Local playwright and actor Ted Swartz has performed “Fish-Eyes” hundreds of times, but it’s still not played out yet.
Swartz and Lee Eshleman, the other half of longtime duo Ted & Lee, created the show — a comedic take on Biblical disciples as ordinary people — in the early 90s.
The play quickly became one of the comedy troupe’s most well-loved scripts, and the pair performed it more than 800 times around the world before Eshleman’s unexpected death in spring 2007.
The following fall, Canadian actor Jason Hildebrand joined Swartz in performing the show for about a month, but the duo decided to call it quits, as Eshleman’s death was still too recent.
“We both decided it was too difficult to keep going ... we thought we needed some time and space from the show,” Hildebrand said.
Now, the team is ready to give “Fish-Eyes” another go, with an eight-show run in honor of the 20th anniversary of a play that’s been seen around the world.
This Time Around
Swartz and Hildebrand will stage the show four times in Harrisonburg April 10-13 before giving four performances in Ohio.
The two-act play, broken up into 14 scenes, tells the narrative of Jesus’ life through the lens of two of his disciples, Peter, played by Swartz, and Andrew, played by Hildebrand.
Originally, Swartz and Eshleman visualized the main characters as John and Andrew, but the actors quickly decided to portray Biblical brothers Peter and Andrew. Swartz has said he and his late business partner began to think of themselves as brothers partly because of this script.
Although the show is certainly different without Eshleman, Swartz says he confident the version he and Hildebrand are bringing audiences will not disappoint.
“I think we’ll find our way to that point where we’ll feel like brothers, in that sense,” he said, referring to Hildebrand. “You can’t replace someone that you have that much history with, like Lee, [but I’m] very happy and very confident that we’re going to have a great show.”
The show reminds audiences that they don’t need to have it all together to follow Christ, Hildebrand said.
“It’s about a couple of guys who jump into the deep end of this relationship with Jesus without having any idea of what’s going to happen,” he explained. “Even if I don’t have all the answers, you jump out of the boat and hopefully, if you have your eyes fixed on Jesus, you’ll start walking on the water.”
Along with several other acting companies, Hildebrand has the rights to perform the show in Canada, which he’s been doing off and on for the past several years. Swartz, however, has not performed the show in years. He and Hildebrand, as well as the script itself, have evolved.
“There’s been experiences that we’ve both had that make it a different play,” Swartz said, adding that he wanted to return to the script to honor the work and he and Lee had done, and simply because he missed it.
“It’s been an important part of my history and an important part of the company’s history,” he said. “I’m really happy that we can bring it back to Harrisonburg.”
The play will stage at 7:30 p.m. April 10-12, with an additional performance at 3 p.m. April 13. All shows will be held at Court Square Theater in downtown Harrisonburg; the script is appropriate for all ages.
Tickets are $15 in advance; $12 for students, seniors and groups of 10 or more. At the door, tickets will cost $18; $15 for students, seniors and groups of 10 or more.
To purchase tickets in advance, visit valleyarts.org/court-square-theater.
For more information on Swartz’ work, visit tedandcompany.com or call 560-3973.
Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or email@example.com.