by Diane Richardson
Josh Hitchens, a graduate of Arcadia University, has been the Creative Director at the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, 220 W. Tulpehocken St. in Germantown, the area’s only fully restored, authentic Victorian era mansion, since 2010 (a non-paid position). Josh has written and directed five of the Mansion’s October Murder Mysteries and has starred in several one-man shows that premiered at the Mansion, including Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Josh is currently starring as Sherlock Holmes in “A Scandal in Bohemia,” which premieres at the Mansion on Friday, April 4.
How did you get into acting?
When I was in eighth grade, we took a field trip to the high school to see the drama club’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was the first time I had ever seen Shakespeare, and it changed my life. I still remember that production to this day. Before the play was over I knew I wanted to be a part of that. The next year I was a freshman at that high school, became a theater major and never looked back.
How long does it take to learn all the lines?
It depends on the script. One-man shows and classical plays are the easiest for me because you’re usually learning big chunks of text. It’s harder when it’s a regular script. I have a good memory (while it lasts), so it usually doesn’t take too long to get the lines to stick.
Did you ever forget your lines on stage?
It happens to everybody from time to time. The worst for me was when I was in “Three Sisters” at Arcadia University. I had a big speech setting up a character who was about to enter for the first time. One day it all just went blank. I said a few words, but remembered nothing else. Fortunately, the actor I was talking to was brilliant and just went on with the play.
What is your career goal?
I love acting, especially solo performance, but directing is my great passion. I’ve always done both things, and I think directing is the most enjoyable. The part of theater that excites me is the process of making a play with a group of artists. I also have a strong desire to teach. I eventually plan to get a Master’s degree in directing, and I would love to run a university theater program down the line. But there’s a lot of work I want to do first.
What actors do you admire the most?
In movies, I love Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep in pretty much anything. I love the way they transform. There are also so many actors in the Philadelphia theater community who inspire me every time I see them perform.
Did you want to be an actor since childhood?
It never really entered my head until eighth grade, but looking back, it was obvious from the beginning. I was always writing stories and plays and directing my family members in little shows. When I was very young, I learned a whole story from “Thomas the Tank Engine” and recited it to people in its entirety. But it didn’t click until I saw that show in eighth grade that it was what I was meant to do with my life.
What kind of work did your parents do?
My dad worked at a pharmaceutical plant for many years, and my mother works in a bank.
Did they encourage you regarding an acting career?
They encouraged me from the very beginning and have never stopped. I think they were happy that I found something that I loved and wanted to do so badly. There was no question that I should try something else. My entire family supported me from the start.
Where are you from?
I’m from Georgetown, Delaware, which is in the heart of Sussex County. It’s a very peaceful and beautiful place with lots of farmland. I love living in a city, but it’s nice to go back to Delaware once in a while and relax.
Where did you go to high school?
I went to Sussex Central High School. At the time I was there, Take II Drama Club was run by a great teacher and director named Helen Barlow, who was probably the biggest inspiration in my life in theater. It was a very tempestuous time because she was incredibly demanding, but she was hard on us because she knew what we were capable of. It was very ambitious for a high school theater program. We did a Shakespeare play every year as well as musicals, dramas, comedies and Greek plays. Every season we did at least four very different productions. I got to play a wide variety of characters and got great early training. It’s where I fell in love with theater and really dedicated myself to it. The theater program at Sussex Central is still going strong today.
How do you feel about spending your nights and weekends on stage when your peers are probably out at bars and restaurants and movies, etc.?
Most of my friends are also theater artists, so we have a very similar lifestyle. We have our fun, though!
For more information about “A Scandal in Bohemia,” call 215-438-1861 or visit www.ebenezermaxwellmansion.org