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Andy’s Summer Playhouse presents “Froggy” this week

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse actors rehearse for their upcoming performance of "Froggy," opening on Thursday, July 12. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Andy’s Summer Playhouse actors rehearse for their upcoming performance of “Froggy,” opening on Thursday, July 12. Staff photo by Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse actors rehearse for their upcoming performance of "Froggy," opening on Thursday, July 12. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse actors rehearse for their upcoming performance of "Froggy," opening on Thursday, July 12. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 1:35PM

The newest premiere by Andy’s Summer Playhouse mixes reality and virtual space with Froggy, playing this week.

Andy’s Summer Playhouse is a children’s theater program that produces multiple original productions every summer, one of which is a musical. This year, the Playhouse is exploring the theme of “Legacy.”

Froggy, is written by Jennifer Haley of Los Angeles, which Andy’s did a stage reading of last year as part of its “Greenhouse” production series. The play resonated so strongly with the children who were involved with the reading that this year Haley returned to work with the playhouse on a full production of the play.

“Last year I was really inspired by the ecstatic reaction the teens at Andy’s had to Froggy,” said director Matt Morrow in a press release issued by Andy’s Summer Playhouse.

The play follows Froggy, the title character, as she tries to find out the mystery behind the disappearance of her boyfriend. She finds a clue when she discovers a violent video game with the main character modeled after her boyfriend.

The play integrates multi-media and uses video gaming design and projections to tell the story in a noir style.

“I’ve never written a play for kids, and technically this isn’t a play for kids,” said Haley during an interview at a rehearsal of Froggy at Andy’s Summer Playhouse last week. “But the kids really loved it, which I would never have guessed going in.”

But in some ways it makes sense, Haley said, because the play uses video games and virtual reality as a device to tell the story, mediums that most kids are comfortable with.

Media and technology are a common theme in her writings, said Haley, but she took a different approach when writing Froggy. Instead of opening a word document, she did her writing in InDesign, a publishing software, which allowed her to write in the style of a graphic novel, instead of a typical play format.

“It changed the way I wrote the play. Thinking about it from the perspective of a graphic novel, I began to think about the play visually.”

She had sent the play to other producers, Haley said, but the format seemed to baffle them. The kids at Andy’s, however, seemed to intrinsically understand what she was trying to convey, perhaps because they are used to experimental theater forms.

“Their brains haven’t calcified into ‘This is how a play has to look,’ ” she said. “They’re prepared to do something adventurous.”

“After years of producers scratching their head at the sight of the unique layout of the script, it was refreshing to experience the story and challenges it presents with their fresh eyes,” said Morrow, of last year’s “Greenhouse” production and the upcoming performance.

Last week, as rehearsals began, Haley said she has been doing re-writes on the fly as she’s been able to see the actors act out their parts.

“Just seeing it is helping me to unlock things that were question marks before. I just needed to see it move in the space,” said Haley.

This experience is one of the things that makes the Andy’s experience special, said Haley.

“I don’t think too many kids get to work on a new work, with the writer in the room,” she said.

“It’s really fun being the first person performing something,” agreed Julia Dowd, 13, of Amherst, who is playing the title character of Froggy in the production. “It’s really interesting to put a play on from scratch.”

Dowd was involved in last year’s stage reading of Froggy, and knew that she wanted to see Andy’s do a full production.

“I was really pushing to do this play,” Dowd said. “It felt unlike any script I’d seen.”

She also liked that the performance “mixed realities,” and that it felt “like a dystopian novel,” Dowd said.

“Andy’s always finds things that are different,” said Dowd.

Froggy will be presented at the Andy’s Summer Playhouse in Wilton on July 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. After the show on Thursday and Friday, there will be talk-back sessions and opportunities to ask questions of the cast, director and designers of the show. The show is recommended for ages 12 and up. For any questions regarding content, or to reserve tickets, contact the box office at 654-2613. Tickets are $16 for adults and $8 for children or seniors and may be purchased at the box office or at andyssummerplayhouse.org.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.