Troupe of Friends was founded in 2006, the result of constant threats of "we oughta do Shakespeare" between numerous,
well, a few, well, Joe Penczak, and other McKinley School parents who had participated in countless McKinley Kapers
throughout the years.
Ken Bigelow challenged Joe with the daring statement, "If you do it, I'm in." And so began a long and fruitful
relationship with Messers Bigelow and Penczak. Our first production in the Summer of 2006 was Shakespeare's "The Comedy
Of Errors". The show was performed on the baseball diamond at Memorial Pool field. Using the setting as a guide, Mr.
Penczak directed a cast of Westfield thespians who donned various baseball costumes representative of their characters. Ken
and Joe played the Antipholus twins, dressed in Mets uniforms; while the Dromio twins, played by Sara Hedgepeth and Julie
Fetter (dressed as Yankees), were equally adept at helping make our first "game" a home run.
The following year, Ken and Joe played the lovable tramps in Samuel Beckett's tragi-comic masterpiece, "Waiting For Godot."
Ken's son Daniel was roped into playing the boy, while Charlie Mulrooney as Lucky and Fred Cruz as Pozzo rounded out
the cast. Better than Broadway? Check out the Westfield Leader's review... http://www.goleader.com/07may31/23.pdf
That same year, our end-of Summer production was a Wild West version of "Twelfth Night". Lisa Black-Polak and Sara Hedgepeth
played the unwitting lovebirds Olivia and Viola, while Ken and his wife Susan portrayed the frisky couple Sir Toby Belch and
Maria. Dali Gao had the time of his life playing Sara's "twin" brother Sebastian, while Charlie Mulrooney enlisted his
children Chip and Megan into the act as sheriffs.
Michael Bieber proved quite adept at the demanding physical comedy of Sir Andrew Aguecheek, while Mr. Penczak directed
and kept everyone in line(or so he thought) as Malvolio. Julie Fetter sang wonderfully as the lovable Feste the Clown.
The following year, Troupe of Friends embarked on a "one hour compendium of Music, Comedy, and Drama" , as the presented
a pastiche of theater including snippets from Shakespeare used as segues between Ken and Joe's priceless adaptation of
the famous Abbot & Costello "Who's On First?" routine, a breathtaking reprisal of Julie's rendition of the Hank Williams
tune "Alone & Forsaken", and a modern version of Stanley Houghton's one-act comedy, "The Dear Departed." In addition to
performances in The Community Room, this production also traveled to several local Senior Citizens centers, and the lunchtime
series at The First United Methodist Church, bringing tears of laughter and joy to many who would otherwise not get a chance
to see live theater.
2008 saw the company return to its roots with a traditional production of Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part One." Set in
England in 1400, the production feature period costumes designed by Alisa Korunow, and numerous two-handed broadsword fights,
Welsh, Scots, and English accents, and beautiful interlude music provide by Sara Hedgepeth and her band of merry minstrels.
This show also saw the company expand beyond its Westfield core group of actors, with the addition of actors from throughout
NJ , including Fred Dennehy, Ryan Correll, Sumit Kumar, Peter Curley, Allan Gershenson, and Garry Tamburro. Additional
Westfielders making their Troupe of Friends debut included Jackie Weiner, Kelly Braun, M. Devon Moore, Julian Mone, and Julia
|Jackie Wiener as Mistress Quickly and Ken Bigelow as Falstaff share a pint at The Boar's Head
In 2009, we presented our first night time shows. Not dampened by the rain, we put on two performances of Julius Caesar,
set in Ancient Rome, and played indoors at the Community Room on West Broad Street. Quite a thrill was in store for those
lucky spectators who caught glimpses of long actors battling it out with short swords (and short togas!).
The sun broke through for our final performance - held appropriately at the Gazebo in Mindowaskin Park - the perfect
backdrop for our first jaunt through the tragic side of Shakespeare.
And so it goes - each year we
bring free productions of Shakespeare and other classic authors to our community - hope you enjoy!