Director: 'A great story' told virtually in Mt. Airy

By Rita Charleston
Posted 12/23/20

Adapted to the Quintessence Theatre Group's stage by Suli Holum from the Frances Hodgson Burnett 1902 play, “The Little Princess,” this complete virtual production runs through Dec. 27.

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Director: 'A great story' told virtually in Mt. Airy

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Beloved for her generosity, kindness and intelligence, Sara Crewe leads a life straight out of a fairy tale. Amidst the swirl of a lavish 13th birthday party, news reaches Miss Minchin's Boarding School that Sara's father has died overseas. The family is ruined, and Sara's fortune vanishes overnight. With no tuition to pay school fees, Sara is stripped of her possessions, banished to the attic and forced to toil as Miss Minchin's servant. Equipped with only her books, vivid imagination and the devotion of her well-earned friends, Sara discovers her innate power and the fact that there is more to a meaningful life than party dresses and glittering jewels.

Adapted to the Quintessence Theatre Group's stage by Suli Holum (Suli is short for Sulveig in Norwegian) from the Frances Hodgson Burnett 1902 play, “The Little Princess,” this complete virtual production runs through Dec. 27. Holum, a playwright, choreographer, actor and director, takes on the directorial duties with this classic.

“It's been several years now that I have worked with Quintessence, and Alex Burns, Quintessence's artistic director, and I have been trying to find a project for me to work on. And it's so nice that it's finally happening,” Holum said. “And since my roots are here in Mt. Airy, it's also very nice to be working in your own neighborhood.”

“The Little Princess” is such a great story, Holum insisted. “First, it was a serial in a children's magazine, then a novella and then a play. Quintessence loves to work on classics, so this is just perfect for them. Initially, we were planning to do a fully-staged play, and then Covid hit. It might have had a cast of about 20 people, but when we realized that wouldn't happen and we'd have to do it on a digital platform, I got really excited. I knew it would be a super fun challenge for a small cast, and so it has been.”

Consisting of a cast of four who play multiple roles, Holum said, “Between Alex and me, we attacked it from the point of four young women who would play all the parts. I was also able to address some of the weakness in the script. For example, there are references and characters from India, and there are a lot of things that are culturally inaccurate in the original script, so I was able to fix those. I went to Priyanka Shetty (a director and playwright of Indian descent), who was able to co-adapt the script with me and address the cultural inaccuracies.”

Additionally, this production allows for children to make cameo appearances. “There are times the actors and the audience will be in the same 'room' together and can see each other,” Holum, 44, explained. “And because the show is done live, that's enough, we feel, for youngsters to be reminded that they are both watching and participating in the action. When you log on to the production on your computer, that brings you into the action as each actor is also performing from their home.”

A product of Mt. Airy (Her father studied at the United Lutheran Seminary in Mt. Airy, and her mother grew up in Chestnut Hill), Holum's talents took her away from the area for some time. She has appeared on stages both nationally and internationally. She is a Wilma HotHouse Company member, was a founding member of Pig Iron Theatre Company, Co-Artistic Director of Stein/Holum Projects and more.

“I've tried to keep busy, but this is the first project I've done since the pandemic hit,” Holum said, “and it's been interesting. It's taken a lot of effort, but it's been a lot of fun.”

Quintessence is located at 7137 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy. For more information, visit qtgrep.org or quintessencetheatre.org or call 215-987-4450.

theatre, family

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