New Vintage Ensemble play ‘My Condolences’ holds funny Irish wake at Scranton Fringe Festival Sept. 28-30
From a press release:
Theatre and death have a lot in common. They bring us together, make us laugh, make us cry, and remind us of what it is to be human.
The New Vintage Ensemble, in collaboration with the Gaslight Theatre Company, will debut an original piece at the 2018 Scranton Fringe Festival that will marry death and theater, with hilarious results on Friday, Sept. 28 through Sunday, Sept. 30.
“My Condolences” is the immersive, interactive, and so-freaking-weird-it’s-amazing Irish wake of Andrew Houlihan. While audiences won’t meet Andrew in person, they will be encouraged to remember the man he was while meeting those nearest and dearest to him. Friends, family members, and even complete strangers come together to grieve his loss, resulting in breathtaking moments: some from too much laughter, others from being reminded that life is too short.
“Death is one of those subjects that can be difficult to talk about, yet it’s a significant part of life,” said New Vintage Ensemble member Mandy Pennington, who wrote the piece and is co-directing it with Dane Bower from the Gaslight Theatre Company. “In a lot of ways, the show reminds us that death is always experienced through the lens of the living and that can be touching, painful, awkward, and also incredibly funny.”
Pennington began writing “My Condolences” in 2013 while grieving the loss of a family member.
“What started as a way for me to express my own feelings turned into really interesting project,” said Pennington. Throughout the play’s development, she sought input from funeral directors on the characters who appear in our own lives when we grieve, as well as some of our more outrageous displays of what we feel when someone we care about passes away. “Many of the details in the story are true. We embraced the weirdness of grief, that’s for sure.”
“My Condolences” was workshopped by the New Vintage Ensemble in 2015 as part of their Shut Up & Read staged reading series before being reworked for the Scranton Fringe.
“What appeals to me about this piece is the potential it has to really connect with our audience in an unusual way. While we each handle death differently, the grieving process – particularly wakes and funerals – seems to have a certain set of universally identifiable aspects: solemnity, respect, grace in the face of loss. A way to behave that is socially acceptable and expected,” notes co-director Dane Bower.
“This show takes all of that and turns it on its head, and I think audiences will all be able to connect with that and get caught up in the sort of zany freedom that comes with taking all the things you expect at a wake and tossing them out the window. Any time you take an audience and ask them to break from the norm, I think it is a rewarding experience for them.”
This production also marks the first collaboration between the New Vintage Ensemble and Gaslight Theatre Company. Both companies are known throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania for engaging audiences with original works, reinvented classics, and award-winning productions.
Audiences should note that “My Condolences” is consider a rated R production and has adult language and content. It is recommended for mature audiences only.
Performances of “My Condolences” will run during the Scranton Fringe Festival on Friday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. on the second floor of the AfA Gallery (514 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton). Tickets are available at newvintageensemble.com and through the Scranton Fringe Fest.
Founded in 2013, the New Vintage Ensemble is a collective of actors from Northeastern Pennsylvania dedicated to producing innovative and interactive theater while helping the art community of the greater Scranton region thrive. Their distinctive style and passion for engaging audiences has resulted in award-winning and internationally-recognized productions (“Pride & Prejudice,” 2013), as well as regional premieres of original works.
The Gaslight Theatre Company was founded in 2003 with the mission to create impactful, innovative, and high-quality theatre that enriches the lives of local artists and the community.
The Scranton Fringe Festival is dedicated to creating a bold and engaging platform for creative and thought-provoking art with minimal risk to artist and audience. Regional as well as touring artists are welcomed to present work with no censorship placed on content or artistic expression while striving to promote Scranton as a viable and creative environment. The Scranton Fringe Festival is held annually across several consecutive days in multiple venues throughout downtown Scranton. Theatre, music, dance, film, comedy, puppetry, and every other sort of performing arts production imaginable are welcomed on the fringe. The festival is kept accessible and affordable for artists (no application fees, comparably small production fees) and audiences (special free programming, affordable tickets, hopper passes, etc.) alike. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 30 in 13 different venues.