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April 19 @ 7:00 PM| Free
A New Play Developed in Collaboration with The Farm Theater & Shenandoah Conservatory
Shenandoah Conservatory and The Farm Theater present a FREE Facebook live stream performance of The Hierarchy of Fish, a new play written by Judith Leora. When a prominent professor at a liberal arts college refuses to use a student’s preferred pronoun, it unleashes an intense battle over political correctness. A slur is painted on a door. A slushie is hurled into a professor’s face. Students struggle to find the line between freedom of speech and the freedom to be their authentic selves.
To attend the live stream performance, log onto Shenandoah Conservatory’s Facebook page at 7PM on Sunday, April 19.
The performance is approximately 2 hours (no intermission). A Q&A with the artists and creative partners will follow.
CAST & CREW
Judith Leora, playwright
Scott Hudson, director
Nick Villacorte, Freedom Band
Maxwell Castellano, Freedom Band
Alia Mahboob, Ash
Rylie Butzbaugh-Patrick, Ashley
Cameron Travitz, Devon
Tanellsa Franklin, Hannah
Grace Keener, Sandy
Mason Ferguson, Jake
Max Sherman, Elliott
Kelsey Rene, Mary Ann
Carmen Burbridge, Margeaux Kingsley and dramaturg
Sidney Williams (special guest), Professor Kingsley
Laurel Hinton, assistant director
Giuliana Valdes, stage manager
Julia Liebowitz, assistant stage manager
Jade Harkema, assistant stage manager
Daniel Trout, sound technician
Matthew Cosco, understudy
Aril Fischer, understudy
It has been a year since Judith Leora virtually talked to the students at Shenandoah University about the inception of and ideas around The Hierarchy of Fish. Little did we know, the process would not only continue to zoom in on the same ideas but the process would continue over Zoom. It feels fitting for such a current relevant play to have its Shenandoah debut in such a current and relevant way.
We all have been blessed with the opportunity to watch this show grow, change and shift. Through rewrites, discussions and research the play has narrowed in on an important story told through humor, humanity and relationship.
Every night when I sign into Zoom I know I am going to laugh. Judith has written an incredibly funny show about not very funny topics. She does so with respect for the story and the characters. If you look around these are real people and real stories. How powerful to see them finally represented on the stage (screen?).
It has truly been a blessing to help grow and cultivate this show with such an incredible group of artists. We persevered through difficult circumstances in a difficult time. And I am proud of what we created.
– Carmen Burbridge ’20 (Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting)
The Farm Theater, founded in 2013, develops early career artists, which may not have the support system afforded others, through workshops, productions and mentoring. Our industry creates pathways to opportunities for those with privilege, education and other forms of access. In our five-year history The Farm Theater has recognized a gap that exists for early career artists with less of those attributes built into their pedigree and has worked to create links and networks for them to build a foundation on which to take the next step in their career. It is with this focus that The Farm Theater has shaped its programming and built strategic partnerships with organizations that focus on the development of early career artists
The Farm Theater’s featured program is the College Collaboration Project. The program commissions an early career playwright that writes a play that will be developed thru production by multiple colleges in the same academic year. We have commissioned 7 female early career playwrights and partnered with more than 15 colleges. The program has been featured in American Theatre Magazine, playwrights have won awards from The Kennedy Center, and plays have been featured on the Kilroys List. We also host a podcast, Bullpen Sessions, that features real conversations with working artists about how they got in the game. The podcast is partnering this year with the Southeastern Theatre Conference. We continue to offer play development workshops, our annual Grad School Audition Workshop, and present public readings of new work.
Visit www.thefarmtheater.org to learn more.
Judith Leora began her career writing sketch, animation, television pilots and screenplays. Leora is a founding member and managing director of New York Madness. She is a Robert Askins Fellow with the Lone Star Theatre and a founding member and executive director of NY Madness, a theatre company in New York City (Kraine Theater) now in its eighth season.
Productions: Showpony (Victory Theatre, Burbank, CA, September 2018); Elijah (Bristol Valley Theatre, 2017); Gideon (Ego Actus/Paradise Theatre, NYC, 2016); The Cookie Fight (Bristol Valley Theatre, 2016); Weird About the Baby/Icon Plays (Ego Actus Productions/NYC)
Recent readings: Showpony (LRS, The Blank Theatre; Next Stage Festival, Capital Rep; Lone Star Theatre); The X and the Y (Bristol Valley Theatre Reading Series); The Cookie Fight (Last Frontier Theatre Conference); Heart-Shaped Uterus (MadLab Readings, New York Madness); Robert Askins Playwriting Fellow/Lone Star Theatre; Elijah (Semi-finalist, O’Neill); Webseries #GoingHomeless currently in post-production. Many, many short plays with NY Madness, Sticky, One Minute Play Festival (6x); Pussyfest, brain melt consortium.
Directed by Shenandoah Conservatory’s Director of Acting and Associate Professor of Theatre Scott Hudson, The Hierarchy of Fish is part of The Farm Theater’s College Collaboration, an initiative dedicated to engaging universities and supporting early career playwrights through the collaborative development of new works.
“The process is really unique,” stated Hudson. “The Theatre Division collaborates with a professional organization and a select playwright to participate in a process that goes from conception to stage. We develop conversations and have opportunities to move forward in positive ways, especially given the difficult and challenging subject matter.”
In February, the division began working with this year’s playwright Judith Leora, whose topic of interest is free speech and hate speech on college campuses. Shenandoah students shared their thoughts with her, and she discussed the topic with students at other colleges as well. She submitted her first draft of the script in August 2019. That month, a small group of theatre students traveled to New York City to participate in a workshopping of the first draft. The participants engaged in the development of the new work by reading stage directions, asking questions in a Q&A session, and providing additional feedback through various conversations with the playwright.
From there, the play was presented at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida in November. The second participating college unfortunately had to withdraw from the process. Shenandoah Conservatory’s participating students and faculty decided to continue despite the restrictions placed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will present the work during the live stream event on Sunday, April 19.
When Shenandoah was challenged with moving the work online, students and faculty eagerly jumped into the new process. They started the rehearsal process online immediately following Shenandoah’s spring break and the onset of the pandemic’s restrictions. The theatre students have already worked through two drafts in this virtual environment, providing helpful feedback to the playwright by questioning and challenging the material. Students are personally invested in the work and empowered by their unique contributions.
“We’re learning to work in Zoom,” said Hudson. “It’s exciting and we’re always playing off of each other’s ideas, choosing not to dwell on what we know isn’t accessible at this time.”
Following Shenandoah Conservatory’s virtual performance, the play will undergo further rewrites and a final workshop to be presented at a public reading in New York City (pending further COVID-19 restrictions). Selected actors and creative developers from each of the schools will be invited to participate in the performance produced by The Farm Theater. The play is then open to other early career theatre companies, producers or other entities who may want to take it to its very first professional development and world premiere.