Four Famous Wack Jobs... and more
Alison Rose Wonderland as Ellen Terry, Daniel Rhovan as H. G. Wells, Rebecca Petchenik as The Time Traveler, Karyn O'Bryant as Beatrice Webb, Robb Piggot as George Bernard Shaw
The celebrated quartet at the heart of our comedy, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, were among the most famous people in England and the world. But unlike so many of today’s celebrities, they devoted their lives to making the lives of poor, non-famous people better. Our interpretations of these larger-than-life characters reflect how their contemporaries saw them and how they saw themselves. Here are the four famous wack jobs you’ll meet when you come to the show this Friday or Sunday at Hipbone Studios -- and the only slightly less wacky folks who are bringing you their story.
Beatrice Webb (1858-1943) Defying her wealthy family and their circle of pretentious society friends, she spent decades helping the people who lived in London’s East End slums. Her many books with her life partner, Sidney, created the blueprint for modern social democracy. Her legacy includes her 3 million word diary, started at age 15 with the last entry 9 days before she died.
Her diary reveals a troubled, thoughtful woman whom we’d today probably diagnose as bipolar. She was anorexic, self-doubting, self-disciplined, ascetic, and totally devoted to her husband Sidney and their shared goal of elevating Britons out of poverty. They founded the London School of Economics, New Statesman magazine, and many other institutions that live on today, including the Fabian Society.
Karyn O'Bryant as Beatrice Webb
Beatrice is played by Karyn O’Bryant, who has performed on stage for 33 years, and they haven't managed to pry her off it yet. She's a voice actor. Visit her at www.karynobryant.com. She also hikes, collects pressed pennies, ballroom dances, and makes fantastic waffles.
Ellen Terry as Lady MacBeth by John Singer Sargent
Ellen Terry (1847-1928) Considered one of England’s greatest actresses, she grew up touring the countryside with her parents and siblings — all itinerant actors. Defying Victorian morality, she ran away at age 20 — already a famed actress — with her lover, bearing two children out of wedlock. She resurfaced only to prove that the recovered body of a drowned girl reported to be her, wasn’t. She was the Victorian equivalent of a hippie Earth mother: kind, generous, sometimes a little goofy on the surface but maybe wiser than all the other characters here underneath.
Alison Rose Wonderland as Ellen Terry
Ellen is brought to life by Alison Rose Wonderland, an actor and soprano from Long Beach CA who has worked with Per Blomkvist, Ry Russo-Young, Lisa Peterson, North Country Chamber Orchestra, Barrow Group Theater, Sven-David Sandstrom, James Lesniak, Musica Viva NYC, Lee Brock, Brad Whitely, David Anzuelo, and Theater for the New City. Insta: @alisonrose18.
George Bernard Shaw
After immigrating from his native Dublin, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) first became famous for his snarky music criticism and political writings and speeches (often delivered to workers and poor people) about socialism and other issues. He turned to theater to get his messages out in the early 20th century, becoming Britain’s most renowned public philosopher and winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. He and his wife, Charlotte, stayed together till her death in 1943.
Shaw really did often come off, in public and especially in debate, as overbearing, sucking the air out of every room he entered. His brilliance and humor more than compensated. He was probably a little too Irish for buttoned-up English Victorians. In private, among intimate friends though, he was quiet, thoughtful and always loyal, despite his proclivity for puppet mastery in public maneuverings.
Robb Piggot as George Bernard Shaw
Robb Piggot, who plays Shaw, is far too selfish to ever be a socialist. He uses up all the hot water, never pays people back the money he owes them and refuses to hold the door for people running for the elevator. He even got someone else to write this bio for him. (Editor’s note: we can attest that Robb is one of the most generous thespians we’ve ever known, but don’t tell him we said that.)
H. G. Wells
HG Wells (1866-1946) is best known today for inventing science fiction as we know it with his early, wildly successful novels including The Time Machine. He predicted much of the 20th century’s major developments including nuclear energy and world wars. He also earned notoriety for his political writings, his best selling books of popular history, his game development, and his scandalous sex life.
Even Wells’s friends rolled their eyes at his spoiled brat behavior, forgiving his embarrassingly explosive temper tantrums because they admired his idealistic visions and his brilliance -- much to the annoyance of Shaw, who seldom received such indulgences. He thought hard about the big issues and wasn’t afraid to change his mind -- usually accompanied by a book explaining his new beliefs.
Daniel Rhovan as H. G. Wells
Daniel Rhovan, who plays Wells, is an after-school drama teacher, puppeteer, event entertainer, voiceover artist, improv comedian, and writer — whenever he's not working in film or commercials! He graduated from Eastern Oregon University in 2015 with a Bachelor's in Theatre Arts, and has been loving the city of Portland ever since. Daniel credits his friends, family, teachers and loved ones for their unwavering support and spirit.
Rebecca Petchenik as The Time Traveler
The Time Traveler is a character we made up, in a nod to the author of The Time Machine. She’s here to do the scut work involved in putting on any production, but her ulterior agenda is to show early 21st century audiences how early 20th century reformers dealt with inequality -- and their own egos -- in laying the groundwork for social democracy.
Rebecca Petchenik, who created the role, is an actor, writer and organizer from North Carolina. This is her second year taking part in Fertile Ground. This year she took part in the Crazy Dukes Instant Play Festival. She has a forthcoming collection of fiction and does regular short story readings in the area.
Maria Choban (writer/director/co-producer) performs music by local composers and helps cover the scene for Oregon ArtsWatch. Her army of young piano students also keeps her current on new music.
Brett Campbell (writer/co-producer/director) is a Portland journalist who writes regularly for Oregon ArtsWatch, The Oregonian, Willamette Week, and many other publications, as permitted by his feline overlord. Before being seduced into arts journalism, he wrote and edited for progressive political publications.