April 30, 2010

Expanding the Idea of New Work - Part III

Contributed by Lisa Timmel

Thanks for your thoughts, Charles. You pose some interesting questions. One question in particular really struck me: “Who are we as a theatre that sits between the two [new plays and classics]?” I think we’re always answering that question when we make programming choices. Because we can’t just program the same plays over and over, in a sense, who we are changes from play to play, from season to season. This year we were a theatre that produces American plays from the 20th and 21st centuries. The oldest play in the season was a mere 63 years old.

So if we are what we do let’s define some terms. We tend to think of plays in three main categories: Classic, contemporary and new. Since my entire career until last year was spent working off-Broadway, largely in new play development and production, I personally tend to have a very narrow definition of what constitutes a new play (I know, I know... this series of posts is about expanding the idea of new work. Bad blogger!). If a play comes with impressive quotes from a major newspaper in a major city, then it’s an established, contemporary play. When I first started out in New York, back in what my kids like to call “the nineteen hundreds”, new plays felt like they only moved in one direction: from New York to the regionals. Happily, this isn’t so much the case anymore partly because regional theatres started commissioning and producing world premieres. We now have a kind of non-profit road system for developing and promoting new work.

That said I’ve never worked for a theatre that produced an entire season of world premieres. For one thing, it often takes a production or two for the play to reach its final draft. Even ten years later, Craig Lucas rewrote parts of Prelude to a Kiss. So “new play” has to be a somewhat elastic term in that it can mean a world premiere or the latest fashion coming out of another major theatre city. Why deprive a Boston audience of a really great play just because someone else got there first? It’s also a way of participating in a national cultural conversation.

For me, contemporary plays have been knocking around a bit but are not established classics yet. Sometimes we call them revivals. I would probably have put Stick Fly and Becky Shaw in that category—definitely post-Boston if not before, and obviously Prelude to a Kiss. But how to categorize Fences, a play that is not much older than Prelude? Well, some plays are just instant classics and Wilson’s play, a play that is part of every decent American drama curriculum and revived in several cities every year qualifies. Then there are the capital C classics. Did you learn about it in school? Then it’s probably a classic. Functionally a classic play should in some way bring us back to our cultural heritage.

In the season we’re about to start, as of now it’s more of a mixed bag than last with a stronger emphasis on new plays but a wider range of tone and content. We have two world premieres, two new/contemporary plays, one contemporary play (1980), and two bonafide capital C classics. So who are we now?

- Lisa

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Poetry Out Load - Nationals (Day 3)

Contributed by Lynne Johnson. Click here for Day 1 and 2


Tuesday morning the POL participants, their parents, chaperones and State Art Association representatives (me) went to the Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill. What a stroke of genius on the part of the National Endowment of the Arts and Poetry Foundation to put students involved in poetry into the offices of our State Senators! Speakers at the breakfast were Rocco Landesman, Chairman for the NEA, and John Barr, President of the Poetry Foundation. While we ate and listened to the speakers, various State Senators came away from their busy schedules to speak with students and take pictures. Others met their senators in their individual offices after the breakfast and some even recited poetry for the office. It was only a few years ago when our Mass. State Champ Gabrielle Guarracino, her parents, our friends from M.C.C. and I were taken on a special visit to meet Senator Ted Kennedy.

There is no better way to promote the arts, than to have our Senators in the same room with students, and to see what the arts can do for so many of our nation's youth.

I was fortunate to sit with Wilmene and her family as well as with the participant from Maine and his entourage. I spoke with the SAA from Maine and we shared some ideas about marketing and media for POL, which is his area of expertise. I also found out that the student from Maine will be attending Harvard next year and gave him my contact info, invited him to the Huntington to see some shows next season, and gave him the contact info of our 2007 and 2008 POL State Champ, Gabrielle Guarracino so they can talk about there experiences at Poetry Out Loud (he is also a two time state champ) poetry, and Harvard. He was thrilled.

After the breakfast we were on our own for a while and I urged Wilmene and her family to go sight seeing, since they hadn't done it the day before. I handed them a map and pointed out the National Mall and White House and told them how to get there. Later in the day I ran into Wilmene's aunt Edna, and they said they had taken my advice and had a wonderful time. I was so glad they had.

I attended a meeting with other SAA's and teachers in the afternoon where we shared information, sought new ways to recruit students and schools, talked about judging criteria, and discussed ways to improve the program overall. It was very informative, and I was proud to share some of our experiences and methods here in Boston with people from around the country. There will be some changes for next year to make things better for all who experience the competition.

On to the National Finals. I met Wilmene's teacher at 6:30 in front of the Lisner Auditorium. Wilmene's mother didn't feel well and she and her sister and niece stayed back at the hotel and did not attend the finals.

The finals were amazing as usual, and much more "colorful" this year. Hosted by actor/comedian John Lequizamo, it was a boost for the kids and adults alike. A bit out of his realm at first, he got off to a shaky start, but soon won over the audience. Our humorous host interviewed each contestant after the second round with a list of prepared questions, and he embellished with his humor, bringing an interesting and humorous personal twist to the competition. He was hysterical!

The recitations at the finals were inspirational and it was a tight race throughout. It was difficult for the judges to choose only three students to participate in the third round. Amber Rose Johnson from Rhode Island (Yay New England!) took the top honor winning $20,000. Ruth Haile from North Dakota took second and $10,000. In third came Nora Sandler from Maryland winning $5,000. Each of the finalists will receive $1,000 and $500.00 for poetry books for their individual schools. Amber was certainly deserving of the honor. She was fabulous! I was sitting behind her parents and sister. It was such a wonderful reaction to watch unfold as she come on stage to receive her trophy. Priceless! As a parent of a theatrical son, I appreciated their nervous tension and then extreme elation because it was palpable.

Prestigious judges this year included author and public radio variety show Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor, poet and author Jane Shore and television, theater and film actress Alfre Woodard. And did I mention that Ms Woodard is a graduate of Boston University? I was sure to shake hands with her and introduce myself at the after party, and she was very gracious to take some pictures with Wilmene and myself (below). She gave Wilmene and I some special treatment when I mentioned BU and the Huntington Theatre Company. She was very nice to the kids and walked around talking to them all and signed autographs. She was lovely in every sense of the word. I think we should invite her to next years gala. She is tremendously gracious.

I ended the evening saying good night to Wilmene and reminding her that we were so very proud to have her represent Massachusetts for us. She is truly a champion in every sense of the word and we will be hearing more from her. She is special and very talented on so many levels. This years' experience at POL was one of the best for me. I truly appreciated the opportunity to attend.

Poetry Out Loud...another great success for the Huntington Theatre Company!

- Lynne

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April 29, 2010

Merrily We Roll Along

I've snuck (sneaked?) into the BU Theatre a couple of times this week to see how the CFA production of Merrily We Roll Along is going. This morning they had a student matinee and I got out of the office enough to enjoy several good chunks of the show.

Jim Petosa, Director of the BU School of Theatre, helms the production on the BU Theatre Mainstage assisted by a team of faculty, staff, and guest artists. The show features a talented cast drawn from the entire BU student body, intriguing design by BFA and MFA candidates, and a great pit band comprised of 8 local musicians.

This show contains several of my favorite Sondheim numbers including "Our Time", "Not a Day Goes By", "Good Thing Going" and "Old Friends". “To teach from this piece is fantastic,” Petosa says. “The quality of the score and lyrics is undeniable, but it also has a problematic book that’s tough to interpret.” This musical about friendship has a storied and divided history with not so happy themes, and while this production probably doesn't break any new ground, it is a must see for any Sondheim (or SOT) fans like me.

I think the following (from Wikipedia) sums it up:

"In his New York Times review on November 17, 1981, Frank Rich said of the production, "As we all should probably have learned by now, to be a Stephen Sondheim fan is to have one's heart broken at regular intervals."[2] Clive Barnes wrote, "Whatever you may have heard about it – go and see it for yourselves. It is far too good a musical to be judged by those twin kangaroo courts of word of mouth and critical consensus."[3]"

The production runs tonight through Sunday, May 2 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave Boston MA 02115, and tickets are available online, and at our box office locations. The proceeds from ticket sales for the Friday 4/30 8:00pm production will be donated to the Huntington's annual fund in order to help us reach our fund raising goals for this season. Thanks to Jim Petosa and Walt Meisner for this generous gesture!

- contributed by Todd Williams

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April 27, 2010

Poetry Out Loud - Nationals 2010 (Day 1 & 2)

 -Lynne Johnson, Associate Director of Education sent in these posts from the Poetry Out Loud national competition in Washington DC, where Wilmene Hercule, Prospect Hill Academy student, and Massachusetts state winner, is competing.


Poetry Out Loud got off to a great start today at the Meet and Greet. I was so proud of Wilmene, because she got right in there and introduced herself to as many other contestants as she could. She did a great job making new friends, and it is apparent she is very comfortable in that vein.  Along for the ride, she brought her mother Marie, her aunt Edna and her 7th grade cousin Regina. We had a great time getting acquainted with each other and it was clear they were all extremely proud of Wilmene.  We all agreed that we each, individually, have good vibes about Wilmene's performance tomorrow. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

About an hour after the meet and greet we attended the opening banquet in one of the function rooms at the Renaissance Hotel, which is POL headquarters for this event. We sat at a table with a student from South Carolina and her entourage. The dinner was nice, we had a few laughs, and then on to rest for an early morning. Wilmene says she is more nervous than she was last year, but I spoke to her on the phone later in the evening and assured her she is certainly capable and talented enough to do very well tomorrow. I gave her some reassuring words and hopefully it might help her relax a little. She is such a wonderful girl. I wish her the best. It's hard to believe she is in the tenth grade. She reads much older and wiser. Let's give her our positive energy from Massachusetts! 

L to R  Marie Hercule (Wilmene's mom) Wilmene, Regina (cousin) Edna (aunt) Meghan Dunn, Wilmene's English Teacher from Prospect Hill Academy, Me (Lynne Johnson)


We started early this morning. I got up at 6am so I could catch breakfast before the three hour semi-finals. At 6:45 I received a text message telling me that my step daughter, Eryn, had her son Eziquiel Leif Ticona Johnson. I was ecstatic and also sad to not be home for the first moments with our new grandchild.

I texted Wilmene an inspirational message hoping to quell her nerves a bit and give her some good old Huntington Theatre Company support. When I saw her in the lobby she was appreciative. I shared a cab with her aunt and cousin to the Lisner Auditorium. Her mom was allowed to ride on the POL bus to the semi's. We were at the Lisner by 8:30 and anxiously awaited the start of the competition. The semi-finals ran smoothly and it made me proud that we are so organized in Boston, because we were certainly up to par with the Nationals.

Wilmene was part of the North East competitors which involved 18 students. In round one, she took the stage confidently and rocked her first poem, entitled "The Song of the Smoke" by W.E.B. DuBois. I had goosebumps and felt like she had nailed it. It was brilliant. She has a presence like no other 15 year old I've worked with. Her understanding of the literature runs deep, and it is truly evident in her performance.
Round two was equally great. She recited "The Slave Auction" by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Her performance was haunting and she held the audience spellbound with her recitation. After all participants were done we had a 10 minute break. The competition was pretty stiff, but I truly thought she was in for sure. She made it to the top 8 and had to recite her third poem. The third poem was good as well, but for some reason she didn't get to the finals. I really thought she was a shoe-in, but as I've learned from these competitions, you can never second guess what the judges are seeing from their own perspective.

After the competition, I could feel Wilmene's disappointment, but she held her head high. Her teacher from Prospect Hill Academy had this to say about her. "I have an MFA in poetry and Wilmene has made me look at poems from a totally different perspective. She has a deep understanding and she also writes beautifully."

Tomorrow we have the Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill bright and early where state representatives will meet with us and then I have an State Partner meeting in the afternoon. The finals and after party will happen after 7pm. Some celebrities are John Liguizamo as host and Alfre Woodward (actress and BU grad) as judge. I'll try to get a picture with them both.

- Lynne

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April 25, 2010

Prelude to a Kiss - One Day Sale

A whirlwind romance. A storybook wedding. A kiss for the bride that suddenly changes everything. Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza, Longtime Companion) explores the enduring power of love and the nature of commitment in this breathtaking and life-affirming romantic comedy directed by Artistic Director Peter DuBois.

One day Ticket sale on Thursday, April 29. Tickets to select performances just $25.

Click here for info.

The Huntington Theatre Company production of Prelude to a Kiss by Craig Lucas plays May 14 through June 13, 2010 at the Huntington's Mainstage - The Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave Boston MA 02115. Tickets and information available online 24/7, by visiting our box office locations, or by calling 617 266-7900.

April 22, 2010

The Huntington takes home 11 IRNE Awards

Contributed by Anne Morgan -

The Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Awards Ceremony was held at the Cyclorama at the BCA on Monday night. It was a great time, with the Huntington taking home 11 awards. While the honors definitely contributed to my enjoyment, I think they would have been fun even had we not won so many. It’s always a great time when the Boston theatre community gets together. There was lots of catching up with friends and collaborators and cheering them on. The awards are split into categories for large and smaller theatres, which I think made the night much more inclusive. After the food, drink, and mingling, we sat down at tables designated by Theatre Company and the awards began.

The evening began with David Grimm accepting the Best New Play award for The Miracle at Naples. Next Peter DuBois accepted for Francis O’Connor for Best Set Design for Two Men of Florence. Another design award went to Anita Yavich for her costumes for The Miracle at Naples. Maureen McGovern’s A Long and Winding Road took home the award for Best Solo Show. And Boston favorite Jacqui Parker took home an award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her powerful performance in A Civil War Christmas.

August Wilson's Fences seemed to steal the show with 6 awards. It won Best Production and Kenny Leon won Best Director; he was not able to join us (he’s currently directing a Broadway production of Fences with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis), but he’ll be with us on Sunday for our Spotlight Spectacular! Managing Director Michael Maso accepted both Production and Director awards, promising that the Boston community hadn’t seen the last of Kenny or August Wilson. John Beasley (Troy) and Crystal Fox (Rose) were both honored for their acting. Ann Wrightson (Lighting) and Ben Emerson (Sound) were also on hand to accept their design awards.

It was also a good night for friends of the Huntington. Nancy E. Carroll (Present Laughter and others for the Huntington) was awarded the Partnership in Performance award for her work opposite Paula Plum. Nancy returned to the Huntington this week for rehearsals for Prelude to a Kiss. Timothy John Smith, also in Prelude, won for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. Congratulations to all!

A full list of nominees and winners can be found here. Comment on this post here

Anne Morgan is in our 2010 class of Professional Interns and splits her time between the Marketing and Artistic Departments. Welcome to the blog Anne! Oh- and we'll add some photos later!

April 21, 2010

Expanding the Idea of New Work, Part II

Contributed by Charles Haugland, in response to Lisa Timmel's recent post

I'm curious about your theory of the "Goldilocks Point," this balancing point between new work and old work that is different for every individual. I believe that it exists in the aggregate; our audience here has a balancing point for the number of new works/number of classics in our season. But, what I hear from individuals takes a different approach.

One woman tells me, "I think the Huntington should stick to the tried-and-true classics. It's what you're good at, and plays like ALL MY SONS are the ones I enjoy the most." Another says, "It's always the new plays that I think of as the Huntington's biggest successes - Melinda Lopez's SONIA FLEW or Lydia Diamond's play STICK FLY." What's remarkable to me is that neither is talking about balance. They're talking about which they prefer, and they are positioning this as a binary choice: those who like new work, those who like classics. But, is it a binary? Certainly, I don't think it is. Who are we as a theatre that sits between the two?

It gets me thinking about theatre and pleasure. And, as you say, new plays or old plays are not individually "important" for this time-based classification - whatever important means - but they do appeal to different parts of our minds and even to fundamentally different audiences.

Classic plays are a kind of active nostalgia, a longing for home. We long for old stories, we long for the turn that we know is coming, we love the terrible (or joyful) anticipation of it. How do you long for a new play?

And yet I do, and I think you do, too. We feel it as a kind of empty space in ourselves, and not for just any new play, but to hear a play that tells a story we have never heard before, a story so specific that it feels as if it's the story of our own lives, a story we've tried to tell ourselves again and again but never had the words, the images, the mirror of experience to make sense of it. (Next season has both of these kinds of pleasure for me, including this second kind of pleasure in the just-announced-today three-play Annie Baker festival.)

Is it then a relatively recent idea that the pleasure of returning to a culturally familiar story or the pleasure of an entirely new story are best experienced if they walk hand-in-hand? That is probably the subject for another post. But, from the Greeks to the Elizabethans to commercial theatres of the 19th century, there have always been both "classic" and "new" work in the marketplace, often performed by the same actors under the same roof. Did those theatres think about the Goldilocks Point? I know we do.

Depending on where you sit, regional theaters have morphed over the last fifty years into either a flippant idea of "It matters to you to see these seven plays, because we're doing them" (if anyone ever believed that idea, it is dying along with subscription numbers) or a more earnest one: These plays matter to you, because this is an ongoing conversation. These plays matter to you, because they are part of a legacy that began and is ongoing.

- Charles

What do you think? Leave your thoughts here

Huntington, SpeakEasy, and Company One to visit Shirley, VT this fall

I don't usually copy entire press releases - today is an exception: This is really exciting news!

Company One, Huntington Theatre Company, and SpeakEasy Stage Company Collaborate to Present Annie Baker’s “SHIRLEY, VERMONT PLAYS” in Fall

Three Boston theatre companies will engage in a landmark local collaboration this fall to produce breakout writer Annie Baker’s first three plays – Circle Mirror Transformation, produced by the Huntington Theatre Company (October 15 – November 14), Body Awareness, produced by SpeakEasy Stage Company (October 22 – November 20), and The Aliens, produced by Company One (October 29 – November 20). All set in the fictional town of Shirley, VT, the plays will run together in the first-ever festival dedicated to the work of this wryly observant young writer, which will be curated by the Huntington Theatre Company.

“I fell in love with the characters in these plays and with the idea of creating a fictional New England town at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA,” says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “Each of Annie’s plays stands on their own with their imagination and subtle humor, and seen together they form a striking portrait of Shirley, Vermont. The same is true for this festival; each company has their own identity and audience, but together they bring out the richness of the work being presented at the Calderwood. Annie’s writing makes you happy to be in the theatre, makes you want to celebrate our art form – I am thrilled we are embarking on this journey.”

This festival presents a special opportunity to examine the rich and varied lives of a small town filled with humor, good intentions, unintended consequences, and accidental beauty. Audiences will experience three miniature portraits of Shirley, VT, a town not found on any map. The plays will have staggered openings beginning October 15 but run concurrently, providing audience members the opportunity see all three between October 30 and November 14. Special same-day “marathon” scheduling is being designed so that one will be able to attend the entire festival in one day. Subscribers to each of the three participating companies will receive discount offers on the other two festival productions; single tickets will go on sale in August and be available on BostonTheatreScene.com. The Huntington will also present a reading of Annie Baker’s Nocturama, her fourth play set in Shirley, VT, in conjunction with the festival.

“We are thrilled to team up with up the Huntington and Company One to introduce Boston theatregoers to the delightful denizens of Shirley, Vermont,” says SpeakEasy Stage Company Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault. “Both the partnership and the plays celebrate the importance and spirit of community.”

“Annie Baker’s voice is one of the freshest and most exciting on the American stage today,” says Company One Artistic Director Shawn LaCount. “Company One shares her commitment to establishing community and exploring the fragility of the simple moments that is everyday life.”

October 15 – November 14, 2010
at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA (Wimberly Theatre)
Produced by the Huntington Theatre Company

When the four students in Marty’s creative drama class experiment with harmless theatre games, hearts are quietly torn apart and tiny wars of epic proportions are waged and won. Set in the Shirley, Vermont community center, this beautifully crafted new comedy mixes antic sadness and hilarious detail, and became a runaway hit Off Broadway. The New York Times called Circle Mirror Transformation, “Absorbing, unblinking, and sharply funny!” It was twice extended and played to sold-out houses at Playwrights Horizons in September – November 2009 and then remounted and extended once again in December 2009 – January 2010.

October 22 – November 20, 2010
at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA (Roberts Studio Theatre)
Produced by SpeakEasy Stage Company

"Body Awareness Week” on a Vermont college campus is the setting for this smart and touching comedy about ordinary people grasping for connection. Phyllis, the organizer, her partner Joyce and Joyce’s grown son Jared are hosting one of the guest artists in their home, Frank, a photographer famous for his female nude portraits. While Phyllis is outraged by Frank’s photos, Joyce is intrigued enough to consider posing for Frank, sparking a firestorm that could break apart their unconventional family. The New York Times called Body Awareness “an engaging new comedy by a young playwright with a probing understated voice,” and The New Yorker called the play “an impressive and occasionally beautiful meditation on the mysteries of being moved.” Body Awareness was first produced Off-Broadway by the Atlantic Theater Company in May 2008.

October 29 – November 20, 2010
at the Boston Center for the Arts (Plaza Theatre)
Produced by Company One

In the town of Shirley, two 30-something dropouts hang out by the dumpster behind the coffee shop where they meditate on music, philosophy, shrooms, and Bukowski. When a teenage employee asks them to relocate, these disillusioned young men find the disciple they’ve been waiting for. A beat-tinged, psychotropic journey, Annie Baker’s The Aliens is a funny and heartening look at friendship, ritual, and small town New England. Company One is proud to join the Huntington Theatre Company and SpeakEasy Stage Company in exploring the tiny spaces of our small towns.

Additional information about each of these productions and each company’s 2010-2011 Season will be announced shortly.

Annie Baker’s other full-length plays include The End of the Middle Ages and Nocturama. Her work has been developed and produced at New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, MCC, Atlantic Theater Company, Soho Rep, the Orchard Project, the Ontological-Hysteric, Ars Nova, the Wilma Theatre, the Lark, the Magic Theatre, the Cape Cod Theatre Project, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in Utah and Ucross, Wyoming. She is a member of MCC’s Playwrights Coalition, Ars Nova’s Play Group, and EST, and is an alumna of Youngblood and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Recent honors include a Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship, a MacDowell Fellowship, and commissions from Center Theatre Group and Playwrights Horizons. She received her M.F.A. from Mac Wellman’s playwriting program at Brooklyn College.

About Company One
Company One’s mission is to redefine the typical theatrical experience by developing, producing, and promoting socially relevant plays and innovative educational programming that appeal to, represent, and include Boston’s diverse urban communities. Since it’s inception in 1998, Company One has become known in the media and in the community for providing the most progressive, racially, and socially relevant programming in Boston. For the past 11 years, Company One has been instrumental in diversifying Boston’s theatre community of artists and audiences through producing innovative, award-winning theatre and theatrical training programs. Company One is a Resident Theatre Company at the Boston Center for the Arts. For more information, visit companyone.org

About the Huntington Theatre Company
The Huntington Theatre Company is Boston’s largest and most popular theatre company, hosting more than 64 Tony Award-winning artists, garnering 36 Elliot Norton Awards, and sending over a dozen shows to Broadway since its founding in 1982. In July 2008, Peter DuBois became the Huntington’s third artistic leader and works in partnership with longtime Managing Director Michael Maso. In residence at and in partnership with Boston University, the Huntington is renowned for presenting seven outstanding productions each season, created by world-class artists and the most promising emerging talent, and reaching an annual audience of over 130,000. The Huntington has transferred more productions to Broadway than any other theatre in Boston, including the Broadway hit and Tony Award-winner Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.

In 2004, the Huntington opened the state-of-the-art Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, which includes 370-seat and 200-seat theatres to support the company’s new works activities and to complement the company’s 890-seat, Broadway-style main stage, the Boston University Theatre. By operating the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, the Huntington provides first-class facilities and audience services at significantly subsidized rates to dozens of Boston’s most exciting small and mid-sized theatre companies. The Huntington also operates BostonTheatreScene.com, which provides all productions at the BCA or the B.U. Theatre with box office and online marketing services.

The Huntington is a national leader in the development and support of new plays, producing more than 50 New England, American, or world premieres in its 27-year history. The Huntington’s nationally-recognized education programs have served more than 250,000 middle school and high school students in individual and group settings and community programs bring theatre to the Deaf and blind communities, the elderly, and other underserved populations in the Greater Boston area. For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org

About SpeakEasy Stage Company
Since 1992, SpeakEasy Stage Company has distinguished itself as Boston's premiere theater staging Boston premiers, consistently winning acclaim for presenting top-quality productions of vital, cutting-edge plays and musicals that might not otherwise play the Hub. Our mission is to connect, inspire, and challenge our audience with the most socially relevant theatrical premieres featuring the most talented artists in Boston. Ware also committed to supporting local actors, directors, and designers by providing a nurturing environment in which they can practice and develop their craft. In 2007, SpeakEasy was named the Calderwood Pavilion Resident Theater for the Boston Center for the Arts. For more information, visit speakeasystage.com.

About the Boston Center for the Arts’ ResCo Program
For more than a decade, the Boston Center for the Arts' Resident Theatre Company (ResCo) Program has offered multi-year residencies to some of Boston’s most innovative and groundbreaking performing arts groups. The ResCo Program offers theatrical companies a stable home so they can focus on artistic excellence, audience development and organizational growth.

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April 17, 2010

Prelude to a Kiss - Cast and Artistic Team Announced

The cast of Prelude to a Kiss, Directed by Peter DuBois,  includes:

  • Brian Sgambati (The Blue Demon at the Huntington; national tour of Frost/Nixon; Tom Stoppard's Tony Award-winning trilogy The Coast of Utopia on Broadway) as Peter;
  • Cassie Beck (The Norman Conquests on Broadway; Craig Lucas' A Prayer For My Enemy and The Drunken City at Playwrights Horizons, Three Sisters at Williamstown Theatre Festival, and The Cherry Sisters at The Humana Festival 2010) as Rita;
  • MacIntyre Dixon (36 Views at the Huntington; Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters and Cyrano de Bergerac starring Kevin Kline on Broadway; the films School of Rock, In and Out, *batteries not included, and A River Runs Through It) as the Old Man;
  • Nancy E. Carroll (Present Laughter, The Rose Tattoo, Dead End, and Brendan at the Huntington; Present Laughter on Broadway) as Mrs. Boyle;
  • Michael Hammond (Big Bill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, M. Butterfly and Search and Destroy on Broadway; Othello, The Canterville Ghost, The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and many other productions in his seventeen seasons at Shakespeare and Company) as Dr. Boyle;
  • Ken Cheeseman (All My Sons and A Civil War Christmas at the Huntington; A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Measure for Measure at The New York Shakespeare Festival; film and television appearances in Mystic River, The Crucible, Shutter Island and guest starring roles on Law and Order, and Monk) as Uncle Fred;
  • As well as Jason Bowen (A Civil War Christmas at the Huntington and Othello at Actors’ Shakespeare Project), Ted Hewlett (Romeo and Juliet at New Rep and Coriolanus at Actors’ Shakespeare Project), Timothy John Smith (Groundswell at the Lyric Stage Company and Jerry Springer: The Opera at SpeakEasy Stage Company), and Cheryl McMahon (The Rose Tattoo and Marty at the Huntington).


The Creative Team for Prelude to a Kiss includes Scenic Designer Scott Bradley (All My Sons at the Huntington); Costume Designer Elizabeth Hope Clancy (All My Sons at the Huntington); Lighting Designer Japhy Weideman (How Shakespeare Won the West at the Huntington, Little Flower of East Orange at The Public Theater; Bluebeard’s Castle/Il Prigioniero at Teatro alla Scala in Milan); Composer and Sound Designer David Remedios (Off Broadway designs at Theatre for a New Audience, New York Theatre Workshop, and New York Fringe Festival); and Projections Designer Maya Ciarrocchi (A Long and Winding Road and All My Sons at the Huntington). Production Stage Manager is Leslie Sears. Stage Manager is Carola Morrone.

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The Huntington Theatre Company production of Prelude to a Kiss by Craig Lucas plays May 14 through June 13, 2010 at the Huntington's Mainstage - The Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave Boston MA 02115. Tickets and information available online 24/7, by visiting our box office locations, or by calling 617 266-7900.

April 16, 2010

Awards Season 2010 - Norton Nods

So this morning I'm thinking about what I am going to wear to the IRNEs on Monday when I get news about our Norton Award nominations! Well - not so much what I'm gonna wear - more so where I am going to take a few of our nominees for dinner. Anyway - how exciting! We've got 11 Norton nods - more than any other company in town.

You can view all of the nominations at StageSource. Here's the short list (just the categories we're nominated in).

“All My Sons,” Huntington Theatre Company
“Fences,” Huntington Theatre Company
“Stick Fly,” Huntington Theatre Company

John Collins, “Gatz,” Elevator Repair Service at American Repertory Theater
Kenny Leon, “Stick Fly,” Huntington Theatre Company
Diane Paulus, “The Donkey Show,” American Repertory Theater

“The Comedy of Errors,” Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
“Gatz,” Elevator Repair Service at American Repertory Theater
“Stick Fly,” Huntington Theatre Company

Seth Fisher, “Becky Shaw,” Huntington Theatre Company
Will Lyman, “All My Sons,” Huntington Theatre Company
Scott Shepherd, “Gatz,” Elevator Repair Service at American Repertory Theater

Crystal Fox, “Fences,” Huntington Theatre Company
Amber Iman, “Stick Fly,” Huntington Theatre Company
Karen MacDonald, “All My Sons,” Huntington Theatre Company

“The Savannah Disputation,” SpeakEasy Stage Company
“Stick Fly,” Huntington Theatre Company
“Gatz,” Elevator Repair Service at American Repertory Theater

Additionally: Lydia Diamond was nominated for Outstanding New Script for her play "Harriet Jacobs", Michael Maso will be receiving the 2010 Theatre Hero award, and long time local favorite Karen MacDonald will get the 2010 Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence.

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April 15, 2010

Student Designers take the stage

Contributed by Allie Herryman

One of the most valuable aspects of the partnership between the Huntington Theatre Company and Boston University is the opportunity for students to work closely with the Huntington’s professional shops and artisans. I sat down with second-year MFA candidates John Traub and Mary Ellen Stebbens to talk about how this collaboration worked for them in the process of designing the upcoming opera Susannah.

John is studying set design and technical production, and is the set designer for Susannah. “What’s interesting about this particular opera is it has a lot of history,” he said. Last week he and all the designers had a chance to meet with composer Carlisle Floyd and singer Phyllis Curtain, who played the title role in the world premier. “It was great to meet them and get their blessing,” he added.

When working on design for opera, Traub said he begins with the score, analyzing the music and trying to see what’s going on in each scene. In this case, the analysis took him in a very realistic direction. “A lot of what we do in the theatre is pushing the limit and going wild. Realistic is nice for a change,” he said.

Mary Ellen Stebbins, a lighting design student and lighting designer for Susannah, echoed this idea. “It’s a realistic opera so the lighting has to be realistic,” she said. “The fact that we wanted it to be realistic meant that there would have to be a cabin. There would have to be a roof on the cabin, and I would have to light under it.”

But both Traub and Stebbins said they were up to the challenges presented by the project in part because they felt supported by the Huntington staff. Traub explained that, “When we’re involved with the Huntington Theatre Company there’s a lot of input on a professional level. We work very closely with the Huntington Theatre Company and with the Opera Institute. There’s a huge collaboration on all levels.”

Stebbins said, “We work alongside the shop 24/7. We’ve already established a personal relationship, so doing something big and scary isn’t as big or scary because you already have a relationship with the people you’re working with.”

But she was quick to add that working with professionals means that she needs to be on top of her own work. “If it was my friend (I was working with) I might not be as circumspect. It’s a reminder to cross my T’s and dot my I’s because it is going to cost man hours (if I don’t).”

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Susannah runs April 15 - 18 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston MA 02115. Tickets available online 24/7 or by phone at 617 933-8600, or in person at our box office locations. Subscriber discount available.

April 13, 2010

Expanding the Idea of New Work

For the next couple weeks, Lisa Timmel and Charles Haugland are going to have an ongoing conversation about new work at the Huntington. (They actually have that conversation everyday; they're just inviting more people in for a bit.) Stay tuned for more updates. Respond to the posts to join their conversation. Here's the first post from Lisa:

Believe it or not, next season is just around the corner. While I can’t divulge any details yet, I can say that next season features two world premieres and two highly acclaimed contemporary plays, plays that you might call “newish” including Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama, RUINED. Having taken a season off of brand-spankin’ new world premieres, jumping back in has got me thinking about the whys, the wherefores and the conventional wisdom of new play production.

Way back in January, critic Terry Teachout set the theatre blogosphere aflame when he compiled a cursory list of the most often produced plays in the States and concluded: “It suggests to me that American theaters have a pronounced bias in favor of new and newish plays by American authors, especially ones that have high public profiles.” Art Hennessy, at his Mirror up to Life blog compiled statistics for the Boston area and by his calculation new/newish plays account for well over half of all play productions here. David Mamet on the other hand has a different view: “ In 1967, when I was at acting school in New York, there were 72 new Broadway plays produced. In 2009, there were 43, of which half were revivals.” He concludes that various social and economic factors have contributed to the decline of an educated, engaged middle class audience, his requisite habitat for new plays. Although I should note that he, like the Pulitzer Prize board (according to Charles McNulty), thinks new plays only count in New York. So, it seems that contemporary plays are both thriving and dying at the same time.

Some local critics have complained that there is too much new work going on in Boston. The pleasure of experiencing a new play is very different from the pleasure of experiencing an older play and I think everyone has their goldilocks point: this theatre has too many new plays, this theatre has too few, and we’re all looking for the one that gets the balance just right. But that kind of categorical thinking unfairly limits the expansive and expanding experience of attending live theatre. A play is not important simply because it is old or because it is new. A play is important because of the specific story it tells and the unique way it is told. A play is not important simply because we choose to produce it; it is important because you come to see it.

So, why new plays? Because the world changes and perspectives shift. Because American theatre, in all its forms, thrives on the new, it always has. Our theatre history is full of the degenerate melding of forms: immigrant melodramas, minstrelsy, vaudeville and musicals all of them bubbling up into the mainstream one way or another and getting whitewashed along the way. There simply is no other way to tell the story of this country and our selves without including new work.

Incidentally, the answer to the question “Why classic plays?” is exactly the same: Because the world changes and perspectives shift. There simply is no other way to tell the story of this country and our selves without including plays from other places and other eras.

contributed by Lisa Timmel

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April 10, 2010

Behind the Scenes - in the Board Room

Contributed by Lisa McColgan

The Huntington’s Board of Trustees met this past Wednesday evening, in the Rehearsal Hall of the Boston University Theatre.

Stick Fly playwright Lydia Diamond was on-hand to discuss the process of how she approaches the creation of her plays, her hopes for the future of Stick Fly, and her works currently in progress. Artistic Director Peter Dubois hosted the discussion like an informal fireside chat and Lydia spoke glowingly of the nurturing environment she has encountered here at the Huntington, as a member of our Playwriting Fellows initiative.

At the meeting, our new Chairman-elect, Carol Deane, as well as our new President-elect, Mitch Roberts, were unanimously approved.

Carol, a member of the Board since 2001, lives in Beacon Hill with her husband Disque and their two children. She is a patron of the Harvard School of Public Health and a member of the Beacon Hill Circle for Charity. Carol and Disque were honored with the Wimberly Award at the Huntington’s 2008 Spotlight Spectacular!, for their tireless support of the Huntington.

Mitch joined the Board as an Overseer in 1994, and was elected a Trustee in 1999. He is the owner of PR Restaurants LLC, a Panera Bread franchise and NEEPL LLC, the New England franchise for El Pollo Loco. Mitch and his family reside in Waban.

We are thrilled to have them “on board” in their new roles which begin in July.

Michael Maso, Mitch Roberts, Carol Deane, and Peter DuBois

For the remainder of the season, Board and staff will focus on meeting the Huntington’s fundraising goals, through both our 2010 Annual Fund Campaign, as well as the upcoming Spotlight Spectacular! to be held Sunday, April 25th at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. At the Spectacular, we will honor director Kenny Leon (who directed Fences and Stick Fly this season) and Bank of America with the Wimberly Award, the Huntington’s highest honor. The event will be hosted by stage and television actress Jasmine Guy, and basketball legend, Dr. J., will join us.

Ticket sales only cover 50% of our operating expenses and proceeds from the event, which will include a Silent and Live Auction, help to support our onstage work and off stage programs, including our award-winning Youth, Education and Community initiatives.

If you can't make it to the event you can join the fun by participating in our ONLINE AUCTION. Bidding is currently open on biddingforgood.com. I've got my sights set on the Karaoke Party for 30!

For information on attending the Spotlight Spectacular!, or making donations for our auction, please contact Michelle Cicerano, Special Events Manager, at mcicerano@huntingtontheatre.bu.edu. 617 273-1536

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April 8, 2010

Susannah Load In Pictures

Contributed by Allie Herryman:

With the closing of Becky Shaw this weekend activity on the BUT stage turned to loading in the upcoming opera, Susannah. Crews have only a few short days – from now until April 15 – to transform the stage into New Hope Valley, Tennessee, where this musical drama takes place. Here are some photos of where we are in the process:

(Above) The construction crew works on stage to put in the raked deck (a stage floor constructed on a slant, so that the part nearest the back wall is higher than the part nearest the edge of the stage).

(Above) Leaves are hung from the line sets to give the appearance of trees overhead. Outside the shop, tree trunks were piled up awaiting installation.

(Below) And remember that paint treatment texture? Here’s how it developed:

Susannah runs April 15 - 18 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston MA 02115. Tickets available online 24/7 or by phone at 617 933-8600, or in person at our box office locations.
Subscriber discount available.

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April 7, 2010

2010 Theatre Hero - Michael Maso

StageSource announced Monday that our very own managing director has been named this year's Theatre Hero. They write:

"Maso has been at the helm of the Huntington since 1982 and has long been a respected local and national arts leader. He has been instrumental in making the Huntington a place for theatre artists to thrive, and he has extended his philosophy throughout the cultural community in Greater Boston. His service on various boards including StageSource, ArtsBoston, and Massachusetts Advocates for Arts, Sciences and Humanities coupled with his drive and leadership in the development and creation of the Calderwood Pavilion has changed and improved the local theatre scene at all levels. The Calderwood has provided a home for many local organizations, shined the spotlight on new play development, and serves as a hub for the theatre community.

The award will be presented at the Elliot Norton Awards on Monday, May 17, 2010. Read more here

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April 6, 2010

Inbox: Melinda Lopez - From Orchids to Octopi

contributed by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Melinda Lopez (Sonia Flew)

Hi Friends--

My play Orchids to Octopi just opened at Central Square--

It's a play about evolution and love and Why--

I hope you can find time to make it to the show.

Melinda Lopez

866 811-4111

April 5, 2010

Susannah in the shops

Contributed by Allie Herryman

In the shops on Huntington Ave everyone is busy preparing for the upcoming production of Susannah, which will play at the Boston University Theatre April 15 – 18, 2010. The musical drama in two acts, with music and text by Carlisle Floyd, is an Americanized version of the "Susanna and the Elders" story from the Book of Daniel in the Apocrypha. Written in 1955, Susannah received the New York Music Critics Circle award for the Best New Opera in 1956 and was chosen to represent American Music and Culture at the World’s Fair in Brussels in 1956. It is now one of the most performed and beloved American operas, ranked second only to Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

But for us, Susanna is this year’s iteration of an annual collaboration between the Huntington Theatre Company, the BU School of Theatre, the BU School of Music, and the BU Opera Institute. Those of us hard at work on the production are aware of just how much hard work and communication are required to pull off such an endeavor.

In the costume shop, Becky (left) cuts apart a old and worn dress to use the fabric for quilt squares, which will appear as props. “This is what they (the characters) would have done, too,” she said of the project.

Meanwhile, in the paint shop, student Stephanie Huck (right) applies a coating of texture to the walls of the set. Charge Scenic Artist Corey Shipler described the texture as a mixture of “potters clay, liquid latex adhesive, sand and sil.” Sil, he said, is a product similar to talcum powder, which is added to the clay to help make it less heavy. “It’s all about the texture,” he added, describing the way future coats of paint on the walls will settle into the cracks of the texture, creating a surface that the lights can play off of. “It will look like there’s about a million coats of paint on here,” he said.

Both the paint shop and the scene shop have been working on several trees for the stage, complete with brightly colored fall leaves. The bark of the trees is created with a variation of the same texture mixture used on the walls, then painted. Shipler said that at the beginning of the season it took the shop almost two weeks to make one tree. For Susannah, they turned out seven in just one week!

Stage direction for the production is undertaken by Sharon Daniels, Director of the Opera Institute, while William Lumpkin, Music Director for the Opera Institute, handles the conducting. The designers are all BU School of Theatre students (Design and Production): Scenic design by John Traub, Lighting Design by Mary Ellen Stebbins, Sound Design by Andrew Will, and Costume Design by Liz McLinn. Construction of the designs is the responsibility of the Huntington Theatre Company shops, providing the exciting opportunity for students to collaborate with local professionals. The cast is made up of Opera Institute students, and the 37-piece chamber orchestra members are students of the School of Music.

Allie Herryman is a graduate student in Production Management/Technical Production at BU’s School of Theatre, and works part time in the Huntington’s Production department. 

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April 1, 2010

Lesson of the day

This just in from Justin Seward:

"Yesterday's Lesson of the Day: When driving a truck through DC, you cannot drive on certain streets close to the White House and Capital... or the secret service will pull you over! I didn't get a fine/ticket though. (probably b/c the officer was from Plymouth MA, and knew the Huntington, haha.) At least it was a sunny day. :-)"

Justin - our Assistant Props Master - was returning the Stick Fly props and costumes to Arena Stage. He drove down on Tuesday in the middle of all that rain - and then dropped the props off and came back yesterday.

His Facebook status last night: "longest. day. of driving. ever."

Justin - we're glad you made it back - safe and sound.