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Sledgehammer Returns With Beckett’s ‘Happy Days’

Bad Boy’ Theater Company Back After Six-Year Hiatus

Dana Hooley stars as Winnie in the Sledgehammer_ production of Samuel Beckett...

Credit: Griffin Osborne

Above: Dana Hooley stars as Winnie in the Sledgehammer_ production of Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days."


Scott Feldsher, Artistic Director at Sledgehammer_ and director of "Happy Days"

Beth Accomando, KPBS Arts and Culture Reporter

After a six-year hiatus, Sledgehammer Theatre is back but has dropped “theater” from its name to announce a new brand and mission. Sledgehammer's take on Samuel Beckett’s 'Happy Days' runs through June 8 at Tenth Avenue Theater.

Called the “bad boys of San Diego theatre” by American Theatre magazine, Sledgehammer is back with a new production of Beckett's play starring Sledgehammer veterans Dana Hooley and her husband Francis Thumm.

Sledgehammer Theater co-founder Scott Feldsher is back as artistic director of Sledgehammer and director of "Happy Days." He calls it “a vaudeville for the end of time. A true Sledgehammer ‘romantic-comedy’ for the dead and dying. It has captivating imagery that resonates with Beckett’s gorgeous text.”

Hooley and Thumm star as Winnie and Willie, a post-apocalyptic married couple. Winnie, half-buried in a mound of earth, passes the time speaking to Willie, who lives behind her out of sight in a hole and occasionally emerges to crawl around. In the press release, Feldsher describe it as “imagine Fred and Ethel from ‘I Love Lucy’ at the end of time, and you have some idea of what to expect from these two stellar actors.”

Sledgehammer has a long history with Beckett and with San Diego. The experimental theater company was started in 1985 by Feldsher, Ethan Feerst, and Robert Brill (who is currently the artist in residence at La Jolla Playhouse), all UCSD graduates.

Feldshur says in the play's program notes "when we started Sledgehammer, we were young Turks striving to tear down what we perceived as the corrupted walls of the establishment and, in so doing, become legends. Now, we can dispense with heroic pretenses and get down to the business of pondering the infinitely more interesting issue of how to live, when dying is at hand. As the latest New Rome burns, as always a result of bloat, arrogance and myopia, we will leave tearing down its citadels to the young, we had our go. Our work now is to ponder all that’s passing and what may remain."

In 2008, Sledgehammer Theatre took a break to regroup, restructure, and recharge. The newly branded Sledgehammer (sans "Theater") wants, as its website states, to stake a "claim as a cultural force, rather than an exclusively a theater-making organization. Our future work will take many forms including our new blog The.Post.Sledgehammer_ which will feature online commentary, reporting, short fiction, poetry, and more. We will also continue to bring you powerful carefully crafted productions. For those of you who have already been sledgehammered, you know you are going to get some of the most vibrant and surprising live theater in Southern California."

It's nice to have Sledgehammer back. Maybe the "bad boys of San Diego theater" have mellowed a little and aren't taking a sledgehammer to the establishment but they are sure to stir the pot in exciting and innovative ways.

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