The Hippo


Jul 21, 2019








Deirdre Bridge

See Scene Changes

Where: Leddy Center for the Performing Arts, 38C Ladd’s Lane, Epping, 679-2781,,
When: Friday, Jan. 16, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 18, at 2 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 23, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 24, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 25, at 2 p.m.
Admission: $18

Original Scene
Leddy Center premieres local playwright’s work

By Kelly Sennott

For the first time in its 40-year history, the Leddy Center for the Performing Arts is premiering an original play by a local playwright.
Londonderry resident Donald Tongue’s Scene Changes will take the stage Friday, Jan. 16, and continue for a two-week run. It follows a legendary British has-been named Samantha Wheelwright, who is absolutely distraught about her role as Mrs. Cratchit in a traveling production of A Christmas Carol — particularly when the show’s Bob Cratchit falls ill and she must play opposite Matthew Simmons, a younger, inexperienced actor local to the production’s current stop.
“I’ve always wanted to produce a new play, not just because it’s exciting, but also because it would help someone out. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have a play produced in a theater,” Leddy Center Executive Director Elaine Gatchell said in a phone interview.
Putting on a new play is risky; historically, well-known plays — Annie, The Sound of Music and The Music Man, for instance — draw larger crowds than the unknown.
“We usually do big names because you can get an audience with a big name,” Gatchell said. “It’s very hard to do so with an unknown play.”
But Gatchell saw something great in Tongue’s Scene Changes. His “romantic dramedy” has plot twists and depth. (Think flashbacks, reminiscences and themes about identity and relationships.)
“It’s just so well-written,” Gatchell said. “I’ve read a lot of plays these past 40 years, and I could just tell from the way it flowed and the way it was funny and poignant that it had all the characteristics of a successful play.”
Tongue has seen a great many of his plays hit the stage, including Void, which has seen more than a dozen productions and has been performed across the country, from Boston to Los Angeles. His School Portrait Monologues was produced in New Zealand, and Fishbowl was a participant in the 2010 short play festival in New York. Locally, theatre KAPOW performed his My Neighbor, the Poet in 2010. 
Tongue and his wife, Donna, have been acting with the Leddy for about 20 years now, and Tongue thought Scene Changes would fit nicely there because the idea for it was sparked by his own role in a 2006 Leddy rendition of A Christmas Carol. Tongue played Bob Cratchit opposite a young woman about 20 years his junior.
The scenario, he thought, could make for a funny two-person play. 
“It struck me as this odd pairing,” Tongue said. “But it’s morphed quite a bit from the original script, which was like seven scenes. Now it’s three acts.”
It started out, for instance, that his elder, has-been actor was male and the younger actor female. But something didn’t seem right.
“I felt like I needed to change it out of my experience,” Tongue said. “And I was struggling with how to keep working the play. Sometimes it helps just to throw everything out and start from scratch. It flowed really well from that point on. I began to have a nice feel for the whole development and the dramatic arc of the play.”
These characters also felt more right.
“If I can get the voices of the characters inside my head, the play kind of writes itself. Samantha is one of those characters — Matt, too — who is very clear in my mind,” Tongue said.
The venue also lent itself well to Scene Changes. It’s a small, intimate space, and this production calls for just two actors: Deirdre Bridge, who plays Samantha, and John Rodgers, who plays Matthew.
At the time of the phone interview, the writing was, in a way, still in progress. Tongue decided to direct the play himself because, in his words, sometimes you need to put a play onstage to see if it’s working.
“I’ve been changing things a lot, much to the cast’s dismay. They seem to have gone along with it pretty well,” Tongue said. 
As seen in the January 8, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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