How a certified athletic trainer and educator is bringing “The Odd Couple” to the Theatre Denton Annex stage

An inside look at the unique upcoming production of “The Odd Couple” at Theatre Denton Annex.

Theatre Denton - "The Odd Couple"
Antoinette Dereska (left) and Stacy Kernweis as Florence Unger and Olive Madison at rehearsals for “The Odd Couple” – Pictures courtesy of Hayley Harp/Theatre Denton

The story of the clean-kept, uptight Felix Unger rooming with the perpetually messy and unkempt Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple” is a classic on both the screen and the stage. When audiences settle in for the latest Theatre Denton Annex production of the tale, they may be in for a bit of a surprise, however, when Florence Unger and Olive Madison take centerstage instead in this female version of the ever-popular comedy.

“It is still just as hilarious, and I think in some ways a little funnier, than the original, but I think I’m a little biased,” Director Hayley Harp said of the show.

Harp, an educator and certified athletic trainer at Denton High School, makes her directorial debut with “The Odd Couple” under the mentorship of director Kim Campbell. She pitched the show to Theatre Denton for its Annex space dedicated to up-and-coming creatives and new stories after working with the theater in a variety of roles in acting and production across recent shows like “The Vagina Monologues” and “She Kills Monsters.”

“I’m in a very opposite world than the theater world, but I do theater, acting-wise, as a hobby,” Harp said, explaining that she wanted to direct her own show to explore whether she wanted to pursue more opportunities in the directing space.

“I mean Hayley is a great director, especially considering this is her first time doing this, in that she has her vision of what she wants,” Stacy Kernweis, who plays Florence Unger in the production, said. “She lets you work with your character to develop it, but she’s able to help guide you into the different nuances that you want to bring out.”

“The Odd Couple” will be Kernweis’ fourth production with Theatre Denton. She described how she was intrigued by the different sides of the show that came out by flipping the traditional genders of the characters, especially having performed in a standard version of the production as one of the Pigeon Sisters prior to this show.

Theatre Denton - "The Odd Couple"
Another look at rehearsals for “The Odd Couple”

“As much as it is very much the same kind of play, with women, it’s very different,” Kernweis said. “The characters have the same kind of nuances, but it’s a unique way of looking at it coming from both sides (of) being in the male version and now being in the female version.”

Harp cast Kernweis as Florence Unger after an extensive audition process designed to find someone capable of excelling not only in the show’s comedic scenes but also its heartfelt moments. She referred to the production as a mix of slapstick, Monty Python-style comedy and heartfelt moments designed to make you fall in love with the characters despite their flaws.

“I think there’s just a lot of heart in both characters (Olive Madison and Florence Unger), so I wanted to make sure that someone didn’t come in and just want to be funny,” Harp said. “I wanted to make sure that the important story got told and you felt emotionally connected to both of these characters.”

After pairing Kernweis with Antoinette Dereska in auditions, Harp said she knew she had found the right pair to bring “The Odd Couple” to life.

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“It was just awesome. It was very much a ‘this is it’ kind of moment, at least for me,” Harp said, detailing how Kernweis and Dereska matched each other’s energy, thanks in part to having recently worked together in the theater’s production of “Harvey” last year.

Harp said she’s “fallen in love” with many moments throughout the show during her time working on the production, praising both the cast’s efforts and Campbell’s mentorship throughout the process.

She feels that her production of “The Odd Couple” will be easy to relate to while providing audiences with the chance to laugh and perhaps get a new perspective on life.

“I hope it is a reprieve,” Harp said. “I hope (audiences) get to come up here and, even if they do see some aspects of their life playing out on stage, I hope they get to have a little bit of a break – a little bit of a laugh – and maybe be able to see the humor in their own lives,” Harp said.

The Theatre Denton Annex production of “The Odd Couple” runs from Jan. 19 to Jan. 28 at the theater’s space in Golden Triangle Mall. For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit

These interviews have been edited for clarity. This story has been edited for accuracy,


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