What if an entire community read the same book at the same time?

The Hippodrome Theatre and their partners hope to answer that question later this month through their One City One Story program. 

“One City One Story is a great program that fits right into the mission of the Hipp,” said Stephanie Lynge, Hippodrome Artistic Director. “One City One Story allows us to bring our storytelling off the main stage and look at it from more perspectives in collaboration with the community.”

Starting with an open-mic night at the Hipp on August 22 and continuing with events through September, One City One Story aims to bring the community together through thought-provoking discussion of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” The book, by Mark Haddon, has since been developed into a Tony Award-winning play by Simon Stephens; the Hipp and the UF School of Theater and Dance will partner on a production of the play that opens on August 30.

This year’s story revolves around Christopher, a young man whose unique characteristics, which resemble Autism Spectrum Disorder, shape the plot of “Curious Incident.”

“‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ is the perfect play for One City One Story and for our upcoming season, Breaking Boundaries,” Lynge said.  “Through Christopher, we get to experience life through the eyes of someone who processes and experiences the world differently than many of us.”

This year, those new ideas will center on Christopher’s unique condition and themes like individuality that are presented in “Curious Incident.”

The Hippodrome will be collaborating with other Gainesville organizations including UF’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, the Alachua County Library System, and UF’s student theatre company, Florida Players.

On top of the Hipp’s theatrical production, One City One Story will also include a lecture series, UF-partnered panels, an informal book club, a stage reading presentation and more. All events will be free and open to the public.

One City One Story Events:

Open Mic Night: Individuality & Identity
Thursday, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m.
At the Hipp Lower Level

Alachua County Library Book Club
Sunday, Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m.
At the Hipp Lower Level

Unique: A New Theatrical Performance
Created and performed by local middle and high school students
Monday, Aug. 26 at 4:30 p.m.
At Alachua County Headquarters Library

New Stage Play Reading: “Milligrams” by Laura Chiarello
Presented by UF’s Florida Players
Sunday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.
At the Hipp Lower Level

Led Panel Discussion with Director Dr. Ralf Remshardt & UF’s CARD Center for Autism
Saturday, Aug. 31 & Saturday, Sept. 14
Immediately following matinee performance on the Hipp Mainstage

Gene W. generously joined the Collier Challenge in order to assist in ensuring the future of the Hippodrome Theatre. Read what he had to say about the Collier Challenge and his decision to contribute.

If everyone who cares about the future of the Hipp were to step up in this way, even with relatively small amounts, the result can be a profound investment in the long term sustainability of this institution.

Funding for the arts is always unpredictable, and in the current climate it is especially hard to be confident about the future of the Hippodrome. But this community—my home for the last two decades—is obviously greatly enriched by the Hipp: its theatrical productions, independent cinema, educational outreach programs, and more—all right in the center of downtown Gainesville. Joining the Collier Campaign is a simple way to send a signal that this kind of contribution matters. We owe it to this community—to each other—to do what we can to keep these valuable programs alive over the long run.

I think of my own pledge as a kind of baseline. I will surely make additional one-time gifts in the future as well, the amount depending on circumstances and needs at the time. But the Collier Campaign is about providing a steady source of funds that will enable stability and a concerted strategy for the future of the Hippodrome.

Kudos and thanks to Mr. Collier for seeing the need for this—and to anyone else who has joined or will join this effort to keep Gainesville Hipp!

Nathan S. Collier, of the Collier Companies, has generously offered a 10-year dollar-for-dollar challenge grant to help secure the Hippodrome’s future. This unprecedented gift will allow the Hippodrome to build up an unrestricted fund to help smooth out the cash flow challenges inherent to the seasonal nature of theatre. The theatre’s staff and board of trustees expect it to lay the foundation for growth and an even higher caliber of artistic product in the coming years.

To learn more about the Collier Challenge and see how you can get involved, visit thehipp.org/collierchallenge

The Sex With Strangers digital program is now available for viewing! Take a peek before you slide into your seats.

Niall McGinty talks about his role as Jimmy Nowak in “Miracle on South Division Street”.

Nell Page talks about her role as Clara Nowak in “Miracle on South Division Street”.

A note from the Hippodrome’s Artistic Director, Stephanie Lynge.

One of the questions I’m always asked is “How do you choose the plays at the Hippodrome?” I thought it would be fun to let you look behind the scenes to see how it works.

I have always believed that the Hippodrome is a community and I thought “What better way to have a diverse, thought-provoking, and inclusive season than to have members of that community help read and winnow down the massive amount of plays we read each year?” So, in December, I reached out to the Hippodrome Company Members to join our inaugural Season Selection Team.

Twelve wonderful volunteers joined me on a three-month long play reading extravaganza. From all over the country, they read plays on subways, planes, backstage during shows, and probably when they were supposed to be working their office jobs (thanks guys!).

As a team, we read over 150 plays — each one had two different readers so you can imagine the time that took! In early February, we met to discuss the plays we had “passed through.” We met in person and on line (Facetime is a wonderful invention).

Company member Kelly Atkins described the process best:

“Our job was to narrow down which stories would be serviced the best by the unique venue and talents that make up the Hippodrome. The task was not easy, but with a great deal of consideration amongst the committee, some strong front runners became clear.”

Kelly Atkins, Clint Thornton, and Stephanie Lynge at a meeting in the rehearsal room.

Ryan George also explained the experience:

“We all come from different backgrounds and life experiences so being able to openly talk about which plays moved us, challenged us, and would be best for the community of Gainesville couldn’t have been more rewarding.

The team narrowed down the field to 22 plays (plus Christmas shows), and we met again two weeks later to bring the final number of possible shows to 10 (ok, it was 11 – I couldn’t help myself).

Gregg Jones shared his insights:

“It was a joy to be involved with the other committee members, some of whom are fellow actors, in making choices that would provide powerful storytelling for our audience and community. The bonus was getting to read some VERY well-written plays that are stretching the boundaries of what we know as dramatic literature. “

Now, the staff and production team at the Hippodrome are busy reading the final group of plays. The designers will weigh in from their technical perspectives, the house managers will share their opinions gleaned from talking to our patrons over the years, and our magnificent marketing department will tell us how best to share these amazing stories with the Gainesville area.

Marissa Toogood and Nichole Hamilton joining a committee meeting via Facetime.

We know you are excited to hear what the new season will hold, and you will know soon. On March 30th we will publicly announce the 2019-20 Hippodrome Season, so stay tuned.

I will leave you with the words of one of the Hippodrome founders, Bruce Cornwell, who was kind enough to join our selection team:

“As one of the founders of the Hippodrome who has not been directly involved with the acting company for quite a few years, I felt honored and excited to be invited onto the Season Selection Team this year. The experience has been rewarding in so many ways. But the real gift of this process has been discussing the scripts with members of the Hipp’s acting company who were on the selection team. That’s when I got to witness firsthand what a knowledgeable, insightful group of actors comprise this theatre’s company! The discussions were spirited and intelligent. The different points of view and the life experience each member brought to the discussion provided challenge and heartfelt perspective. I can’t wait to see what Stephanie announces as the 2019-2020 season!”

Me too Bruce. Me too.

Rachel: To start could you tell me about yourself and your involvement with the Hippodrome theatre and the community?

Charlie: I’m Charlie Mitchell. I’ve been a professor of theatre at the university for about 9 years where I teach theatre courses and direct plays. I have been a company member for almost as long at least 5 years and have been involved with 8 Hipp productions as both an actor, director, and playwright for one show.

Rachel: What shows did you direct and write?

Charlie: I co-directed Avenue Q and that was my first experience here and I wrote and directed the Snow Queen which was a holiday show back in 2014 or 2015.

Rachel: As director of A Doll’s House, Part 2 at the Hippodrome theatre and as a playwright yourself, you have a unique perspective on what it means to take a fresh look on old tale.

Charlie: Well it’s funny that you mention this because when I was getting my masters in playwriting, in one of the exercises we had to do was to write a scene from A Doll’s House play that isn’t there. I chose one where she comes back. So, it’s so funny to me that this little exercise that I did back in playwriting school was fully realized by somebody else and, may I add, much better than I ever did. I think what the playwright has done is really amazing. I think he stays really true to the original in terms of what those characters wanted and then what they clashed over and the kind of lives they wanted to have although you’ll notice the language of course is a little more outdated.

Rachel: I was noticing that with words I won’t say right now [in A Doll’s House, Part 2]. Would you say that this twenty first century riff on the original classic represents as modern?

Charlie: I think it’s very modern. I think it asked a lot of questions about things like marriage and relationships, questions we’re all still asking ourselves. Like who do we become inside of a marriage? When you take the vows of marriage are you making a vow to this person of the moment? Are you sort of promising to love that person? Because the only constant is change, right? So you’re groom-to-be or your bride-to-be will not be the same person in the years to come. In this age of divorce people are sort of asking and answering that question for themselves a lot because we do change. We do become different. Then the play even has us asking ourselves is that even true? I used to teach this play, A Doll’s House, the original which is considered the first piece of great modern writing or playwriting. So I think it’s so funny that we are still talking about that play now. Because back in the day A Doll’s House was revolutionary. For a woman to walk out on her life and not just her husband but her children. Her role as wife and mother. When she slams the door on her way out, it was called a slam heard all around the world. How interesting to see what happens when she comes back and how these characters still have so much unfinished business.

Rachel: Do you have to have seen A Doll’s House?

Charlie: No, not at all. I think the play stands on its own. You understand right away what happened in the past. I don’t think knowing the original is necessary, although knowing the original is interesting.

Rachel: You touched on this earlier on how the audience can relate because these problems are still very current struggles that we all face within our families.

Charlie: What do we want in a relationship? What’s make or break for us? What is our role? I think you have actually four characters with very different ideas. Some traditional, some not so traditional, but all of them fighting it out to present their point of view.

Rachel: Why do you think it’s an important play for today? Why do you think people can relate to it?

Charlie: What do we owe other people? The people in our lives, can you truly shed yourself of your past? These are all questions that we all ask ourselves. Can people change? Can you become a different person? Can you lose yourself in a relationship? What is a relationship? What is a true marriage? That is what is brought up when Nora is leaving in the first one as she’s walking out on her husband and her kids which is still a big thing. For a woman to leave her husband and her children and her role as a mother. This is still, for a play written back in the 1870s, still a huge deal. So, when she comes back, she has a lot to answer for. I’ll be curious to see how audiences interpret what the character of Nora says. Are they just going to judge her on her past actions or are they going to take a hard look at why she left and have some sympathy for her reasons? It’s also very funny. That is not brought up enough. It is a very funny play. It’s a funny play about very serious people.

Rachel: Okay, it sounds like it discusses a lot of very serious subjects such as marriage and divorce.

Charlie: Well, the original A Doll’s House is not the least bit funny. But the way this is played because people are funny, and because trying to get what we want and not getting what we want is so funny, it’s a very funny play. I think people are going to find that surprising. I would be hesitant to call it fully a comedy, but I found it very funny when I read it and I know audiences have too when it has been played elsewhere. The Broadway show for example, people were howling.

Rachel: What are you excited to see happen on stage?

Charlie: Well it is very much an actor-driven show. I guess all shows are actor-driven. But I’m just excited to see the fireworks between these characters. I’m excited to see actors’ step inside these roles.

Rachel: Is there anything else you’d like to add about A Doll’s House, Part 2 at the Hipp?

Charlie: I find it more funny than dramatic when reading it. These are people very frustrated by each other and to me that is sort of the essence of comedy.

Click here for tickets to A Doll’s House, Part 2 or call the Box Office at (352)375-4477.