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Tioga County group to offer 2 performances of play on Zoom

PHOTO PROVIDED Nell, Clay’s mom stands near her son as he reads a postcard.

“Postcards from a Dead Dog,” written by award-winning playwright F. J. Hartland, is a humorous look at the dysfunctional yet devoted relationship between a mother and son. It is sweet, sad and funny — all at the same time.

Hamilton-Gibson Productions is giving two performances of this half-hour, one-act, two-person comedy-drama on Zoom. Both are free. The first will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and the second at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

“Of course, everyone has a mother, but Clay’s mom, Nell, is unlike any other mother you’ve ever known,” said Director Thomas Putnam, according to a news release. After the loss of the family pet, Nell (Jen Painter) discovers an unusual way to communicate with her son Clay (Josh Magnotta) and Clay returns the favor.

“The staged reading of this play highlights this jewel of community theatre that audiences all miss so much,” said Putnam.

The way Clay and Nell have overcome their difficulty in communicating is to write postcards to each other. The postcards are ostensibly coming from Rusty, Clay’s dog that had died when he was a child. Nell insisted Rusty had merely gone on a long vacation. A postcard from the dog arrived soon afterwards.

“Hartland’s play is sweet and touching, and while it deals with issues that have been covered time and time again — coming out, a child moving from his parent’s influence, a parent’s mortality – it never feels cliched,” wrote a reviewer.

“Jen, the mother in this play, gave a memorable performance as the outrageously conning Miss Hannigan in HG’s production of the musical ‘Annie.’ She also played the eldest sister in our production of ‘Dancing at ‘Lughnasa’ and was in ‘Calendar Girls,'” Putnam said, according to the news release.

She lives in Wellsboro. Josh who plays the son is from Elkland.

“This is his first appearance on the HG stage,” said Putnam.

Hamilton-Gibson first encountered “Postcards from a Dead Dog” when the community theatre group hosted the Eastern States Theatre Association Festival in Wellsboro, Putnam said.

“It was the first production in the Deane Center’s newly built Coolidge Theatre. Hartland was a friend of the late Steven Helsel from Altoona who was very active in the Pennsylvania Association of Community Theatres. He introduced us to this play and to Hartland,” said Putnam, according to the news release. “I remember the play being a wonderful blend of humor and sadness. It offered an opportunity for two actors to do so much while never moving from their one position. It lends itself to our staged reading on Zoom and I’m delighted with what Jen and Josh have been able to do with the script.”

Called “Pittsburgh’s most eminent playwright,” Hartland has made a record-setting sixteen appearances in the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, winning for “Best Play” four times, including for “Postcards from a Dead Dog.”

At the end of the 30-minute performance, the audience will be invited to stay on Zoom to talk with the “Postcards” cast and Putnam about what they saw and heard.

Audience members will find the Zoom information on the HG website at https://www.hamiltongibson.org and Facebook page or can call the HG office at 570-724-2079.

Those familiar with Zoom can go to the website at https://zoom.us, click on “joint meeting” and enter 839 2536 6867 – the access code for the Saturday, Feb. 27 performance and then enter the passcode 902173. For the Sunday, Feb. 28 performance, enter the access code 873 9936 8164 and then the passcode 420146.

This is the second in a series of eight 30-minute staged readings of short plays via Zoom. FMI: call 570-724-2079 or email hamgib@gmail.com.

HG’s free staged reading series will continue with a different 30-minute short play or grouping of short plays each Saturday and Sunday through April 10 and 11.

Donations are appreciated. To donate, go to the HG website at www.hamiltongibson.org or send a contribution to Hamilton-Gibson, 29 Water St., Wellsboro, PA 16901. Please include “Staged Readings” in the check memo line.

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