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New Theatre Company Playground 630 Debuts First Production

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

When Thom Hofrichter parted ways with First Presbyterian Theater at the end of 2020, he didn’t have a firm plan for the future. He and his wife Nancy Kartholl were building a new home, and retirement had its appeal. But a theatre man to the core, he found the offer to direct a new play, Women Unbound, written by Ruth Tynall Baker irresistible.

“Ruth had a grant from the American Association of University Women because the story is about the Hamilton sisters from Fort Wayne, and it just came together,” Hofrichter said. “It made sense, and my wife read the script and liked it. Kate Black came on board.”

Nancy Kartholl and Kate Black

Even then, the play could have been a one-time effort, but another opportunity set the wheels in motion for what Hofrichter has named Playground 630.

“John O’Connell at Purdue Fort Wayne said that they didn’t have a theatre company in residence at the university so we just moved forward. We had talked about where we were going to do the show, and now we could do it at the Studio Theatre on campus. So that just came together too.”

Anyone who followed his 24 years of programming at First Presbyterian knows that Hofrichter likes to think outside the box. That thinking comes from his love of theatre that goes outside what is most often available.

“In Fort Wayne, other than musicals or light comedy, there’s not a lot going on,” he said. “Of the shows the university does, two of the four shows are usually theatre as art. I like theatre to be thought provoking, not just there to enjoy but there to shape your thinking. It’s not just there as entertainment. It’s funny because Cabaret is a popular musical, but people miss the point. The show is making fun of musicals because the world is falling apart around them but they still go to the cabaret. It’s making fun of the people who aren’t thinking about what’s going on around them.”

With Women Unbound, Playground 630 presents the little told story of the Hamilton sisters, who each had a remarkable life of achievement but have received too little attention. The play’s description provides insight into their stories as told in the show.

“Born between 1867 and 1871, Edith Alice and Margaret were remarkable women

whose contributions to society have been largely overlooked because of their gender,” it reads. “Edith’s books on Greek, Roman and early Christian writings are still influencing scholarship today. And her book, Mythology, is still the gold standard for English and Theatre Departments across the country when studying the classics. Her sister Alice was one of the earliest women to earn a medical degree. She was the first woman to join the faculty at Harvard University due to her unique expertise in industrial disease. Her 1935 book Industrial Toxicology is still found on the shelves of medical students, and her work from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are

credited with the creation of OSHA, which protects workers’ health. These sisters are as accomplished and consequential as anyone to ever come out of Fort Wayne and yet many is this city have never heard of them.”

What is yet to come from Playground 630 is not yet determined, but you can bet that Hofrichter will find interesting projects as he moves forward.

“I’m interested in more guerilla kind of theatre. One of the reasons I named it Playground 630 is because a playground is a place for people to go play. And I want to find ways for them to play in a serious way.”

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