HP Players perform poetic verse in newest production

Hyde Park Community Players (left to right)  Andrea Holliday, Scott Malpass, Grace Snyder, Victor Panov and Bill Hohnke perform a scene from "This Lady's Not for Burning" opening night, Friday, Dec. 2, at University Church, 5655 S. University Ave. -Owen M. Lawson III
Hyde Park Community Players (left to right) Andrea Holliday, Scott Malpass, Grace Snyder, Victor Panov and Bill Hohnke perform a scene from “This Lady’s Not for Burning” opening night, Friday, Dec. 2, at University Church, 5655 S. University Ave.

-Owen Lawson III

By ALLISON MATYUS
Staff Writer

The Hyde Park Community Players (HPCP) is bringing back the times of poetic verses and verbal splendor through their latest production, “The Lady’s Not for Burning.”

Originally written by Christopher Fry in the 1940s, the play, directed by Player Paul Baker, is set in the 1400s in the midst of a witch accusation and an attempted hanging. Though dark topics make up the scope of the play, Baker said the play is very much a comedy.

“It is absolutely a comedy and there are lots of laughs,” Baker said. “Fry does not forget the darkness, but there’s also this well of human joy that will make your heart sing.”

Baker said the central theme of the play is using poetry to reach the unspeakable depths, heights and complexities of the human soul.

“The Lady’s Not for Burning” features a cast of 11 actors that took on the challenge of the poetic language featured in the script of the play. Gracie Ehara Snyder, who plays one of the main characters, Jennet Jourdemayne, said that embodying her character took more than just memorizing the lines.

“I had to go and play with the language and how it lives in my body, not just my brain,” she said. “When it just lives in my brain, it is super hard to remember as there is a lot of text, but once it lives in the body, I was finding intuitive ways my body was responding to the text.”

Baker said that since the HPCP began rehearsing for the play in October, a big part was bringing the poetic and flouncy language to life.

“We have discovered that this play really has that degree of depth in it…it’s not just, ‘well there are these people and they say these fancy things,’ but if you could find your way into [the words] then it is completely natural to say these beautiful complex things,” Baker said.

Aside from poetic verses that make up the play, Baker said it is still very much relevant to modern times. The play explores scapegoating and marginalizing of a certain people and “old fashioned fascism” in the form of witch burning.

“We really found that in thinking about this election and the kinds of rhetoric that was coming out of the person who won the election, this play has suddenly become very relevant,” Baker said. “Fry looks at the kind of society that would burn an accused witch and a community in which that kind of thinking is present in.”

Baker said putting on a play such as “The Lady’s Not for Burning” is important for the theatre community to continue to do in modern times.

“Poetic drama and poetic verse cannot be pushed aside in modern days. This is our attempt at saying that this thing lives and works and is exciting and funny now and anyone who wants to do this has a place in modern 21st century literature,” he said.

“The Lady’s Not for Burning” opened on Dec. 2. and will run again the weekend of Dec. 9-11, at University Church, 5655 S. University Ave., with Friday and Saturday shows scheduled for 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon shows scheduled at 3 p.m.

Tickets are available in advance at the HPCP website, hydeparkcommunityplayers.org, or can be purchased at the door the day of the show. Prices are $15 for regular admission and $12 for students and seniors.

a.matyus@hpherald.com