When Matt and Edwin Cahill first met, they were working on a theatrical production on Fire Island. Several years later and after marrying in Maine, the couple purchased the historic Beckett Castle on Cape Elizabeth with one goal: creating a production company of their own.
Together, they created Hogfish, a regenerative arts and artist training company based out of the hallowed Cape Elizabeth property. By combining the arts with principles of regenerative agriculture, Hogfish seeks to not only heal the earth but also its students and performers.
The young company’s most recent production was “The Magic Tree,” a modern-day retelling of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera, “L’arbre enchanté,” which debuted in 1775 at Versailles. Hogfish collaborated with Charles Mary Kubricht, a New York City artist and environmentalist, as well as Loquat, a Portland-based, ethical and sustainable clothing company, to stage the production in a way that felt true to the company’s focus on regeneration. The production completed its inaugural run of three performances, which took place at Wolfe’s Neck Center in Freeport, on August 26 and 27 and Ram Island Farm in Cape Elizabeth on August 28.
Edwin Cahill first discovered and fell in love with the source material at the Paris Opera, and by using his knowledge of the French language and experience as a classically-trained performer and producer, he breathed new life into the piece.
“Our mission includes reviving old works that are beautiful and forgotten, as well as creating completely new contemporary works,” Edwin Cahill said. “In ‘The Magic Tree,’ we had a little bit of both.”
In addition to adapting the opera for an English-speaking audience, the Cahills were also very intentional about creating a production that mirrored people of all backgrounds; this goal stems from the couple’s shared experience as queer Mainers who feel supported by their home state. Both the characters in the opera and the actors who play them represent a wide range of gender identities, racial identities, ethnic identities, sexualities and abilities.
“There’s a question I’m interested in asking: in this era, how do we make a space where everyone feels included, yet we can all show up for something together?” Matt Cahill said. “Now we’re here, and are interested in inviting all different artists from all different walks of life.”
Additionally, because the source material that “The Magic Tree” is based on is in the public domain, its musical score can be adapted so that people of all genders and vocal ranges can easily play all roles. This emphasizes Hogfish’s ability to showcase various sexualities and gender identities among different performances within a single production.
“As we [expand] this production, our goal is to have multiple expressions of love and relationships in the show,” Edwin Cahill said. “Depending on which night you go [to a performance], you might see a different expression of love in the protagonists.”
Binaries of gender and sexuality are not the only ones Hogfish is interested in breaking. “The Magic Tree” also blurs the line between theater and opera, as well as the line between audience member and performer through audience participation. The company actively challenges socially constructed norms, mirroring its namesake.
“The Hogfish [is] this animal that transcends the binary, that lives its life as both sexes, that looks like a pig and a fish at the same time,” Matt Cahill said. “The idea is connection and balance.”