La Jolla drama teacher is behind theater group's revival
May 26, 2014 | 1664 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Scott Feldsher, top, is flanked by Dana Hooley and Francis Thumm, featured in Sledgehammer_'s Happy Days.
Scott Feldsher, top, is flanked by Dana Hooley and Francis Thumm, featured in Sledgehammer_'s Happy Days.
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A La Jolla theater instructor and UCSD graduate is a central figure in the latest incarnation of one of San Diego's most talked-about troupes, which now sports ambitions beyond stage performance.

Scott Feldsher, who teaches drama at La Jolla Country Day School, is directing Samuel Beckett's Happy Days for the reconstituted Sledgehammer_, which mounts unconventional, often neglected plays as alternative entertainment and whose personnel American Theatre magazine once branded “the bad boys of San Diego theater.”

Happy Days, a two-character black parody of love, marriage and man's search for meaning, is said to be absurdist Beckett's funniest work. It features local veteran actors Dana Hooley and Francis Thumm.

Feldsher, Ethan Feerst and Robert Brill, all UCSD graduates, founded Sledgehammer Theatre in 1985, later mounting modernist works by such playwrights as Sam Shepard, Charles Mee, Melissa James Gibson and Beckett and seeking to provide an environment for alternative theatrical forms. In the 1990s, the company produced the uncut version of Shakespeare's Hamlet, whose running time is a little over five hours.

Brill has since gained national recognition in scene design and is a resident artist at La Jolla Playhouse. His Broadway work was nominated for Tony awards in 2004 and 2009.

Sledgehammer_ had been quiet since 2008, when earthquake zoning laws forced it to leave the Sixth Avenue venue it occupied since its founding. Its 2014 installment is designed to help reinvent the company’s support base for Happy Days and for future productions. Even the underscore at the end of the name serves a purpose – it's meant as an empty blank, to be filled in depending on the art form of choice.

“Sledgehammer_’s new branding,” Feldsher said, “is designed to allow us to embrace our ambitions beyond the theatrical productions we’re best known for, to include music, installations and other artistic collaborations we and partners can imagine and help us realize, [to include] theater, art, music or more. Returning to our site-specific roots or collaborating with larger partners, the new approach will be production-based rather than focused on seasons of plays.”

A musical and a site-specific production are in discussion for the future.

Happy Days runs through June 8 at The Tenth Avenue Theatre, the company's new operations base. The venue is located at 930 Tenth Ave. downtown. Tickets are $25 and $30. For more information, call (619) 354-5888 or see sledgehammer.org.

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