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The Bearded Ladies are Back! And They’re Talking to Plants
CHESTERTOWN, MD—The Bearded Ladies are back! The exuberant Philadelphia cabaret company—whose acclaimed caba-play “Wide Awake” attracted capacity crowds at Washington College last year—will return at the end of September for three performances of their new outdoor extravaganza: “Bitter Homes and Gardens: A Botanical Hoedown.”
The show will be performed on the lawn behind Hodson Hall Commons at Washington College on September 30, October 1, and October 2. All performances will begin at 6:00 p.m. and are free and open to the public, though seating will be limited.
Inspired in part by a 2013 New Yorker essay, “The Intelligent Plant” by food writer Michael Pollan, the production features flowers, ferns, weeds and vegetables singing and dancing their way through the big questions that face our plant brethren. Not the least of those questions, says director Sally Ollove, is: “If plants had voices, what would they sing?”
The Bearded Ladies will collaborate with internationally renowned Mexican artist Leslie Garcia, who has worked to give “voice” to plants using electronic devices that turn their reactions to touch, noise, light, water, and other stimuli into amazing and consistently expressive sounds.
“In previous versions of this show, we encouraged audiences to listen to the plants around them,” says Ollove. “Now, with Leslie’s help, the plants will actually be able to ‘talk’ back. Working with Leslie allows the Bearded Ladies to collaborate directly with plants as responsive scene partners.”
Working with Washington College students, the Bearded Ladies will create a pop-up garden on the lawn behind Hodson Hall Commons. When the show debuted on the streets of South Philly to enthusiastic audiences in early July, the performers worked in pop-up gardens created by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
Emceed by Jebediah Eatin-Good, a genetically modified plant one Philadelphia reviewer likened to a cross between Mike Huckabee and an ear of corn, the production incorporates the music of artists ranging from Bill Withers, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits to RaeLynn, the Andrews Sisters and Faith Hill, as well as original songs by resident composer Heath Allen, all played by a three-person band made up of accordion, fiddle/banjo, and sousaphone.
The Philadelphia Inquirer described The Bearded Ladies as “endearing, talented, always-a-pleasure” and said the show featured “lots of wit” and “tons of puns,” while Philadelphia City Paper called it “charmingly casual” and “downright adorable.”
Organized by SANDBOX, the College’s interdisciplinary program fostering creativity in the environment, the Bearded Ladies’ residency is co-sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Dance and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.
SANDBOX Director Alex Castro says the production “just shouldn’t be missed. The Bearded Ladies are provocative, challenging, and great fun, lampooning science and art in this hilarious musical tribute to our distant greeny relatives who try their hardest to speak to us.
“Leslie Garcia, who actually ‘listens’ to plants’ emanations electronically, will be frolicking along with the Cabaret for this special Washington College iteration of the production,” Castro continues. “All in all, it will be a rousing tribute to the imaginative energy inherent in the art/science mix.”
“We are so excited to be part of the return of the great Bearded Ladies,” says Michele Volansky, Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance. “Their sense of play and style of storytelling is something we just love and admire so much.”
“As with all the Bearded Ladies’ productions, ‘Bitter Homes and Gardens’ is full of sly, provocative commentary on contemporary culture,” adds Adam Goodheart, the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. “It’s also utterly ridiculous.”
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SANDBOX brings artists and scientists together in collaborative projects, lectures, and workshops that bring new perspectives to both the College and the surrounding Chestertown community. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program brings distinguished visitors to campus to give lectures, performances, and “Sandstorm” events—short duration projects joining creative minds from different disciplines with students for experimental interactions. Seeking to uncover a freshness of vision through the juxtaposition of interdisciplinary approaches, SANDBOX exposes students to unconventional, non-linear attitudes toward problem solving, helping them become creative thinkers capable of adding fresh insight to any field. (www.washcoll.edu/departments/sandbox)
The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, founded at the College in 2000, is an innovative center for the study of history, culture and politics, and fosters excellence int he art of written history through fellowships, prizes, and student programs. (www.washcoll.edu/centers/starr)