VICTORIAN THEATRE IN MODERN TIMES
The theater program began with the interactive Murder Mystery held in the Mansion’s rooms every October, like a game of clue come to life. Our murder mystery events are unique in that they always focus on a part of Victorian, and very often, Philadelphia history. Death of a Titanic Survivor focused on Charlotte Cardeza, a Germantown resident who received the largest insurance settlement from the White Star Line, and A House Divided, which was inspired by local historian Eugene Stackhouse’s book “Germantown in the Civil War.”I have had the pleasure of creating Victorian theatre in the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion since 2008. When you walk through the front door of the mansion, you’re transported to a different time. As you walk through the rooms the outside world fades away, and you imagine yourself back in the nineteenth century, walking in the footsteps of Ebenezer and Anna Maxwell. It’s a place where you can have an incredible theatrical experience.
As the murder mystery became successful, we expanded the Victorian Theatre program to include original one man adaptations of A Christmas Carol (performed annually at our Dickens Christmas Party) and Stoker’s Dracula. Since premiering at the Mansion in 2011, Stoker’s Dracula has also been performed at the Philly Fringe, the Rosenbach Museum and Library, La Salle University, Elfreth’s Alley, and Curio Theatre Company, and continues to tour. We also began our series of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. We premiered with A Study in Scarlet (2012) and then adapted The Speckled Band (2013). Due to audience demand, a third play, A Scandal in Bohemia, is scheduled for April 2014.
Over the years, a core repertory company of actors has been formed at the Mansion. People who return year after year playing wildly different roles, dedicated to the unique challenge of making live theatre in a historic museum. Almost all of our performances are sold out weeks ahead of opening night, and people of all ages fill the Mansion’s intimate parlor, watching a play unfold only a few feet (or inches) away. Our technical director Jay Efran creates magic with special effects, props, and lighting. We’ve partnered with prestigious museums like the Rosenbach Museum and Library, the Mutter Museum, and the American Swedish Museum to create exhibits to enhance the performance. There’s no theater like it in Philadelphia.
This summer, we are taking the next step by presenting Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece, A Doll’s House. This will be the first full length play the Mansion has produced, specifically chosen to highlight the Mansion’s exploration of the lives of Victorian women. We start rehearsals on Sunday, and I will be writing throughout the rehearsal process. I hope you’ll join us behind the curtain.