stahler (Performer playing The Boy) is an emerging artist and Philadelphia-based actor, director, writer, improviser, and educator. Among his notable credits include Jeremiah in the world premiere of Douglas Williams' Ship (Azuka Theatre), winner of the American Theatre Critics Associations' New Play Award and honored at the Barrymore Awards special ceremony in 2020. Other credits include A Christmas Carol (Hedgerow Theatre), Survivors (Theatre Ariel), Romeo and Juliet (Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire), as well as work with Inis Nua, Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia Fringe Fest, 24 Hour Plays and InterAct. In film, his favorite credits include Tonight We Eat Flowers, developed in cooperation with BlackStar Film Festival and the Sundance Foundation, as well as Frat Pie with Holy Terror and Kings with Jambalaya Pictures, winner of Best Film at the Neptune Movie Awards and Best Comedy at the Alternate Film Festival. As an autistic actor, he is honored to be bringing this story to life, as well as a part of himself that he has rarely shown in his professional career, save for Processing, a film by Tommy Butler. When not onstage or on camera, he is researching niche subjects, writing articles, working on podcasts, or giving tours of historic Philadelphia.

Daniel Passer (Performer playing Finneas) creates work as a performer, writer and director. For over a decade, Daniel has been a Clown and Comedy Conceptor for Cirque du Soleil and Dragone Entertainment. He was the comedy and clown act designer for Cirque's critically acclaimed Zarkana and comic performer and creator for Franco Dragone's spectacle Le Reve. Credits include plays on Broadway and across the globe at venues such as Radio City Music Hall, The Beacon Theater, The Goodman, The American Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Madrid Stadium, Moscow Art Theatre and The Kremlin. Most recently, he played Autolycus in Winter's Tale in the Off Broadway Play On series at Classic Stage Company and created the clown acts for the spectacle Menagerie in Sonoma. He collaborated and performed in the opening ceremony installation for Burning Man with a world class ensemble of aerialists, acrobats and dancers. He has performed with the ensembles of The Actors' Gang, Cornerstone Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company and is a founding member of the international clown companies Your New Best Friends, Gods of Sex and The Rotten Plantains. Daniel is co-founder of Darkstage, a company dedicated to touring the maximum-security prisons in California.

Darkstage's production of The Maids received the ArtsReach and William James Association Grants for its San Quentin Prison production.

Film acting credits include Boychoir, Danny Roane - First Time Director, Music from Another

Room, Almost Heroes, and Ted. On television, Daniel has appeared on Monk, King of Queens,

Grounded for Life, Providence, Tracey Takes On, and News Radio. Writing, Directing and

Producing credits include: the feature film Ted (winner Audience Choice Award at the San

Francisco Film Festival and Best Comedy at the New York Independent Film Festival), the

documentary television series Kiss 'n Tell for WE, The Costello Show, The Emmy Awards and

several music videos.

Daniel currently is on the faculty of the Theater School at CalArts where he is also the Associate

Director of Performance. He has taught Commedia/Clown/Improvisation at Moscow Art Theatre,

Cirque du Soleil, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Brown University, Harvard, Cornell, CalArts,

Trinity College, The Second City and was a Master Acting Teacher for The Edward Albee

Theatre Festival and the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts. Daniel was the

U.S. representative at the International Commedia dell'Arte Festival in Italy and a graduate of

U.C. Berkeley and The A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard.

He is currently working on Heading into Night, an interactive clown ode to loss and

remembrance, with long-time collaborator Beth Milles, which premieres this year at The Cherry

Arts in Ithaca, NY and Way of Wolf an interdisciplinary performance project with performer and

writer Marissa Chibas that has played at Teatr Studio in Warsaw Poland as part of CalArts

Center for New Performance Residency and Festival/Teatr Studio.

For more information, visitClick Here.

The Puzzle - Limited Engagement Run

Extension dates: through June 4, 2023

Wed, May 31, at 2pm - extension

Thur, June 1 at 7:30pm - extension

Fri, June 2 at 7:30pm - extension

Sat, June 3 at 7:30pm - extension

Sun, June 4 at 7:30pm - extension

Streamed performances

Fri, June 16 at 7:30pm - as-live stream

Sat, June 17 at 7:30pm - as-live stream

Sun, June 18 at 2pm - as-live stream

Available with closed captioning

Ticket holders for the virtual streamed performances will have 24-hours to view the performance, which has been previously captured, after the designated "curtain time."

Accessibility options will be available for productions including one week of open captioned performances, in which the text of the play and sound effects are displayed on a monitor to the side of the stage. American Sign Language (ASL) Interpretation is provided by Jo Madden and Jamie Lynn Hill on behalf of HandsUP Productions. Open captioning can benefit individuals who are D/deaf, experience hearing loss or are English language learners. Audio-description is a service to provide a live audio feed of the visual information of the production, including settings, character descriptions and movements, which may benefit individuals who are blind or experience low vision. Hedgerow will also produce a Relaxed Performance, which is a sensory-friendly, judgment-free and inclusive environment for patrons with a range of sensory and communication differences, including individuals with autism and people of a range of disabilities, and anyone who would benefit from a relaxed theatre-going environment. Pre-performance sensory tours will be given prior to curtain on the day of the Relaxed Performances. For audio-description details, please inquire with or 610-565-4211

Performances through May 28th.

CREATIVE TEAM: Juliette Dunn (Playwright), David Shiner (Co-Director & Performer) Bill Fennelly (Co-Director), Wendy Bable (Dramaturg), Lily Fossner (Lighting Designer), Shawn Fisher (Scenic Designer), Rebecca Kanach (Costume Designer), Karen Getz (Choreographer), Joseph Gribben (composer & pianist), Alex the Listener (composer & drummer), Sammy Hurley (sound engineer), Alexis Wells (Stage Manager), Kate Fossner (Production Manager), Marcie Bramucci (Executive Artistic Director). CAST: Daniel Passer (as Finneas), David Shiner (as Quinton), Michael Stahler (as The Boy).

The League of Live Stream Theater (LOLST), 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

About Hedgerow Theatre Company:

An professional not-for-profit theatre situated in pastoral Rose Valley just outside Philadelphia, Hedgerow celebrates a century of rich and storied programming. Long recognized for its unique repertory theatre, Hedgerow has proudly produced and elevated the works of playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O'Neill, Susan Glaspell, and Seán O'Casey. Hedgerow produced the professional premiere of The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht and was awarded the Barrymore Award for Best New Play in 2005 for The Lives of Bosie by John Wolfson. Renowned artists who have performed at Hedgerow Theatre include Richard Basehart, Ann Harding, Keanu Reeves, Stephen Lang, and Austin Pendleton. Hedgerow Theatre is on the National Register of Historic Places and is proud to be part of Rose Valley's Historic District. Hedgerow connects with the surrounding community through summer children's programming, and off-site residencies, and annual holiday programming. Hedgerow Theatre is dedicated to providing cultural enrichment, engaging entertainment, and training in theatre arts and management since 1923. Hedgerow produces powerful and intimate works in its atmospheric nineteenth-century grist mill-turned-theatre of 100 seats. The company offers extensive educational programs through theatre school and touring programs, and provides performance, technical training, and theatre management opportunities for Resident Fellows in a close-knit and mutually supportive environment. For more information, please visit Click Here.

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