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Drexel and Simpatico Theatre Project Team Up to Present Family-Friendly Cult Classic “Watership Down”

November 05, 2015

(L-R) Drexel students Jacob Meriner and Sophie Hirsch. Photo by Kate Raines.
(L-R) Drexel students Jacob Meriner and Sophie Hirsch in "Watership Down" at Drexel's Mandell Theater. Photo credit: Kate Raines.

Sensing imminent danger at home, rabbits Hazel and Fiver lead a scrappy band of refugees on a quest for a new warren. Confronted with challenges at every turn, they must learn to live on their wits, make new allies and confront their very deepest fears in order to survive. John Hildreth’s adaptation of Richard Adams’ classic children’s tale “Watership Down” is a heartwarming celebration of perseverance, adventure and community.

Co-produced by the Simpatico Theater Project and Drexel University’s Co-Op Theatre Company in the
Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design as part of Drexel’s Mandell Professionals in Residence Project (MPiRP), this epic production features a cast and crew comprised of students and professionals, set against the work of top-notch designers from around the region. The show will run from Nov. 4 – 22 in Drexel’s Mandell Theater (33rd & Chestnut Streets).

Directed by Simpatico Artistic Director Allen Radway, the show features puppetry by Aaron Cromie and Lorna Howley, scenic illustrations by comic book artist Robert Berry and animal-inspired movement by Tribe of Fools member Colleen Hughes, all brought to life by Janelle Kauffman’s projection design and Andrew J. Cowles’ lighting design.

“This show is an incredibly exciting and beautiful adventure along the lines of the 'Lord of the Rings' saga,” said Nick Anselmo, director of theater and the Mandell Professionals in Residence Programs. “It brings together so many talented artists to create this imaginary world that the actors get to play in. Audiences will be moved by the journey, mythology, camaraderie and epic battles for survival of these small creatures.”

Tickets are $10-$25 for general admission and $5 for Drexel students with ID. Half-price previews of the show will take place Nov. 4, 5 and 6 at 8 p.m., with opening night on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m., followed by evening and matinee performances through Nov. 22. For show times and to purchase tickets, click here.

Founded in Philadelphia in 2005, Simpatico Theatre Project believes theater is a force for positive social change, and produces classic, contemporary and new theater pieces that encourage dialogue about issues facing the Philadelphia community. Through 19 full-scale productions, Simpatico has raised awareness for such causes as victims’ rights, citizen action, environmental racism, substance abuse and equal opportunity for people with disabilities.

(L-R, front) Simpatico's Cortnee Nicole Love and Alex McCormick, (back) Drexel student Joseph Canuso. Photo credit: Kate Raines.

“Watership Down” marks the launch of The Philly Bridge Project, a new initiative Simpatico has launched to make the arts more accessible for underserved Philadelphia public school students. Each school participating in the Bridge Project receives an on-site residency along with transportation and tickets to a student matinee.

Published in England in 1972, “Watership Down” was Richard Adams’ first novel. The story began as a creative way to entertain his daughters on long car rides and was later adapted into a popular animated movie and television series. Playwright John Hildreth is a Chicago theater artist who has written award-winning adaptations of “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Treasure Island” in addition to adapting “Watership Down” for the stage, originally at Lifeline Theatre.

Since 2005, Drexel’s Mandell Professionals in Residence Project (MPiRP) has provided administrative and production support to emerging and avant-garde Philadelphia regional theater companies through the theater program at Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design while introducing students to the full working process of creating professional theater.

Theater companies such as Pig Iron Theater Company, New Paradise Laboratories and Azuka Theatre have all staged co-productions at Drexel, featuring students acting alongside professionals as well as in support roles behind the scenes. In 2009, “The Long Christmas Ride Home”, a partnership with Azuka Theatre, won a Barrymore Award, and in 2012 “The Poet Laureate of Capitalism” created with The Riot Group toured to an Off-Broadway theater in New York City. Last year, Drexel collaborated with Philadelphia Artists Collective to produce “Blood Wedding,” which was met with rave reviews. For more information about theater at Drexel, visit:


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