The Hippo


Apr 18, 2019








Meet Jared Mezzocchi

Mezzocchi grew up in Hollis and was an Andy’s kid for about eight years. He studied theater in college and earned his MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts at Brooklyn College. He’s currently on the faculty at the University of Maryland and has directed and/or designed at theaters around the world. He began writing and directing for Andy’s about seven years ago, and when former artistic director DJ Potter decided to step down in order to pursue a passion project, HiveMind Theater Collective in Providence, Mezzocchi jumped at the opportunity.
Why he wanted the job: “Andy’s has supplied me with not only the skill set and desire to be in theater, but also a deeper appreciation of new work. … I also feel really close to the community in the Wilton area. … I really, truly, genuinely believe that what Andy’s is doing, is that it’s giving a very unique voice for children. It’s a home for inquiry and exploration. … I see [the kids] completely transform, from ages 8 to 18, into important thinkers and doers.”
Bringing in more professionals: “I think there’s something really, really pivotal about how these kids are thinking and doing things at Andy’s, and how that can inspire a different kind of new work with professionals. … I’m a member of a lot of theaters in D.C. and New York, and I’m excited to find ways to link up [with professionals] and [for Andy’s to] be a hub where people can come and make new work with kids.”
Theater of the future: “I write and direct multi-media theater, but I’m also a multi-media designer. One of the things I’m doing is making use of this incubator space to see how we can use technology without overpowering what the children are doing, but to really enhance the storyline. … A really big thing moving forward is, how do we continue to let that grow, while finding writers and directors who can work in that realm?”
Online presence: “I also really want to find a way we can become more active online. We’re only a summer theater company, and so I want to ask, how can we be more present throughout the year?”
Like adults: “We look at children like they’re adults. … The sense and integrity and maturity in a 10-year-old is remarkable. … And they say it like it is, which I love.”
See The Kid of Billy the Kid
Where: Andy’s Summer Playhouse, 582 Isaac Frye Highway, Wilton, 654-2613,
When: Saturday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 19, at 2 p.m.; Wednesday, July 22, at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, July 23, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 25, at 7:30 p.m.
Admission: $14
Other shows:  Shakespeare Remix: Andy’s Midsummer Night Dreaming is the company’s traveling show and occurs all around the Monadnock area, July 26 through Aug. 1, and Into the Woods Jr. takes the stage Aug. 7 through Aug. 14. Visit the site for details.

New leader, new show
Andy’s Summer Playhouse starts season with The Kid of Billy the Kid

By Kelly Sennott

It’s a Tuesday night at Andy’s Summer Playhouse in Wilton, and everyone’s busy getting ready for the 2015 season opener, The Kid of Billy the Kid, written by newly appointed artistic director Jared Mezzocchi.

The theater, at the top of a winding hill in a former Grange Hall, is a cluster of activity on this night of rehearsals. Lead actors are on the front lawn practicing lines, and inside, an ensemble of kids ages 8 to 18 are configured in a circle, chanting the beginning of Act II. Between takes, Mezzocchi urges them to really lean in to every word.
“This might be the hardest scene I’ve ever put on at Andy’s,” he says. “Let’s step up to the challenge.”
Down the hall, set designer Amanda Leslie is fiddling with little paper cut-outs, set up to help her envision the shapes needed for this production’s scenery, which will be done nearly entirely through projection — cutting edge for any theater company, never mind one comprised of New Hampshire school kids. (“[Multimedia storytelling] is blowing up right now. It’s all over the country, and I feel super-privileged to be a part of that movement,” Mezzocchi said during a rehearsal break.)
The company is known for producing original work for kids — also something kind of rare in the state of New Hampshire — and of this year’s three summer productions, The Kid of Billy the Kid is the only world premiere. The play is about a girl named Lucy who runs away from home to find her dad, whom, after reading newspaper articles and hearing the stories, she thinks is Billy the Kid.
The story has been swirling around Mezzocchi’s brain the better part of the year, and while the big ideas and general plotline were established before the first rehearsal, there was still tinkering to be done by him and the young actors. 
Most of Mezzocchi’s plays are ensemble-based, but within those ensembles are individual characters that come out through the theater-making process.
“I personally want to try to fight away from just having people in the background. How do we give characters to everyone and make sure everyone has their little journey within the piece?” he said. “That’s the joy of writing new work; if we were writing just one story about a person going through time, it would be harder to … write some juicy characters for these kids.”
Many of the kids have had practice writing and creating original theater; some participate in the John C. Russell Playwriting Lab, also produced by Andy’s, and a few have participated in original Andy’s works before, including Mezzocchi’s 2014 summer show about writer’s block called The Block. They seem to like his “controlled chaos” way of creation and were pleased when he was appointed artistic director. One called herself a “Jared follower.”
At Andy’s, the kids say, things are dynamic, artistic and flexible. If something doesn’t seem right, the directors listen. They may even restructure the entire play.
Skye Williams, 18, of Lyndeborough, for instance, was never so stressed as he was before last year’s The Block, but he never felt so rewarded after a production, either.
“With all the plays I ever did at school — and with some of the ones I did here — you got a part and you learned your lines,” said Williams, who will be a narrator in The Kid of Billy the Kid. “In The Block last year … I wasn’t really sure who my character was. It didn’t make sense to me, but [Mezzocchi] was having difficulties with it in the same ways I was. We made a whole bunch of changes, actually really close to showtime. It was stressful, but it made more sense to me, who the character was.”
Encouraging kids to speak up is part of the teaching process; Mezzocchi says he sees their confidence and abilities grow as they learn about narrative structure, conflict and resolution, and it helps that they know these concepts so they understand why, a couple weeks before showtime, he’ll tweak their lines. Usually they don’t even complain.
“You know, it’s funny. I don’t know why they’re so OK with it! But I love it, because it means they really trust the integrity of theater-making, which is really incredible,” Mezzocchi said. 
As seen in the July 9, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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