Gainesville theatre artists exhibited their talent to a sold out house at the Hippodrome Theatre on Sunday for the 24 Hour Play Project, a Hippodrome Company Member Project created by Stephanie Lynge. Local playwrights had a night to write, before diving into rehearsal the next morning on Sunday, June 10, with their directors and actors. Despite the time constraints, their words shined light on such topics as the importance of listening, tyrannical apocalypse, LGBTQ themes, growth under duress, mental illness, nature and family in a stage production of 8 diverse plays.
This project integrated artists from across the Gainesville community, including the University of Florida School of Theatre + Dance, Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, Actors’ Warehouse, Gainesville Community Playhouse, Santa Fe College Theatre Department and the Hippodrome Theatre, and the actors ranged in age from a middle school student to actors in their 50s and 60s. The previous night, the playwright picked their director at random, along with their cast size and gender ratio of the actors.
The project opened with Esteban Alvarez III’s play “What’s Up, Doc?” — a comedic hit in which a patient with suspected STDs and a patient with a sprained toe were confused, and the med student gave switched care advice accordingly. The cast starred Bill Eissler, Rachel Jones, Laura Palacio and Kareena Wallace.”Exist, Pursued by a Bear,” a play on a famous stage direction in “The Winter’s Tale”, came from from the Shakespeare-inclined mind of Chuck Lipsig, naturally. The bear’s entrance was a crowd-pleaser, indeed. The play was directed by Matt Lindsay and starred Bryan Cespedes, Ruth King, Megan Poole, and Amei Soleyn.
“A House Divided” written by Michael Presley Bobbitt and directed by Sara Morsey, featured four women on lock-down in a tyrannical apocalypse, and starred Tereva Crum-Stauffer, Stephanie Norman, Lauren Robinson(an understudy for the Hipp’s current mainstage) and Katey Sands. A favorite line included, “It’s the end of the g-dd–n world and their ain’t a single vibrator in the whole camp.”
“My Pear Lady,” written by Sloane Henry and directed by Lola Bond explored the significance in recognizing things for what they are – not what they are not, through the premise of fostering a plant after the death of a beloved pet, Pickle. Meanwhile, dog up for adoption was nearly euthanized. Fortunately the significant other to the protagonist adopted him in time, and he could be loved for who he was — not for not being Pickle. “My Pear Lady” starred Rowan Housden, Kristina Johnson and Katie Pankow.
Channing O’Halloran, 16, nearly stole the show with her role in “The Lydia Effect” by Jane Arrowsmith Edwards with her line, that also worked for fulfilling the required Tony’s reference, “I’m sorry you have cancer but you have a better chance of recovery than becoming a Broadway actor.” The show was directed by Susan Christophy and also starred Quil Cauchon, Daniel Perea and Katryna Richter.
One play even verged on exiting the atmosphere, as in Gregg Jones’s “Genesis Recall,”– “Actually he is not my father. And I am an alien.” Directed by Gabrielle Byam and starring Aryana Himle, Lizzy Lance, Mandy Fugate and Carly Rubin.
“Rolling on a River” by Deborah Dickey, had a theme of overcoming fear in more ways than one — with one character’s fear of the river, or anything really, and the other woman’s fear that the boy-in-question didn’t like the her back. The play was directed by Mikell Pinkney and starred Amanda Edwards, Adam Lishawa and Kate Osborn.
Charlie Mitchell’s “Rom-Com” took a lighter perspective with some break-up zingers, “I haven’t been with a lot of guys but I’m pretty sure you’re not very good at sex,” and “If you wrote the kamasutra, it would be a pamphlet,” and probably the mosts brutal– Woman: “I told you I loved you.” Man: “I didn’t.” The play, directed by David Young and starring Kayla Caslow, Ethan Ellis, Kaitie Graves and Harold Kennedy, lightened up as the break up passed with lines such as, “Am I the gay friend? … Girl you better wash that man right outta your hair!”
Responding the success of the project, Lynge said, “The Hippodrome has always been supportive of new work and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring together all of the community of Gainesville. We have a wonderful, amazing theatrical energy in the center of Gainesville, we couldn’t have done it without every single solitary group that joined us — absolutely everyone was represented and we could not be prouder of bringing everyone together, especially at a time like this when the state has cut support for the arts. We could not be prouder of all the work from everyone, from every theatrical group here in Gainesville, and we look forward to being able to do it again.”
Stephanie Lynge and Cameron Pfahler were the producers, Neil Bearden was the technical director, Earl McKee was the stage manager, Franka Perez was the assistant stage manager and Laura McNeill was the production assistant for the 24 Hour Play Project.
To keep up to date with new projects, mainstage productions, cinema screenings and education opportunities, follow @hipptheatre on Instagram, Twitter and @HippodromeTheatre on Facebook and check back on thehipp.org!
“What I like about this play is the conflict is unique. Its not about domestic conflict completely. It’s obviously about the conflict of Hell, but inside of that there’s so much,” said Lauren Warhol Caldwell, Director of “The Christians” and Artistic Director of the Hippodrome Theatre. “The main thing I like about it is that there are no answers.”
The Christians is a critically-acclaimed drama by award-winning playwright Lucas Hnath. Currently one of the most-produced plays in the nation, The Christians is a thought-provoking and timely play which poses philosophical and theological questions about faith in America. The Hippodrome Theatre had a talkback Sunday after the 2 p.m. show with the director and the cast to continue the conversation with the audience members.
“I hope if 10 people walk out and I ask them how it was, I get 10 different answers,” Caldwell said.
The Christians centers around Pastor Paul, who started a church in a modest storefront. Over the past 10 years, he grew it into a mega-church with thousands of devoted parishioners and a newly paid-off mortgage. Everything changes one Sunday when Pastor Paul preaches a divisive sermon that shakes his congregation to the core. The Christians is both epic and unexpectedly intimate, an unflinching look at religious faith in America – and its power to unite or divide.
One audience member said, “The play doesn’t give answers. Faith isn’t answerable.”
When asked if “The Christians” is the same play it was on opening night, Warhol said, “Tonight’s show had a texture, richness, a pace that I dreamed about, the play was different. There’s a growth that happened. I commend them[the actors] and the Stage Manager [Amber Wilkerson] for allowing that growth.”
Renata Eastlick says the play comprises and struggles with, “how to be a good, kind and responsible community of people who love each other.” As in any play, each person who sees “The Christians” will have a different visceral reaction to it, Eastlick said.
An audience member said that there is a healthiness about the play — because of the respect the characters have for each other.
“The fact that we’re all here, having this conversation, is optimistic,” one audience member pointed out.
Call the Hipp Box Office 352.375.4477 or visit thehipp.org for tickets.
Showtimes: Tues. 7 p.m. | Wed. 7 p.m. | Thurs. 7 p.m. | Fri. 8 p.m. | Sat. 5 & 8:30 p.m. | Sun. 2 p.m.
Tickets are $10 seniors and students and $15 general public.
Spring Break Camp at the Hippodrome was so much fun! We had special guests, including the Barber Gators and Hula GAINESVILLE, workshops like costuming, and so much more!
The different age groups even created and performed their own rendition of Dr. Suess’s “The Lorax,” as you can see in the following links!
To look into our summer programs, click here!
The Hippodrome and the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding present a groundbreaking new six-week adult course at the Hippodrome called “Theatre and Self-Discovery.”
Sign up here or call Gabrielle at 352.373.5968 x230 for more information.
Sara Morsey and Nell Page share the Hippodrome Mainstage again in “Ripcord”
By Jessica Fondo
Some people might think Abby is the mean one.
“She’s not mean at all!” Sara Morsey said of her character.
Really, Abby is just misunderstood. She has a wry and dry sense of humor.
“People take her quite seriously,” Morsey insisted, “more seriously than she takes herself.”
Abby does not try to cause problems for anyone, and she does not want anyone causing problems for her. She is self-contained and self-sufficient. She is not inherently unfriendly or mean but is old enough to know what she wants, and what she wants more than anything is to be alone.
“Marilyn is quite the social butterfly, and she is very, very nice,” Nell Page said of her character.
She is friendly, talkative and Abby’s worst nightmare. There is no worse person Abby could be forced to share a room with than Marilyn, but there is no better pairing on the Hippodrome Mainstage than Sara Morsey and Nell Page.
Morsey and Page will take the Mainstage together once again in “Ripcord,” opening March 2. The two recognizable actors have been company members since the Hippodrome organized a company, but their careers began long before that.
When Nell Page was 18 years old, she was enamored with live theatre. She majored in theatre at the University of Florida and was cast in the lead role in the first play she auditioned for at the Hippodrome. That was in 1974.
Now, 44 years later, the Hippodrome is still flourishing, and Page continues returning to the theatre where she feels comfortable.
“It’s great to be back at the Hippodrome,” Page said. “When I am on stage, I feel most at home.”
Through the decades she has spent on the Mainstage, Page said she has seen an unparalleled quality of work within Hippodrome community.
“The Hippodrome does have something special,” Page said. “I’m not sure how to define what that is 一 you could ask patrons who have been here for the past 40-plus years, and they would probably all give you a different answer.”
One of the factors that differentiates the Hippodrome is the close relationships between company members, she said.
“I love working with this particular group of actors,” Page said. “There’s a lot of trust between us.”
Working with actors she knows so well allows Page to be vulnerable, which is both encouraging and freeing, she said. She and Sara Morsey have been collaborating on stage since Morsey began acting at the Hippodrome in 1993.
“We work well together, and because of our history, we know each other,” Page said. “There’s just that unspoken language that you share between each other.”
Morsey said the reason she is most excited to be in “Ripcord” is to once again share the stage with Page and the other actors in the show, all of whom she has worked with before.
Though she has 25 years of experience acting at the Hippodrome, Morsey said each play is different and offers a new opportunity to grow as an actor.
“You never know when you might learn something,” Morsey said. “You never know when you might up your game, so every single time you get a chance to be in the process with other actors, in the process of rehearsing a play, you never know what it’s going to do to up your game for the next one.”
Like any other profession, acting is a continual process, she said.
“You could have 25 years of experience, and it’s the same experience every day,” Morsey said. “Or you could have 25 years of experience, and it’s huge because you’ve let it blossom.”
She has acted in other David Lindsay-Abaire plays at the Hippodrome before, she said. The playwright has an ability to pack a lot of material into a a few words.
“He’s very funny right in the same breath as being very serious sometimes,” she said.
“Ripcord” crosses demographics and has something for everyone to enjoy, Morsey said. She hopes the Gainesville community takes advantage of this Florida premiere, which promises to be a unique experience.
“The theatre is here and accessible and open to everybody,” Morsey said. “And if you come in and see a live show, it’s going to be an experience that happens once in a lifetime because when it’s live, it happens once.”
Audiences can take from “Ripcord” a good laugh and an unrepeatable night, she said.
“There’s nothing like live theatre,” Morsey said. “Life is happening every night.”
For tickets, call 352.375.4477 or click here.
The esteemed Gainesville string band, Pine, will be playing in the Hipp Cinema on Sunday, April 29. Doors at 5:30, music starts at 6:30 p.m.
Pine will play two intimate sets of live music, with an intermission for time for refreshments at the bar.
A little about Pine: Liberty Phoenix and Dan Stepp came together to create a folky sound with intimate harmonies that are supported with a beautifully talented string band. They have been lucky enough to add on Brian Turk on Stand Up Bass, Andrew Cook on Violin and Mark Archer on Dobro.
Purchase tickets online at https://
or call the Hipp Box Office 352.375.4477
Check out Pine’s music here: