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Theater group to read poetry this weekend

Hamilton-Gibson’s performances of “Blessings from the Pandemic” are at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, with the entire cast reading the first and last poems, “A Prayer for Now” and “A Prayer in Honor of the Angels,” Each actor will also read three poems apiece.

“When we first discovered author Rich Orloff’s ‘Blessings From the Pandemic’, I was hesitant to present it,” said Hamilton-Gibson Director Thomas Putnam, according to a news release. “I knew it was a poetry cycle of 60 poems but wasn’t sure they would fit in with our zoomed staged reading series. I also wasn’t sure if audiences would want to spend any time with the word ‘pandemic’ let alone embrace the idea there was anything ‘blessed’ about it,” he said.

“And then I read the poems,” said Putnam. “I knew right away this was exactly what we all needed. First, the poems are so accessible. They are more like meditations. Some of them are titled prayers or blessings or reflections. All of them explore a discovery, say what’s so and offer hope. They ask questions and step back and muse, which encourages us to do the same,” he said.

“For the very first of our zoomed staged readings on Feb. 20 and 21, eight HG actors presented 24 of Orloff’s poems plus the first and last ones. “The audiences’ response led us to decide to do 21 others with seven new cast members for our Easter weekend performances on April 3 and 4,” Putnam said. “The content is just as powerful, if not more so.”

Orloff began writing the poems on March 18, 2020, shortly after America’s response to the pandemic began. Each one averages one minute to 90 seconds.

“They are all powerful pieces and the 15 actors who have performed them have been enriched by the experience,” said Putnam, according to the news release.

“In framing poems as questions, Orloff makes you think and feel,” Putnam said. In one, he asks: “Would I like you so much if you weren’t six feet away from me?”

Another expresses a universal ache: “Today, over a month since I’ve felt the touch of another human, I meditate” followed by a litany of ways to connect…without physical touch.

“Why are you in such a hurry to feel okay?” Orloff asks and then writes: “The road to happiness is not an Interstate. It is a bumpy road filled with potholes and each pothole offers blessings.” “It is Orloff’s reframing of situations we’ve all faced in the past 12 months that makes these poems so timely and needed,” Putnam said.

” ‘A Prayer about Sorrow’ begins with the words ‘Oh beautiful sorrow that startles me out of complacency’ and reminds me I have needs whether I want them or not. The poem then explores a growing relationship with sorrow and offers it as a positive,” said Putnam.

“The other day a friend asked If we’d ever return to normal and I wondered what exactly is this thing called normal?” writes Orloff. “In another, he extols the wonders of embracing the ‘muck’ in our lives so we can discover our past and connections with others,” Putnam said.

At the end of the 30-minute performance, audience members will be invited to stay on Zoom to talk about what they saw and heard with Putnam and the cast. Readers are: veteran actors Kate Sholonski, Terry Babb, Sarah Vickery and Charla Kibler, all of Wellsboro; Anne Acker, formerly of Coudersport who now lives in Wellsboro; and newcomers Dan Paxson of Wellsboro and Cameron McLean of Nelson who have never been in an HG play until now.

Go to the Zoom website at https://zoom.us, click on “joint meeting” and for the Saturday performance enter the access code 839 2536 6867 and the passcode 902173. For the Sunday performance, enter the access code 873 9936 8164 and the passcode 420146.

Audience members will find the Zoom information on the HG website at https://www.hamiltongibson.org or Facebook page or can contact the HG office at 570-724-2079 or hamgib@gmail.com.

Donations are appreciated. Go to the HG website or send a contribution to Hamilton-Gibson, 29 Water Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901. Please include “Staged Readings” in the check memo line.

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