New Jersey Stage

Monday, August 29, 2011

East Lynne Theater Company presents "Helpful Hints" for two nights only

 (CAPE MAY, NJ) -- "What was good for the baby forty years ago is not good for the baby of today. Today, it is widely recognized that if the baby wants to cry, let it do so. The best therapy for the baby is to leave it alone, to put it outdoors, and to seemingly forget all about it," says Mae Savell Croy, giving a lecture on children and household duties in the stand-up comedy-style production of "Helpful Hints."

     The advice is real, however, taken from "Putnam's Household Handbook," written by Mrs. Croy and published in 1916. This witty adaptation, written and performed by Susan Tischler, was directed by Karen Case Cook, who, for the first time, will be playing the stage manager, Mrs. Wilcox.

     Susan Tischler is the co-owner of Kaleidoscope and Just for Laughs on the Washington Street Mall in Cape May, and editor of "Cape May Magazine" and  Her reminiscence of her father, Fred Brown, a coal miner from Pittsburgh, was included in the late Tim Russert's book "Wisdom of Our Fathers," published in 2006. Karen Case Cook has directed shows in NYC, Philadelphia, and Beijing.  The four shows she's directed for ELTC, include last season's world premiere of "Emma Goldman: My Life." As an actor, she's been in three ELTC productions, and has performed in a variety of other regional as well as NYC productions.

     "Helpful Hints," one of ELTC’s sixteen touring productions, will be at The First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes St., where ELTC is in residence, on Friday and Saturday, September 16 and 17 at 8:00p.m.  Tickets are $25 for general admission; $15 for students, and anyone age 12 and under is free. Reservations may be made by calling the company at 884-5898, or by going online to

     The mission of East Lynne Theater Company is to produce provocative classics and history-based contemporary entertainment that deal with the uniquely American experience, which means that ELTC's artistic director, Gayle Stahlhuth spends time not only reading plays that haven't been produced for seventy-five years, but also pursuing American literature and topics that might work for adaptations. Since 1999, when Gayle took over ELTC's reins, she has produced over fifty productions, including fifteen world premieres, three of which she commissioned, including "Helpful Hints."

     The rewards for researching American plays and literature are various and often surprising. In 2007, when Gayle asked Susan to adapt "Putnam's Household Handbook," neither producer nor playwright/performer had any idea that the Croy family would learn about the show - and want to see it.

     When Susan performed "Hints" at The Chalfonte Hotel in 2009, Jake Schaad wrote an article for "The Cape May Gazette."  A few months later, Jake received a phone call from Hank Ebert, Mae Savell Croy's grandson, who, after seeing the article on the Internet, wanted to know more about the show.  Jake contacted Gayle, who immediately followed up with her own call to the Croys, and contacted Susan, who began corresponding with the family.  On opening night of "Helpful Hints" at The Mad Batter, the Croys, all the way from Virginia, were there!  The group included two of Mae Savell Croy's grandchildren, Hank and Dee, and their spouses, and children, and Mae’s own daughter, Carol Croy Ebert. A very good time was had by all!