March 31, 2011

Staff Profile: Larry Dersch

contributed by Rebecca Bellan

Larry Dersch
The Huntington Theatre Company is known for their fabulous productions, well-acted plays, and beautiful sets. What goes on behind the scenes is equally important as what happens on stage. That’s why the Huntington is lucky to have hard-working and dedicated Larry Dersch as Master Carpenter.

Larry, wearing a plaid shirt and a smile and sipping on his mid-day root beer, exudes the persona of a laid back guy who knows what he’s doing and loves his job.

As Master Carpenter, Larry’s job is to handle most of the finish carpentry, some odd projects, and he creates doors, windows, and moldings, he said.

Recently, Larry made the fireplace for Educating Rita, which he said was a lot of fun.
Larry's fireplace in the Huntington's "Educating Rita" 2011
“It was really detailed and I had a lot of freedom to make it look really nice,” he said.

Larry said he also enjoyed making the double swinging doors for the main entrance and had fun creating all the windows for Bus Stop.

The Huntington's "Bus Stop" - 2010
He also loved working on Vengeance is the Lord’s because of the many doors needed for the set.“I like doors, and having so many of them to make and work on was great.”

The Huntington's "Vengeance is the Lord's" 2010
Overall, Larry said that there is a lot of variety in his work with each show.

“I work on totally different pieces from one show to the next because the designs are always so different. But for most shows there is always some little aspect that I get to work on and have fun with,” he said.

Larry has been working for the Huntington Theatre for 18 years. Even as a kid in St. Louis, he loved to build things.

“I did theatre in high school and college, but that didn’t do it as a job after that. Then 18 years ago, a friend of mine who was working here told me they needed extra help.”

Larry's city of domed rooftops for the Huntington's "Blue Demon" 2003
The Huntington, however, wasn’t what brought the carpenter to Boston. He had already been living here for about eight years before he began working for the Huntington. So if you see his rough hands, don’t necessarily write them off as the hands of a master carpent, because they are also the hands of a drummer.

“I moved up here with my band, The Common Ailments of Maturity. We were going to become rich and famous,” he said, smirking.

Larry still plays the drums with his band as a second job, and has worked venues as popular as the Middle East club.

So whether it’s doors, windows or drumsticks,  Larry Dersch knows how to use his hands.

March 29, 2011

Huntington Announces 2011-2012 Season


Huntington Theatre Company celebrates 30th Anniversary Season in 2011-2012 with a dynamic line-up that includes
new plays and classics. 

Features Leonard Bernstein, Mary Zimmerman, August Wilson, Molière, Boston playwrights, and more!

(BOSTON) — To celebrate its 30th Anniversary Season, the Huntington Theatre Company will mount an ambitious 2011-2012 Season that includes the dynamic variety of classic drama, acclaimed comedy, inspiring new work, and glorious music for which it has become known. Events include the completion of August Wilson’s Century Cycle, two locally-set world premieres by Huntington Playwriting Fellows, a musical re-imagined by one of America’s greatest directors, a classic comedy helmed by Artistic Director Peter DuBois, and a Broadway smash hit.

“We are proud of many accomplishments of our 30-year history, but two high on that list are providing an artistic home to the great August Wilson and nurturing and producing the work of local playwrights,” says longtime Huntington Managing Director Michael Maso. “It is most fitting that for our 30th Season we stage two new plays by Huntington Playwriting Fellows at the Calderwood Pavilion and celebrate our long-term relationship with August by mounting the only remaining play of his Century Cycle not previously produced by the Huntington. Ma Rainey’s will truly be a celebration of our shared history, while these wonderful new plays link us to the future of the American theatre.”

The 2011 — 2012 Season Lineup

  • Candide, the beloved musical comedy with music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Richard Wilbur with additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John LaTouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, and Leonard Bernstein; directed and newly adapted by MacArthur Genius and Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses). Playing at the Huntington’s main stage, the Boston University Theatre, September 10 — October 16, 2011;
  • Before I Leave You, the world premiere of a love story for grownups set in Harvard Square and written by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro. Playing at the Wimberly Theatre, the Huntington’s second home in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, October 14 — November 13, 2011;
  • God of Carnagethe scathing Tony and Olivier Award-winning New York smash hit by Yasmina Reza (Art), January 6 — February 5, 2012 at the B.U. Theatre;
  • Ma Rainey’s Black BottomAugust Wilson’s powerful and moving drama and the final one of his ten-play Century Cycle to be staged by the Huntington, one of Wilson’s long-time artistic homes. Directed by Liesl Tommy (Ruined), March 9 — April 8, 2012 at the B.U. Theatre;
  • The Luck of the Irishthe world premiere of a compelling Boston story by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Kirsten Greenidge, directed by Melia Bensussen (Circle Mirror Transformation), March 30 — April 29, 2012 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA;
  • Tartuffe, Molière’s classic satirical comedy about the original houseguest from hell, directed by Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois (Sons of the Prophet, Becky Shaw), May 25 — June 24, 2012 at the B.U. Theatre;
  • One title to be announced, November 11 — December 11, 2011 at the B.U. Theatre.
“To celebrate turning 30, we are looking to the classics and to ourselves,” says Huntington artistic director Peter DuBois. “Mary Zimmerman brings visionary freshness to Candide. I’m thrilled about re-imagining the all-time great satire. Two Bostonians will bring new dimension to the way we see our city. And we’ll do a brand new production of a recent Tony-winning hit. Next season represents where the Huntington has been and where we are headed.”


Candide features Leonard Bernstein’s soaring score and lyrics from some of the wittiest writers of all time. The outrageous musical comedy tells the story of the naïve Candide, who, banished for romancing the Baron’s daughter, endures a series of absurd hardships that challenges his optimistic outlook on life and love. The Chicago Sun-Times calls Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman’s (Metamorphoses) enchanting new production, “Gorgeously imagined, Candide is a garden of delights!”

Huntington Playwriting Fellow Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro’s Before I Leave You tells a Harvard Square story. Emily’s son moves out and her husband Koji suddenly embraces his Asian roots. Their friend Jeremy’s work on his novel gets interrupted by a health scare and his sister Trish moving into his home. Four longtime friends face too much past and too little future in this moving new comedy. The Harvard Crimson calls Alfaro, “A terrific and fearless playwright with an individual and astute voice.”

Alfaro comments, “I have lived in Harvard Square for 45 years and have been a playwright for 30, so it was time to write a Cambridge comedy about four friends on the cusp of old age. I am delighted that the Huntington is putting on two new plays by Boston playwrights that portray a city rich and troubled in its diversity.” Alfaro joins an accomplished and acclaimed group of Huntington Playwriting Fellows to be produced by the Huntington including Lydia R. Diamond (Stick Fly), Ronan Noone (The Atheist, Brendan), Melinda Lopez (Sonia Flew), and many others. 

God of Carnage is the latest Tony and Olivier Award-winning New York smash hit by Yazmina Reza, the author of Art. Two sets of parents meet for the first time to settle their sons’ nasty schoolyard tangle. But all attempts at civilized discussion quickly devolve into childlike behavior in this fast, furious, and very funny comedy of bad manners. The New York Times calls it, “First class! God of Carnage incites the kind of laughter that comes from the gut.”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was August Wilson’s first Broadway hit. Legendary 1920s blues singer Ma Rainey and her musicians gather in a run-down Chicago studio to record new sides of old favorites when generational and racial tensions suddenly explode. The Huntington completes Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner August Wilson’s Century Cycle with this searing drama. Newsweek calls the play, “Extraordinary. Ma Rainey rides on the exultant notes of the blues.” Liesl Tommy, acclaimed director of this season’s Ruined, will helm the production.

“As one of his artistic homes, it is fitting that we recognize the profound contribution August made to American drama and to our city by mounting the only remaining play of his Century Cycle not previously produced by the Huntington,” says Maso. “Throughout the years, subscribers have frequently asked us to complete the Cycle, as so many of their memories of us are connected to August and his work. Ma Rainey’s will truly be a celebration of our shared history.”

The Luck of the Irish is by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Kirsten Greenidge. When an upwardly mobile African-American family wants to buy a house in an all-white neighborhood of 1950s Boston, they pay a struggling Irish family to act as their front. Fifty years later, the Irish family asks for “their” house back. Moving across the two eras, this intimate new play explores personal stories of integration and the conflict of calling any place your home. Village Voice says, “Kirsten Greenidge is a writer of obvious and unusual talent.” Obie Award-winning director Melia Bensussen (Circle Mirror Transformation of last fall’s Shirley, VT Plays festival) directs.

“In seventh grade I sat in the audience of a performance of Joe Turner's Come and Gone at the Huntington and fell in love with the idea of writing for the stage, “says Greenidge, “so this premiere really feels like I'm coming home.”

Tartuffe, the classic farce by Molière, will close the season. The original houseguest from hell, devious Tartuffe charms his way into Orgon’s household and schemes to marry his beautiful daughter, seduce his wife, and run off with the family’s fortune. Will Orgon see through the scoundrel before it’s too late? Molière spins religious piety and hypocrisy into high comedy in this hilarious and biting satire, one of the world’s great plays. The New York Times calls it, “A classic gem. Laugh-out-loud funny!” Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois directs.

“Comedy lives in contradiction,” says DuBois, “and religious charlatans like Tartuffe haven’t gone away. This play, especially in the superb Wilbur translation, is comedic perfection. The critique is so sharp, and the ideas are so contemporary. We are going to blow the dust off Tartuffe and, if we’re lucky, blow your hair back while we’re at it.”

A final title will be announced shortly.

“Over the past thirty years, the Huntington has grown our scope of operations with the full intent of reaching our current role as one of Boston’s cultural cornerstones,” says Maso. “We now provide key services to many different communities, bringing world-class entertainment to audiences in the city of Boston and beyond, cultivating local artists, reaching local students through our education and community programs, helping to train future theatre professionals with our partners at BU, and serving the wider Boston arts community through our operation of the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. As we look towards the next decade and beyond, we pledge to build on these initiatives to serve an ever-broadening constituency with the best theatre possible and a continued commitment to the audience, artists, and students of Greater Boston.” 

Special events celebrating the Huntington’s 30th Anniversary will be announced at a later date. Repertoire, artists, and dates subject to change.


The Huntington’s 2011-2012 subscriptions are on sale now. Seated subscriptions are available in 4-, 5-, 6-, and 7-play packages, and FlexPass subscriptions start with a minimum of 4 tickets that can be used for any show and never expire. 

Subscribers save up to 53 percent on full-price tickets to individual shows.

Subscriptions may be renewed or purchased by calling the Huntington Box Office at 617 266-0800 or by visiting Groups of 10 or more can place orders at 617 273-1665. 

Individual tickets for all shows will go on sale in August.

Cunegonde (Lauren Molina) and Candide (Geoff Packard) discover and declare their passionate love for one another in “Oh Happy We.” Photo credit: Liz Lauren
Cunegonde (Lauren Molina) and Candide (Geoff Packard) discover and declare
their passionate love for one another in "Oh Happy We." Photo credit: Liz Lauren

March 23, 2011

EDUCATING RITA: Audience Comments

Have you seen Educating Rita? Please share your comments with us.

Jane Pfitsch and Andrew Long, photo by T. Charles Erickson
 How does Rita's experience as a student remind you of or differ from your own?

Did Rita or Frank change in surprising ways? What do you think happens to them after the curtain comes down?

Did you attend a post show conversation? What comments surprised you or made you think differently about the play? Would you attend a post show conversation again? What were you thinking about on the way home from the theatre?

Leave your comments here.

The Huntington Theatre Company production of Educating Rita by Willy Russell plays now through April 10, 2011 at the B.U. Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. Get tickets and information or call our Box Office at 617 266-0800.

March 22, 2011

SONS OF THE PROPHET: 5 Days till Tech Rehearsals

Contributed by Rebecca Bellan

Sons of the Prophet, a surprising comedy about two brothers dealing with the death of their father and the illness of their uncle, is well on its way to production. Tech is this Sunday, so the shops are working hard to get the set and costumes ready.

“We had a very full week of fittings last week,” said Anita Canzian, who was busy at work in the Costume shop making what she called a ‘Franken-jean’ or two jeans that have been taken apart and pieced back together to make a single garment. The result is a multifabric geometric creation.

“Photographs were taken of everything so Bobby [Tilly, the designer] and Peter [DuBois, the director] could look at everything.”

Anita said that only 50 percent of the costumes shown were chosen. This week, there will be another round of fittings with the things they discovered.

“We have late Friday or early Saturday load-out for Sunday tech,” said Anita.

Justin Seward said that Props is working on a little of everything. They need a desk for Gloria, and are debating whether they should build it or not. They are also working on finding and creating hand and paper props.

“Kris is working on light fixtures for the back wall, I’m working on some paper props like brochures and insurance papers, and things they handle,” said Justin.

Justin also said that they just finished making the hospital exam table and are working on making a hospital bed that’s light weight so they can move it around backstage and store it. 

“As of now, we’re just checking things off the list and trying to get as much as we can done by Sunday.”

Tracking Walls
Meanwhile in the Paints shop, they are working on the tracking panels and larger props, like a staircase. Tracking panels, said Kristin Krause, are the walls that move around on stage.

“We spent most of our time doing all of the portals which don’t ever move. The tracking panels will basically tell the story of the doctor’s office, and the motel, and the bus station, etc.”

Some of these panels have wallpaper, one is just painted a color, and there are wooden doorframes, as well.

The shops on Huntington Avenue never disappoint and will surely come through with near finished products by Sunday tech.

Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet, directed by Peter DuBois, plays April 1 - May 1, 2011 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, 527 Tremont, Boston. For more information or to buy tickets, visit our website or call the Box Office at 617 266-0800.

March 18, 2011

A VIP Opening Night Experience at Educating Rita for Catherine Pisacane and friends!

Contributed by Anne G. Morgan

The Huntington recently awarded one lucky Facebook fan with a VIP Opening Night Experience for Educating Rita. After opening on Wednesday night, our winner, Catherine Pisacane, sent us the following note and picture.

Facebook contest winner Catherine Pisacane and her guests.
I wanted to thank you again for the VIP ticket package to Educating Rita. My friends and I all had a wonderful time. The play was great, seats were fantastic- we loved every minute of the night. I attached a photo of us all- right before we had our champagne toast!
Thanks again for choosing me!

We'll continue to offer exclusive prizes and experiences to our Facebook fans and if we reach 5,000 Fans by April 30, we're throwing a special party for all of you! So become a fan and help us spread the word - tell your friends, and stay tuned for more info! Visit our Facebook page!

Willy Russell's Educating Rita, directed by Maria Aitken, plays March 11 — April 10, 2011 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. For more information or to buy tickets, visit our website or call the Box Office at 617 266-0800.

May Day Performance Challenge

As part of the launch for the 2011 Emerging America Festival, the Huntington Theatre Company is seeking performance groups to participate in the May Day Performance Challenge, a fun new event aimed at showcasing the creative skills of local Boston performers.

Given a short script and a quirky style, relating to the pieces presented as part of the Emerging America Festival, groups will be asked to develop a 5-10 minute piece to be performed on the Emerging America Stage at the May Fair in Cambridge on May 1st. The challenge? On the day of the performance, we hand you a list of items to find in Harvard Square and one hour to use your creativity to incorporate them into your performance. The results will be presented to an adoring crowd and a panel of judges. The winners take home a fabulous prize!

Both individual artists and companies are invited to apply. Groups must be comprised of 2-6 people.

For more information, e-mail Artistic Professional Intern Vicki Schairer at

March 17, 2011

EDUCATING RITA: Dress for Success

Contributed by BU Today

Watch this video on YouTube
In the slideshow above, costume designer Nancy Brennan works behind the scenes on the Huntington Theatre Company production of Educating Rita at the BU Theatre. Slideshow by Kimberly Cornuelle. Photos by Kalman Zabarsky

Today’s theatergoers are used to extreme stunts: think Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Compared to such spectacles, the behind-the-scenes apparel acrobatics needed for 11 costume changes, each happening in 20 seconds or less, may seem quaint.

That’s the number of costumes the free-spirited main character in Educating Rita, the Huntington Theatre Company’s current production, wears. But rest assured, creating a successful costume is no small feat, and it’s the daily mission of costume director Nancy Brennan.

Read the rest at BU TODAY 

Willy Russell's Educating Rita, directed by Maria Aitken, plays March 11 — April 10, 2011 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. For more information or to buy tickets, visit our website or call the Box Office at 617 266-0800.

Poetry Out Loud

Contributed by Lynne Johnson, Associate Director of Education

Champion Michaela Murray recites
For the past several months, the Huntington’s Education Department has been busy gearing up for the sixth annual Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest for the state of Massachusetts. The Huntington Theatre Company’s Education Department is the state facilitator for Poetry Out Loud, along with the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

In the past six years, the competition’s participation has grown from 12 to 78 high schools. For the past two years, thanks to our aggressive recruitment efforts, Massachusetts has ranked fourth in the country for number of students participating in Poetry Out Loud. This year, over 19,000 Massachusetts High School students took part in this amazing competition here in Massachusetts. We are extremely proud to have beaten the state of New York. Hopefully our beloved Red Sox can do the same this coming season.

March 9, 2011

EDUCATING RITA: Win a VIP Opening Night package for 10

Become a Facebook Fan of the Huntington TODAY (March 9), and be eligible to win a VIP Opening Night experience!

- Prime seats for you and nine friends to the Opening Night of "Educating Rita," Wednesday, March 16 at 7pm
- Complimentary parking for up to four cars at one of several parking garages located near the B.U. Theatre
- Complimentary champagne (or other beverage) and snacks in the exclusive Huntington Lounge during intermission
- Admission for you and your group to the exclusive post-show Cast Party

Winner will be notified by March 10. Current Fans are eligible to win.

Need more incentive? If we reach 5,000 Fans by April 30, we're throwing a special party for all of you! Help us spread the word - tell your friends, and stay tuned for more info!

find us at

Check out all of our Behind the Scenes photos while you're there...

Willy Russell's Educating Rita, directed by Maria Aitken, plays March 11 — April 10, 2011 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. For more information or to buy tickets, visit our website or call the Box Office at 617 266-0800.

Script Club!

Contributed by Margaret J. White, Director of Major Gifts

 On Monday, we held the Huntington’s inaugural Script Club meeting, which was hosted by our Artistic Director, Peter DuBois, and was great fun! Set up like a book club, members had previously read the script for Sons of the Prophet (our next production, playing April 1 – May 1 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA), and then gathered to discuss the play. Each participant had astute impressions and perspective – varied and incredibly perceptive. (But then we know we have a very intelligent audience!) Peter, who is directing of Sons of the Prophet, provided insight into the show, including into the process he personally goes through as he’s conceiving a production’s (myriad!) elements.

Script Club was moderated Monday by Literary Associate Charles Haugland. Thanks go to him and to Chris Carcione, who brought a lot of creativity to the event and created its terrific graphic design.

Our next Script Club will be Wednesday, April 27th, and the “assignment” is Shakespeare’s Richard III. If you are interested in learning more about Script Club, contact Chris Carcione ( or 617 273-1531).

Script Club is a member benefit for Huntington donors of $250 or more.   

March 7, 2011


contributed by Rebecca Bellan 03/02/11

Most of the shops on Huntington Ave are busy juggling two productions. With Educating Rita opening in two weeks and Sons of the Prophet beginning rehearsal next week, Props, Paints, and Sound have a lot on their hands.
Antique Morris chair 
In the Props shop, Kris Holmes said that they are still not done with Educating Rita.

“We have a chair to reupholster, and there are a bunch of paper props and documents that have to be made up that are specific to the show, and we have to get some period-looking packing boxes. Basically, we are sort of working on the finishing touches,” said Holmes.

In addition to these finishing touches, all the props and furniture still need to be installed on the stage.

With Educating Rita mostly underway, Props has had the chance to begin work on Sons of the Prophet.

“As a matter of fact,” said Kris, “I’m just now starting to pull the small hand props so they’ll have that stuff for rehearsal starting probably Tuesday or Wednesday next week.”

They have begun work of some of the furniture. The ticket counter is almost built, and Andrew Deshazo is working on building the doctor’s exam table to be light weight. The bus station seats are coming in the mail, along with a few other materials.

“There’s a bunch of stuff that’s still in the works. We’ve just kind of hit the tip of the iceberg.”

Elevation for Portal #4
The paints shop is in good shape. They have finished working on the set of Educating Rita and are just waiting for it to go onstage. Currently, they are working on ‘portal number four’ for Sons of the Prophet. This portal is going to look like dark brick that fades into blackness.

“We’re making the brick with some thickness, so from far away it looks real. The idea of the designer is that the brick kind of just fades into blackness,” said Kristin Krause. The finished effect is stunning

Paints isn’t working anything other than the portals this week, but next week they'll have notes for Rita onstage and begin working on a show scrim for Sons of the Prophet.

The Sound dept is working on both shows, as well. “John Gromada, the designer/composer, is composing original music for Educating Rita,” said Ben Emerson. “It’s a fairly straightforward design, in that it’s transitional music. There are also a couple of practicals that we need to work on.”

By “practicals” Emerson was referring to a radio that will be onstage and play some music, along with a record player that plays a very specific piece of music. “We have to provide special speakers around the set to support the practicals,” he said.

As for Sons of the Prophet, Emerson is currently working on the microphones.

“There are a couple of table top microphones that are used in the school board scene, and because the table has to track on and off, the mics need to be able to be struck separately. This means that we need wireless mics,” said Emerson.

The only problem is that they don’t own enough wireless mics. To solve the problem, they plan to use the small mics that are usually pinned to an actor’s hair or lapel. In this case, the mics will be tucked underneath the regular microphone and the transmitter is going to be hidden underneath the mic stand. Props dept is going to build something to help modify the mic stand to accomplish this task.

That’s all for this week. Looking forward to see what stays, what goes, and what progresses as the opening night for Educating Rita nears and rehearsal for Sons of the Prophet begins.

For more photos visit our Facebook page

Willy Russell's Educating Rita, directed by Maria Aitken, plays March 11 — April 10, 2011 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. For more information or to buy tickets, visit our website or call the Box Office at 617 266-0800.

EDUCATING RITA: First Rehearsal Day for Props and Costumes

contributed by Rebecca Bellan 2/15/11

Progress in Costumes and Props is underway for the upcoming production of Educating Rita.

The first rehearsal for the play was yesterday, and the costume shop used this opportunity to sketch out the many quick costume changes that the main character, Rita, has to make throughout the show.

Raincoat under construction
“Because of the early build, we were actually able to make some quick-change mockups for Rita out of her muslins,” said Anita Canzian.

The quick changes are very quick, and they are all on stage.

“We’re talking 15 to 20 second changes, and that’s for everything: jewelry, shoes, and clothes,” said Canzian.

Costume designer Nancy Brennan has already decided on what the actors will be wearing. 

Props is making moves, as well. They already met with the designer, and he pulled some furniture and other things that he likes from stock. They have most of the props that they need for the upcoming production, but are still working on finding a few things.

Antique Partners desk found by Props
“For rehearsal yesterday, we basically set it up with exact dimensions and are trying to get the actors as much real furniture as possible,” said Justin Seward. “The biggest thing we’re still looking for now is the desk. It’s supposed to look like an antique, worn, like it’s been in the office for a long time, even before the professor was there.”

Props will be going antiquing this week or the next to find a desk that fits their needs.

Other than the desk and some other finishing touches, they’re good to go for rehearsal.

“I think we’re in good shape,” said Seward.

 For more photos visit our Facebook Page

Willy Russell's Educating Rita, directed by Maria Aitken, plays March 11 — April 10, 2011 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. For more information or to buy tickets, visit our website or call the Box Office at 617 266-0800.

EDUCATING RITA and Obama's plan for US Community Colleges

contributed by Charles Haugland

Educating Rita starts previews this Friday, and in a fascinating coincidence, the subject of adult learners and continuing education is all over the news. 

In the play, Rita is a hairdresser who discovers a passion for learning and English Literature, and decides to take courses from the Open University, a kind of correspondence college that revolutionized education in England in the 1970s. The play follows her  challenging relationship with her course tutor Frank, a boozy and somewhat burnt-out professor. Rita stands for thousands of students in that era who took advantage of the Open University to go back to school and earn post-secondary degrees.

Just in the past month, we've seen related stories here today in America. I saw one in the Boston Metro today about how President Obama's Education advisors are forecasting a shortage of Americans with postsecondary training. They are holding a series of summits on how to meet that shortfall. At the first summit last week, Jamie Merisotis, president of Lumina Foundation for Education, spoke about how "community colleges are the on-ramp for students," particularly adult learners. Without college degrees, the Center on Education writes in a related report, 60 million students are "at risk of being locked out of the middle class."

Educating Rita is set in late 70s Britain, but you can see that this conversation about class and the importance of education continues, even here in the States. Just one way that Willy Russell's contemporary classic stays relevant. Hope to see you there.

To read more about President Obama's plan for community colleges, visit the Chronicle of Higher Education.  He is also visiting Dorchester tomorrow tomorrow to tour TechBoston Academy (click here for more info).

To read more about the Open University (the program Rita enrolls in), you can take a sneak peek at our program notes.

Willy Russell's Educating Rita, directed by Maria Aitken, plays March 11 — April 10, 2011 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. For more information or to buy tickets, visit our website or call the Box Office at 617 266-0800.

March 3, 2011

Educated By Rita

More exciting insight from Educating Rita Assistant Director Nicholas Vargas:

The astounding thing about the theatre is how it requires a level of excellence and precision equal to, if not greater than, film and TV — but it's live! A not-so-brilliant or original realization, I know, but one that needs restating as often as possible.

As the rehearsal process progresses I find it isn't just Rita who is gaining an education. Willy Russel has created a world in which education, teaching, and learning are extremely important but outside the confines of the script there is education being had. What I enjoy most about rehearsing a show is that there is an endless amount of things to be learned. Whether it's picking up a director's short hand, discovering the best way to block a show, or understanding the world of the play, theatre seems to be hinged upon the idea that there is always more to know.

In our show we've all gained a better understanding of the complexities of what constitutes an "English Man." Maria has informed us that "he" — the English man — sometimes hides himself and his true emotions by using humor and evasive tactics. From this definition I've started to consider myself "quite English." I still haven't quite conquered the accent but I am quite content with rainy days, The Canterbury Tales, and grabbing a lager at the local pub — I'm sure I'm not the only one. I've only made it to the surface of life in 1970's England but our cast has accomplished much much more — true experts!

On a completely different note — we've got shoes! Both Jane and Andrew (Rita and Frank, respectively) have received their "show shoes." A little thing to most but the more rehearsal time they have to break them in and make them comfortable the better. Jane has prove a master at the quick change. I've never met anyone who can take off a knee-high boot and replace it with a heel in five seconds flat. She must have no trouble getting ready in the morning. All the quick changes are made even easier by a few important zippers and snaps — all the doing of our amazing costume designer Nancy Brennan and her team.

Sooner than later (the end of this week!) we'll move from the rehearsal hall to the theatre. We tech the show, begin previews, then open! A bit of a whirlwind, no? Well, that's why we do theatre, isn't it? To share something, an idea, a story, even a bit of ourselves.

Such a philosopher am I! I blame Willy Russel!

Willy Russell's Educating Rita, directed by Maria Aitken, plays March 11 — April 10, 2011 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. For more information or to buy tickets, visit our website or call the Box Office at 617 266-0800.