BLT To Bring 'Harvey' To Life

Apr 6, 2017 by

Ruth Bogdan, Reporter for The Bradford Era

“Miss Makeup” owner Amy Thomas dolls up Tiffany Mager (“Myrtle Mae Simmons”) before rehearsal for Bradford Little Theatre’s production of “Harvey.” Thomas, a makeup artist, has been doing makeup for BLT for about two years. Performances will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Togi’s Playhouse on Welch Avenue.

“Everybody thinks he’s crazy, and he is a little bit,” said Charles Church of the fictional character Elwood P. Dowd. But there is moral to be found in Elwood’s character, he said. “He’s enjoying himself. He’s enjoying life, and he’s enjoying it well.”

Church will take on the role this weekend in Bradford Little Theatre’s production of “Harvey,” directed by Jessica Ann Coder.

According to Church, Elwood’s character illustrates what happens when you are kind to people, rather than being “angry, upset and belligerent.”

But Elwood’s view of the world is not quite normal, and shenanigans ensue when his family tries to restrain his madness.

“Harvey,” Coder explained, is a comedy of errors “about a man, Elwood, and his best friend, who happens to be an invisible 6-foot, 1 ½-inch tall rabbit called Harvey.”

Elwood’s sister, Veta, tired of feeling ashamed, tries to have Elwood committed as a mental patient, she said. However, the people at the sanitarium decide it is Veta who is insane.

People of all ages are invited to see “Harvey” onstage at Togi’s Playhouse on Welch Avenue, where performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

“This is a show BLT has been trying for a few years,” Coder said, but she explained they weren’t able to do it before.

When the theater group was planning the current 20th anniversary season, she thought, “Why not bring back the show that never was?”

Coder, a four-year member of Bradford Little Theatre, has directed murder mysteries at VFW Post 212, but this is the first play she has directed.

The cast includes 11 characters — 12 if you include Harvey, which the cast does — with performers, from the Bradford area and one from Marshburg, between the ages of 29 and 70. “It’s a very eclectic cast,” said Coder, who noted there are both new faces and familiar faces to the theater group, too.

The cast has put in weeks of work preparing to perform the classic play by Mary Chase.

“We have done seven weeks of rehearsal, which is longer than typical,” said Coder, who explained they put in “far, far more work than I’ve ever expected out of them.”

For his part, Church is glad to be putting in the work to bring “Harvey” to the Bradford community.

“I’m loving it,” said Church of his current role, a character he seems quite fond of. Elwood’s “an eccentric, bit of a drinker,” and he’s flirtatious, he said. “He likes people.”

Church noted that his role is the same role Jimmy Stewart had in the film “Harvey.”

Meanwhile, the character of Harvey is a pooka, which Church explained is a Celtic myth. A pooka is “usually a large animal that is rather mischievous.”

Taking on the role of Elwood gives Church a chance to make people laugh.

“I’m a frustrated comedian, anyway. I like to joke,” he said. He’s glad, too, to provide something for the audience: “I like to help them feel better after a bad day. That makes me feel good.”

But Church doesn’t consider himself the funniest part of the play. He said some of the best lines from his cohorts, such as Regina Knapp (“Veta Louise Simmons”) and Tiffany Mager (“Myrtle Mae Simmons”).

“I appreciate the way they have come across,” he explained. He added that Laura Piccioli (“Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet”) is “fantastic.”

The performance lasts about 2 ½ hours, which includes two intermissions, when snacks will be available for purchase.

The theater has seats for 150 people a night, according to Coder.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors.

Tickets are available at Graham Florist on Kennedy Street and Togi’s Family Restaurant on East Main Street, and they will be sold at the door. They can be reserved by calling Chelsea at 814-598-9956.

Originally posted in The Bradford Era: