On Stage

Obscure Classics, Contemporary Issues

Head Trick Theatre explores escapism by putting a modern twist on classic shows


Founded in 2014 and now a resident company at AS220, Head Trick Theatre is known for performing classics with a modern twist. For its 2018-2019 season the company will put on productions such as Much Ado About Nothing and Watch on the Rhine, all under the theme of “Making a World.”

Rebecca Maxfield, artistic director and founder, explains that she particularly enjoys bringing more rare pieces to the stage. “That’s something that’s really fun for me – introducing people to plays that they might not have known but end up liking,” she says.

However, she also likes putting on a show with a robust performance history and seeing how her take will differ. In all productions, she places emphasis on the liveness of theater and the idea that the audience and actors are creating something together. “I just love that when they’re sharing a space, they’re in a sort of agreement.”

These aspects culminate to match the season’s theme of escapism, which will encourage the audience to immerse themselves in new stories and time periods while also questioning what worlds they “escape” into. A major through-line for the shows, according to Maxfield, is asking audiences to consider whether those worlds are the same for people with different identities.

For this, she points to their July production of Much Ado, happening outdoors at the Roger Williams National Memorial. “If you look at the text of the show, you can look at it in this really ugly sense where it’s about a woman and a man who each clearly state that they’re not interested in the opposite sex, but end up getting together and it’s supposed to be happy,” she says. To alter this reading, the company will be taking a feminist approach to the show and casting Benedict – the male lead – as female. One of her guiding questions for all the changes in the play is: “How do we make sure that it’s a happy ending for everyone?”

For the October show, Watch on the Rhine, the company will continue encouraging its audience to think about political issues. The play is set in the 1940s and focuses on an American family living in Washington, watching the events of Nazi Germany unfold. The family believes that since they are living away from the conflict, it doesn’t affect them. “The plot of the show is essentially how they come to realize that this world where they don’t have to care about anything isn’t real,” Maxfield says. “And for the audience, you’re in the same physical space, having this discovery that we do have to be involved, and I’m interested in what the impact of that is.”

With these shows, Head Trick demonstrates its goals of bringing audiences into new stories, all while making them think about how they perceive the world around them – both the “real” world and the fantasy worlds they enter. With so many innovative choices being made, audiences can expect thought-provoking performances that challenge their way of thinking.

Head Trick Theatre
Much Ado About Nothing
July 27-August 12
Roger Williams Memorial
282 North Main Street