Hobart and William Smith Colleges - HWS Theatre Creates Video Production Tone a Blind Eye
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Tone a Blind Eye

HWS Theatre Creates Video Production Tone a Blind Eye

This April, HWS Theatre reimagines the fairytale Hansel and Gretel in the video streaming production Tone a Blind Eye.

Tone a Blind Eye is HWS Theatre’s first video streaming production. Written and performed by HWS students, the show reimagines the classic fairytale Hansel and Gretel. Told through five powerful monologues, the show journeys through time and perspective to explore what it means to be responsible for the safety of others, hungry, lost, alone, othered, resilient and resourceful.

The performance stars Michael Andrews ‘24, Alaina Tremblay ‘24, Eliyah Roberts ‘24, Lillian Davis ’24 and Kels Veeder ’21. They play Hansel, Gretel, Mother/Father (or Mather), Stepmother and the Witch.

The cast have also worked closely with an accessibility design team, including several students in the Colleges’ Teacher Education Program and Master of Arts in Teaching, to bring the production to life for all audiences. The accessibility team has created audio description and captioning to accompany each monologue.

Audio description is an audio narration of visual elements for audiences with a visual impairment. Captioning transcribes and interprets audio information for hearing impaired audiences. The accessibility team includes Claire Abelson ’20, MAT ‘21, Karina Connolly ’23, Sophie Ritter ’20, MAT ’21 and July Winters ’24.

Director and Associate Professor of Theatre Heather “H” May says the accessibility component of the show has been an integral part of their team’s creative process, as opposed to an add-on during post-production.

“It was important to us that the audio description fit very well and not be compromised. We have researched best practices and tried to incorporate that information into the blocking and production,” May says.

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Tone A Blind Eye presents… Once upon a time — or really, many times — great famine comes to the land and the people turn against each other for survival. Abandoned and alone, they ponder what it means to be a monster and what happens when societies leave people behind. HWS Theatre reimagines the classic tale as told from the perspectives of five different characters all trying to figure out how to break a cycle of unnecessary suffering.

All five monologues are set in different periods, ranging from the European Famine in the 14th Century to a near future in which climate change rages. Resident Designer and Technical Director Ed Hallborg, Sound Designer and Cinematographer Kelly Walker and Costume Designer Katharine Tarkulich helped the cast build five different sets to make each period come to life. They drew inspiration from the writers/performers’ “jam boards,” an ideation project May assigned during the writing process in which each cast member created collages that inspired their monologue.

While there are many adaptations of Hansel and Gretel, Tone a Blind Eye draws from the Brothers’ Grimm version and incorporates themes from the original source material.

“What struck me about Hansel and Gretel is the narrative about the parents leaving the children because they can’t afford to feed them, which Ed Hallborg brought to my attention was something that happened with regularity during the European Famine,” May says. To write Tone a Blind Eye, students grappled with topics surrounding poverty and trauma, including how hunger is weaponized against people, and the true meaning of happily ever after in a story about abandonment and famine.

Though the monologues share thematic elements, they are not sequential. Audiences, therefore, can watch the performances in any order. May says it was important to the cast not to impose one-way to watch the show. This structure, they explain, allows each characters’ monologue to carry equal importance, and establishes parallels between people’s struggles throughout history.

“The current moment is the past, and it’s also the future unless we do something about it,” May says.

Tone a Blind Eye will be released to the public via www.toneablindeye on April 26.

In the photograph above, Kels Veeder ’21 performs the Witch monologue.