Patrick Hughes: Spotlight Interview
By Stephanie Trdenic
Coming in July to Oyster Mill Playhouse, audiences will have the opportunity to see two thought-provoking plays in one evening: Flowers for Algernon and The Insanity of Mary Girard. The two one-acts are directed by Patrick Hughes, last seen onstage as Charlie the mailman in our March production of On Golden Pond.
Flowers for Algernon, set in the 1950’s, tells the story of Charlie, a mentally-challenged young man who takes part in an experimental procedure that gives him genius-level intelligence.
The Insanity of Mary Girard has its basis in true events which took place in the late 1700s in Philadelphia. Mary, a woman of wealth, is placed in a mental hospital by her controlling husband.
Both plays are cast with the same actors.
ENCORE: What drew you to these particular plays?
HUGHES: I was introduced to The Insanity of Mary Girard in high school, so it’s neat to be able to revisit it. It has a lot of relevance to the challenges we have in accepting powerlessness. Flowers for Algernon is a timeless story. Countless science fiction stories have been inspired by it.
ENCORE: Why pair them? They seem very different.
HUGHES: They are different. Flowers for Algernon takes place in laboratory conditions. Mary Girard’s story, although set in a mental hospital, actually takes place in the limitless world of the imagination. And while Charlie is let down by the very people who are supposed to be helping, Mary Girard’s tormentors are actually teaching her how to survive.
ENCORE: And the similarities?
HUGHES: Charlie and Mary are both well-meaning outsiders. Neither of them are treated well by the system and both are trapped in these systems. And each play complements and bolsters the themes of the other.
ENCORE: What do you see as the unifying themes?
HUGHES: Both plays are concerned with witnessing. We witness both Charlie and Mary’s inability to escape the confines of societal expectations. We watch them struggle against powers they have no control over, and isolation. Yet we also see their perseverance in impossible situations. These stories are haunting. And their themes are still relevant today.
ENCORE: In what ways?
HUGHES: There are still stigmas and misunderstandings over how we treat people with mental illness or those who are mentally-challenged. Immigration issues of children being separated from their families — both Charlie and Mary face that problem. The #MeToo movement, asking “Who has the power? Who do we believe”? In today’s world, how many people around us suffer from what we do? And how much do we do to help?
ENCORE: This is your first time directing at Oyster Mill Playhouse. Are you enjoying it?
HUGHES: I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with people who are passionate about theatre. As an all-volunteer playhouse, you find people like that here.
ENCORE: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
HUGHES: I’m so proud of my actors. They are willing to really explore these challenging themes. Both the actors and the production team have really stepped up to bring these themes to life. We will be giving the audience an evening of powerful and provocative theatre.
Performances will be held July 6-22, 2018. Curtain is at 8PM for all Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shows, and 2PM for Sunday matinees. Tickets are $18. CLICK HERE or call the box office at 717.737.6768 for tickets.