The Hippo


Oct 16, 2019








The kids at Andy’s Summer Playhouse. Amy Blanchard photo.

See the stage reading of George

Where: The Yellow Barn, adjacent to Andy’s Summer Playhouse, 582 Isaac Frye Highway, Wilton
When: Friday, July 15, at 7 p.m.
Admission: $14
Contact:,,,, 654-2613
The rest of the season: Viewfinder by Jared Mezzocchi is July 21 through July 30; Playing Bo Peep by Katy Day is Aug. 5 through Aug. 16; and Samantha Rai with book by Qui Nguyen and music by Shane Rettig, and lyrics by them both, is Aug. 11 through Aug. 20

Conversation platform
Andy’s Summer Playhouse takes on identity

By Kelly Sennott

 When Jared Mezzocchi took over as the Andy’s Summer Playhouse artistic director last summer, he decided he wanted to structure the kids’ theater company season around a theme: “identity.” 

The theme’s played out in all mainstage productions this summer, from Mezzocchi’s Viewfinder, a multimedia tale of today’s need to document every moment with a finger tap, to Playing Bo Peep by Katy Day, about nursery characters who are tired of their traditional roles. (Bo Peep wants to travel the world; Jill hates climbing that stupid hill.)
The Wilton children’s theater is pretty innovative as far as New Hampshire theater goes, highlighting original pieces with child actors in an 18th-century barn in the woods. But Mezzocchi wanted to go another step further and pushed to instate The Greenhouse, another initiative to get more professional working artists to Wilton. It’s like a short theater residency that involves Andy’s kids.
“We’re taking Andy’s into a new brand, and we’re also talking about, what is the identity of Andy’s? And how do we keep the integrity of Andy’s alive and well and gently coax it into the next generation?” Mezzocchi said via phone. “The idea is to show the children at Andy’s about working through new ideas and new forms, and wrestling with the artistic process.”
The first residents of The Greenhouse are author Alex Gino and playwright Jess M. Barbagallo, who are working together to translate Gino’s middle-grade children’s novel, George, to the stage. Andy’s kids and staff will perform a stage reading of what they come up with in the barn across the street from the Andy’s theater Friday, July 15, at 7 p.m. with direction by Brooke O’Harra. The event will include a dance performance by Orange Grove Dance of Maryland and end with a talkback.
George, published August 2015, is about a kid named George whom everyone sees as a boy but who knows she’s really a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this secret forever. When her teacher announces their class play will be Charlotte’s Web, George really wants to audition to perform as Charlotte, even though her teacher says that’s a girl’s role. 
Mezzocchi read the book last fall, as recommended by an Andy’s board member, and thought it would fit perfectly with this summer’s theme. The idea’s not to take a stand, but to create a platform to talk about something important.
“What is identity? What is gender? And who do we identify as?” Mezzocchi said. “It’s a platform for conversation. The book does an amazing job of that — creating a safe space to start a conversation about identity.”
Gino was on board but wanted a playwright to work with, and Mezzocchi thought of Barbagallo, whom Mezzocchi had worked with in New York for a show, Saturn Nights, about eight years ago. Mezzocchi remembered that Barbagallo, a trans man, was an activist in the LGBT community and sent him a copy of the book by mail, asking if he’d be interested in translating the piece to the stage with Gino.
Barbagallo devoured the text over the course of a few hours, late into the night in his apartment and on the subway the next day. The story resonated with him, and so did the character; he’d wanted to be a performer as a kid and remembered the casting conundrum.
“I related to the feeling of wanting to be someplace or do something, and then being told I couldn’t because it was off-limits with my gender,” Barbagallo said via phone.
At the time of Barbagallo’s phone interview a week before the residency’s start, he’d just begun storyboarding and planned to connect with Gino before meeting in person in early July for a 10-day stay in Wilton with community members. He planned to take a fantastical approach, animating objects and characters through Melissa’s imagination and rethinking the way the world might look if gender were a more affirmative, less restrictive apparatus. The project’s unlike any other he’s worked on.
“It’s funny and wonderful. … I’m so conditioned to expect so little from our culture. … I almost don’t know how to speak about it yet,” Barbagallo said.“It’s a very exciting and I think necessary adaptation. … I did recommend this to another friend of mine. … She started to cry and said, ‘This is my story.’” 

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