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Beginning September 20, Bristol Riverside Theatre (BRT) will present the world premiere of A Leg Up by BRT’s Co-Producing Director Ken Kaissar. The show will be performed at BRT’s theater (120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA 19007), which combines the excitement of a large stage production with the intimacy of a 300-seat theater. A Leg Up launches its 21-performance run on September 20 and continues through October 9. The cast features stage and screen actors Marla Alpert, Jennifer Byrne, David S. Robbins, Brittany Lee Hamilton, Joe Hogan, Liz Maurer, James Joseph O’Neil, and John Siciliano, with BRT’s Co-Producing Director Amy Kaissar directing.
“The inspiration for A Leg Up came to me in 2013 when I was preparing to teach a class on Gender and Sexuality at Rider University,” said Ken Kaissar. “I was also directing the famous farce Boeing Boeing during that time, and it occurred to me that I had never seen a farce that featured LGBTQ+ characters. I wanted to try the form with characters of all genders and sexualities, and, in making it more inclusive, the show actually became funnier.”
Initially slated for its world premiere in the 2019/20 season, this witty and outlandish story is a new comedy for the 21st century written as a traditional farce. In A Leg Up, Charles Griffin III (O’Neil) has staked what’s left of his fortune on the new Miraculous Knee-to-Toe XR-3000 with 3D Helix, an intelligent prosthetic leg, designed for a presidential candidate, Senator Sam Wannamead (Hogan). Unfortunately, his mistress Laurie (Hamilton) announces she’s pregnant, his business partner Stephanie (Alpert) has her eye on his wife Barbara (Maurer), and the Senator is having an affair with the leg designer Rufus (Robbins), and it’s not even lunchtime yet!
The production team behind A Leg Up took ambitious steps to help bring the story to life. The set features a full two-floor mansion that combines the overwrought grandeur of the family home in Schitt’s Creek with the engaging panoramic design of the house in the 1982 Broadway play Noises Off. Audiences will watch characters dash in and out of rooms or up and down stairs throughout the house as the hijinks unfolds. The show’s intelligent prosthetic leg becomes a revolving gag in its madcap plot after a malfunction causes it to interact with the wearer’s subconscious. The cast worked with a clowning expert and fight choreographer to develop various stunts, including the leg kicking at people the user doesn’t like, playing a flirtatious game of footsy, and performing elaborate dance routines.
Kaissar began writing A Leg Up in 2014 while working as an independent playwright. He developed it through BRT’s new play development program America Rising in 2015, which engages emerging and mid-career playwrights by offering residencies, workshops, readings, and premieres. The show was then selected for BRT’s 2019/20 Mainstage season by Founding Director Susan D. Atkinson and then-Artistic Director Keith Baker. America Rising is intended to both introduce audiences to the development process while providing a tailored experience for the playwright to meet their individual needs. America Rising has supported several notable playwrights, including Bruce Graham, Pulitzer Prize-nominee Jon Marans, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Quiara Alegría Hudes.
Each of BRT’s productions will offer special pre- and post-show engagements, included with the price of the ticket, for guests to create a special night out. The September 22 performance is followed by a catered reception where folks can revel over the night’s show. At the Friday Festival (September 23), BRT patrons can enjoy complimentary beer and appetizers on the first Friday of each production. Looking for a midweek wind down? On the second Wednesday of A Leg Up (September 28), the evening begins at 6:30 p.m. with Wine Down Wednesday, where audiences are served crudité, desserts, and wine. The third Thursday (October 6), known as Thirsty Thursday, includes an hour of complimentary snacks and beer. Tickets for A Leg Up are available online or by calling 215-785-0100.