Bristol Riverside Theatre opens the season with a quarantined cast

Jennifer Byrne and Timothy C. Goodwin.
Timothy C. Goodwin

The curtain can’t exactly rise right now at Bristol Riverside Theatre, but the Bucks County company is launching the opener for their 2021 season. The Philadelphia regional premiere of “Singles in Agriculture” will run for four performances between Jan. 26-30, and tickets are currently on sale for the live-streamed production. 

The new production comes from playwright Abby Rosebrock, a “rising star” in the theatre community.  

Abby Rosebrock. Courtesy of Artist

“Singles in Agriculture struck a chord for us at this moment in history,” said BRT’s Co-Producing Director Amy Kaissar in a statement. “In some form or another, we all enter 2021 with a new and deeper understanding of what it means to be removed from interpersonal connection for long periods of time. The show talks about that isolation but without addressing COVID directly. While the subject matter is important and topical, Rosebrock’s script had us laughing the entire time. We truly appreciate and want to share the honest awkwardness of her writing.” 

In what’s described as a hilarious and awkward comedy, audiences will get a glimpse into the lives of two lonely people who meet up at a farming dating convention. According to the release, Priscilla is a resilient young army widow, and Joel is a jaded Oklahoma dairy farmer who still hasn’t shaken the tent-revival dogmas of his youth. On their last night together at the convention, Priscilla angles for romance, while Joel has his own, mysterious intent. Inspired by research on the real-life organization, “Singles in Agriculture” offers a glimpse into a rural landscape where social isolation and economic exploitation intensify the hopes, anxieties, and losses that we all sign up for when we search for love. 

This new show stars Jennifer Byrne and Timothy C. Goodwin, a real-life couple who have been quarantined together and will be performing all four performances from their home in New York City. When looking to cast for the show, Bristol specifically sought out actors who were quarantined together to ensure the safety of the cast. 

Timothy C. Goodwin

“When we experimented with staging plays online earlier last year, we learned that a new strategy for dealing with the pandemic and safety concerns was to start with actors who quarantine together, and then pick the materials that best fit those actors,” said BRT co-Producing Director Ken Kaissar in the release. “We started to think about actors that we love working with and whether or not they live with other actors. We met Jennifer about 15 years ago when Amy was running The Epiphany Theatre Company in New York. We loved her comedic demeanor and fearless attitude. Since then, she’s been in several readings of my work. She was even in one of the early readings of ‘A Leg Up’ which was supposed to premiere at BRT last May if not for COVID. In talking to Jen and Tim, it became clear that they enjoyed the adventurous attitude that turning your home into a set requires. In Abby’s play, we found equal parts comedy and tenderness, and we knew Jen and Tim would hit this material out of the park.”

Even though the show isn’t going to unfold onstage, there is still the element of surprise. The show will be live-streamed, so the pros and cons of a real-time production will still hold water.

 “We’re performing live, so anything can happen the night of the show,” added Amy Kaissar in the release. “It’s the same dangerous thrill that live theatre provides on stage. We’re not immune to errors or technical problems. But most of all, they can expect a witty and intelligent script from Abby Rosebrock that reminds us how important it is to connect with other human beings, and what happens to our spirit when we feel isolated. Just like the comical awkwardness that comes with any first date, audiences can expect to laugh and cringe with two characters trying to find that romantic spark.” 

Timothy C. Goodwin

For “Singles in Agriculture,” Hope Villanueva will be the stage manager from a distance, Linda Bee Stockton designed the costumes and Shannon O’Brien acted as props designer. 

“Singles in Agriculture” runs Jan. 26-30 online. Tickets start at $30 and are available online at brtstage.org or by calling the box office at 215-785-0100. The theatre is also currently offering online classes in partnership with Theatre J from Washington D.C. and is working on a spring and summer line-up. 

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