Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog

April 16, 2014, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre


Funding will support production of “Year Zero”


Lowell, MA - National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced today that Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) is one of 886 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. MRT is recommended for a $20,000 grant to support its production of Year Zero, a play by Michael Golamco that will launch the company’s 2014-2015 Season in September 2014.


Year Zero is about a Cambodian-American teenager named Vuthy struggling to find his place – in a community that doesn’t truly accept him and in a family that seems to be disappearing. The play is a comedic drama about finding a direction and a home. This grant will assist MRT in achieving goals of audience engagement and diversifying its audience to better reflect its community. Approximately 12% of the Lowell, Massachusetts population is of Cambodian descent, but only a small number of people from this population attend MRT performances.


A well-written play nominated for a number of awards, Year Zero provides MRT with the opportunity to put an aspect of the Cambodian-American experience onstage, and encourages further discussion about the immigrant experience and struggles of assimilation. To help achieve these goals, MRT has formed an Advisory Council comprised of leaders of local Cambodian organizations. This Advisory Council will provide cultural context for the production, teach the artists about the Cambodian immigrant experiencein the context of the play, and assist with Year Zero outreach initiatives. MRT has also partnered with Enterprise Bank, who is the Production Sponsor of the play.


NEA Acting Chairman Shigekawa said, “The NEA is pleased to announce that Merrimack Repertory Theatre is recommended for an NEA Art Works grant. These NEA-supported projects will not only have a positive impact on local economies, but will also provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in the arts, help our communities to become more vibrant, and support our nation’s artists as they contribute to our cultural landscape.”


MRT Artistic Director Charles Towers says of the play, “Year Zero is an appealing story about all our pasts; all of us, who are descendents of immigrants, no matter when they came to American or what country they came from. Still, the specific ethnicity of this particular story makes it especially important to be produced in the city that has the second largest Cambodian-American population in the country.”


Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts. The NEA received 1,515 eligible applications under the Art Workscategory, requesting more than $76 million in funding. Of those applications, 886 are recommended for grants for a total of $25.8 million.

MRT (Merrimack Repertory Theatre) is one of Massachusetts’ most highly-regarded theatre companies and one of only three theatres in the state to be a member of LORT (the League of Resident Theatres) which represents the 74 leading non-profit theatres in America. Under the artistic direction of Charles Towers since 2001, it has become known for producing an eclectic mix of new plays and regional premieres, with an emphasis on writers giving voice to the American experience. Since its founding in 1979, MRT has served as a vital cultural, educational and economic resource for Greater Lowell and its surrounding region.


Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Performance Space: The Nancy L. Donahue Theatre
(In Liberty Hall, adjacent to Lowell Memorial Auditorium)
50 E. Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Box Office: 978-654-4678

April 7, 2014, 10:41 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s 35th Anniversary Gala

An evening celebrating and benefiting Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s education and community programs


UMass Lowell Chancellor Martin T. Meehan

UMass Lowell Chancellor Martin T. Meehan

MRT Overseer, Congresswoman Nicola Tsongas

MRT Overseer, Congresswoman Nicola Tsongas

MRT Overseer, Congresswoman Nicola Tsongas will present the Tsongas Award to University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Chancellor Martin T. Meehan in recognition of his long-time personal support and his continued work to build and expand MRT’s partnership with UMass Lowell.

  The event will also feature the Reduced Shakespeare Company® presenting “The Complete History of MRT (abridged),” a 10-minute sketch created especially for this event.


  Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 6:30 pm

University of Massachusetts Lowell Inn and Conference Center

50 Warren Street, Lowell

Black Tie

6:30 pm


7:30 pm


Congresswoman Nicola Tsongas presentation of the Tsongas Award to

Chancellor Martin T. Meehan,

University of Massachusetts Lowell

8:30 pm

The Reduced Shakespeare Company®  in The Complete History of MRT (abridged)

written and directed by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor

Dancing to follow

To purchase tickets, or to find out more information about sponsorship opportunities, click here.

Join the list of generous sponsors helping make this event possible:


Platinum Sponsor:

Nancy and Richard Donahue



George and Carol Duncan

Enterprise Bank

Marty and Ellen Meehan



Belva and Frank Hopkins

Judy and Geoff

The Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank

Donna T. and Robert S. McKittrick

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Washington Savings Bank



Circle Health

James L. Cooney Insurance and Real Estate

Lowell Community Health Center

O’Connor Studios

The Sun


Wine generously provided by Fine Estates from Spain

April 1, 2014, 9:10 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre




Seven regional premieres that reflect the contemporary American human experience.


Lowell, MA – Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) has announced its 2014-2015 Season. The slate of seven plays continues the company’s commitment to advancing the cause of the human understanding by creating theatrical productions at the highest level of artistic excellence, as well as its tradition of introducing new works to the area. Each of the plays selected for the upcoming season, the company’s 36th, will be a regional premiere. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is the only professional theatre in the Merrimack Valley area and continues to serve as a vital cultural, educational, and economic resource for Greater Lowell and its surrounding region.


The announcement was made by Artistic Director Charles Towers and Executive Director Elizabeth Kegley at an event for subscribers in Nancy L. Donahue Theatre in Lowell’s Liberty Hall on Monday, March 31. Towers, who has served as MRT’s artistic director since 2001, says, “When selecting a season, I am reminded of a principle attributed to Socrates – ‘an unexamined life is not worth living.’ Thus, our job in the theatre is to fully examine the lives of characters as created by a playwright, thereby giving the audience an opportunity to examine their own lives as reflected against the uniqueness of a fictional other.”


The 2014-2015 Season at Merrimack Repertory Theatre embodies that principle, presenting characters and families whose relationships, struggles, and joys will be familiar to MRT audiences, with an ultimate goal of that familiarity leading to a deeper understanding of our own lives and compassion for others. 


Year Zero

By Michael Golamco

Directed by Kyle Fabel

September 11 – October 5, 2014

Sponsored by Enterprise Bank

All teenagers need someone to talk to. Vuthy has chosen a skull. He is a young Cambodian-American struggling to find his place – in a community that doesn’t truly accept him and in a family that seems to be disappearing. A comedic drama about finding a direction and a home.

According to Charles Towers, “Year Zero is an appealing story about all our pasts; all of us, who are descendents of immigrants, no matter when they came to American or what country they came from. Still, the specific ethnicity of this particular story makes it especially important to be produced in the city that has the second largest Cambodian-American population in the country.”

The play also presents a unique opportunity for MRT to reach out into the large Cambodian-American community of Lowell. MRT has already begun forming an advisory committee with members of the Cambodian community that will provide cultural perspective for the production.

Dusk Rings a Bell

By Stephen Belber

Directed by Michael Bloom

October 23 – November 16, 2014

Molly and Ray unexpectedly meet 25 years after their teenage romance. Though their kiss has had a lasting effect on both of them, the memory of their youthful fling is overshadowed by tragic revelations about what has happened in the intervening years.

This production will mark the MRT debut of Michael Bloom, who is an Obie Award-winning director who spent the past nine years as artistic director of the Cleveland Play House. Charles Towers responded to the play immediately, “One thing (among many) I like about this play is that it breaks the conventions of most two-person plays in unique ways.” The bittersweet play premiered at the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York in 2010.

13 Things About Ed Carpolotti

Book, Music and Lyrics by Barry Kleinbort

Based on a play by Jeffrey Hatcher

Directed by Barry Kleinbort

November 28 – December 21, 2014

Sponsored by Wannalancit Mills/Farley White Interests

Virginia Carpolotti is a devoted widow with loving memories for her recently-deceased husband. Though her love endures, her confidence in him flounders as one shady character after another comes calling for the debt that Ed put in her name, and things really heat up when a mysterious $1 million ransom note appears. A delightful comic musical featuring Tony Award-nominee Penny Fuller.

“I directed Penny Fuller in MRT’s production of A Delicate Balance in 2008, in which she gave a brilliant performance,” says Towers. “When she sent me this delightful one-woman chamber musical, which was written especially for her, I immediately decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Penny is a Tony-nominated actor and this is a rare opportunity to have her on our stage.”

The Best Brothers

By Daniel MacIvor

Directed by Charles Towers

January 8 – February 1, 2015

When Kyle and Hamilton Best’s mother dies in a bizarre accident involving a Filipino drag queen, the two brothers try to find common ground – often failing with hilarious results. They bicker over the details of the obituary, Kyle’s unfortunate taste in men, and whom Mom loved best – only to find it may very well have been the dog.

Playwright Daniel MacIvor has long been considered a Canadian theatre icon and his most recent play, The Best Brothers, further cements that reputation. The comedy was celebrated at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2012 and later went on to a successful run at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre. Towers remarks, “I read this play one morning and sought to get the rights to it that afternoon. It is rare when I laugh out loud reading a play in my living room, so I pay attention when that happens.”


By Nick Gandiello

Directed by Melia Bensussen

February 12 – March 8, 2015

World Premiere

Gwen thought she had successfully walked away from her troubled past. But then her ex-husband returns with news of their grown daughter’s disappearance and with him come the demons that she sought to erase from her idyllic new life. A powerful new drama that explores complex family dynamics.

“Director Melia Bensussen (who directed The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead and Two Jews Walk into a War at MRT) is one of my closest collaborators. She sent me this play by an up-and-coming young playwright who is unsparing in looking at the real drama of troubled lives. I responded immediately to the family situation and to the central question at the heart of the play: can people really change?” says Towers.

Out of the City

By Leslie Ayvazian

Directed by Christian Parker

March 19 – April 12, 2015

When two middle-aged married couples take a weekend trip to celebrate a milestone birthday, they find themselves pondering elusive romance and contemplating what comes next. This unorthodox love story proves that rejuvenation can be found at any age.

Leslie Ayvazian was loosely inspired by the characters in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream when writing Out of the City. Though there are few direct parallels between the plays, the underlying spirit of the Bard’s play remains. As Charles Towers notes, “The countryside does strange things to lovers of any age, and this wry comedy never fails to surprise and delight.”

The Outgoing Tide

By Bruce Graham

Directed by Charles Towers

April 23 – May 17, 2015

Sponsored by Circle Health

Tormented by the menacing grip of an aging mind and an uncertain future ahead, one man has a plan – but it is not what his family had in mind. A touching family drama sprinkled with surprising humor that asks what it means to truly love someone.

Playwright Bruce Graham and Charles Towers as director last partnered on Stella and Lou, which was very well-received by MRT audiences in December 2013. Towers remarks, “While The Outgoing Tide still reflects Bruce’s unique blend of humor and pathos, the story couldn’t be more different from Stella and Lou. The twists, the turns, the deeply recognizable family relationships and, of course, the humor, all combine to carry us to a place where dignity, honesty and humanity take hold and refuse to let go.”


Subscriptions are now available through the MRT Box Office for the 2014-2015 Season. Subscribers to a seven-play packages receive a 20% discount off single ticket prices and guaranteed same seats throughout the season. Seven-play subscriptions start at just $140 for adults and $126 for seniors. Three-play sampler packages are also available, with a 15% savings off single ticket prices. FlexPass packages are available in increments of 4, 5, 6, or 7 and allow the ultimate in flexibility while still receiving a discount. All subscribers are entitled to the full slate of benefits that includes free even exchanges, and discounts on additional tickets and Young Company tuition. A full list of benefits can be found at

Subscriptions can be purchased by calling 978-654-4678 or by visiting Tickets for individual productions go on sale in August.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Performance Space: The Nancy L. Donahue Theatre
(In Liberty Hall, adjacent to Lowell Memorial Auditorium)
50 E. Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Box Office: 978-654-4678

March 27, 2014, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre


2014 – 2015 Share the Experience Program

We know you share your enjoyment of MRT with friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and now you can help grow MRT’s audience and receive a 15% rebate in addition to your regular subscriber discount by introducing a new subscriber to MRT.


How do I Participate?

Download the form below and give it to a potential new subscriber. Have them fill it out and return it to the box office by March 9, 2014 to receive the Early Bird pricing. Subscription rates will increase after the March 9 deadline. Both sets of pricing are listed on the reverse side. Once the form has been received, and you have renewed your subscription, MRT will issue you a rebate for an extra 15% off your subscription. Your friend will also save 15% off the regular subscription prices by using this form. Current subscribers may receive only one 15% rebate.


Who Counts as a New Subscriber?

Anyone who has never been a subscriber or has not subscribed for the past two seasons. Current MRT subscribers, recipients of a gift subscription, and people in the same household as a current subscriber are not eligible.


Learn More

To learn more about the Share the Experience program, contact the box office at 978-654-4678 or feel free to make multiple copies of this form or contact the box office to request additional copies.


Click here to download the Share the Experience form.


March 20, 2014, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre


Ladies, are you and your friends looking for something new to change up your plans? Look no further than MRT!


This season MRT introduced Ladies Nights, a chance to get together with your girlfriends and have a night out at the theatre. This season we offered Ladies Nights on January 23 for The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith and on April 3 for Talley’s Folly, and we are going to continue to offer it next year for the 2014-2015 season!


What makes Ladies Night so special? Along with taking in a fantastic MRT production, you and your friends will be treated with a wine and dessert reception before the show.


For more information and to see what shows will be offering Ladies Nights next season, visit or call the box office at 978-654-4678.


October 30, 2013, 9:58 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Last Wednesday the Friends of MRT hosted their annual Harvest Wine and Beer tasting. The evening was a great success, with over 80 guests in attendance. Judy Carven won the Money Scarecrow raffle, which included $200 in cash and $100 in scratch tickets. MRT and the Friends of MRT would like to thank the following vendors for their support: Lowell Beer Works, Dessert Yurt, Blue Taleh, Centro, Tutto Bene, OZ Wines, MS Walker, Lost Angel Wines, Winebow, Martignetti Wines, Grape Moments, Atlantic Imports, and Preston Layne.

If you missed out on this fabulous evening, be sure to check out some of the photos!

October 15, 2013, 2:48 pm
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

After a strong and successful run, God of Carnage has closed and we being to prepare our next production, Mrs. Mannerly. The play takes place during 1967, a time for major changes in society. Director Mark Shanahan took the time to write up a commentary on the year 1967, and how it affected the story of Mrs. Mannerly. Read the commentary below:


Nearly 100,000 people march on Washington to protest the Vietnam war.

The Beatles release their Magical Mystery Tour.

A fire derails the launch of Apollo 1 , taking the lives of three astronauts.

The first Super Bowl is played between The Green Bay Packers and The Kansas City Chiefs.

Muhammad Ali is stripped of his boxing title for refusing military service.

An aging Mickey Mantle is moved from center field to first base.

Thurgood Marshall is nominated the first African American justice of The Supreme Court.

Sean Connery is James Bond in You Only Live Twice and Dustin Hoffman is The Graduate.

We often remember the past as a “simpler era,” but 1967 saw our country suffering an identity crisis at a complicated moment of change and growth. The social mores of the past had given way to a decade of political upheaval, generational rifts and the counter culture movement.
Amidst this era’s colorful backdrop, Jeffrey Hatcher offers us his sweetly nostalgic play, Mrs. Mannerly, recalling his own personal moment of change and growth during his boyhood in Steubenville, Ohio.

Mr. Hatcher’s recollections of 1967 Steubenville paint a picture of a town which wasn’t necessarily hospitable for a young man destined to become a successful and celebrated writer for stage and screen. But, clearly his childhood memories offer a treasure trove of characters and and details which have enriched his artistic pursuits. The play recounts the unlikely friendship Hatcher, as a ten year old, forged with Helen Anderson Kirk, the teacher who conducted the “manners class” offered at the local YMCA. Nestled among the “great Steubenvillians of old, Dean Martin, Edwin Stanton and Jimmy The Greek,” Mr. Hatcher introduces us to a mysterious and wonderful lady, a figure who, in the author’s memory, stood larger than life.

Mrs. Kirk, also known as Mrs. Mannerly, was already an anachronism in 1967, a woman of a bygone era who considered her manners class “a calling, a service the families of Steubenville needed, more than they knew!” In an era of rock and roll, the civil rights movement, draft cards, women’s liberation and shocking political assassinations, Mrs. Mannerly’s class covered the basics of tea service, formal silver settings and the recitation of verse. And yet, while important social issues had finally come to the fore during the 1960s, perhaps Mrs. Mannerly’s class addressed certain lessons which remain equally important to this day and should not be forgotten.

To some, the proper teaching of etiquette might be looked upon as a snobbish means to understanding the difference between a salad fork and a desert fork. But manners, it may be said, speak to a larger need for civility. Mrs. Mannerly’s own personal hero, the esteemed authority on all things proper, Emily Post, laid down her first book on manners in 1922, entitled simply, “Etiquette.” Though Mrs. Post has been called a “daughter of The Gilded Age,” her writing was far more concerned with the practicalities of modern life. Her interests lay in helping those from all walks of life achieve order in a chaotic world.

In the first edition, Mrs. Post addressed issues of propriety for the ordinary person wishing to uphold the standards of good manners. Truly, Mrs. Post believed that manners should not be afforded only to those of wealth and privilege. “Manner is personality,” she wrote. “It is the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.” Amidst hard-fast rules on place settings and thousands of tips on party planning, social conduct, correspondence and sportsmanship, she taught the basic dignity of correct comportment, believing that what was “socially right was what was socially simple and unaffected.”

Emily Post died in 1960, on the doorstep of the decade about which Mr. Hatcher writes. But Mrs. Post’s books have remained in print. The current edition, the 18th, has been updated by her great grandchildren. It includes advice for the modern reader on using one’s smartphone politely, managing social networking with civility, the appropriateness of tattoos and technology in the workplace and the often confusing practices of dating in the virtual world. In this era where common-sense rules of behavior often seem murky, drowned out by shouting matches on television talk shows and politicians who tweet compromising photographs, perhaps we might all crave a refresher course on the ground rules of basic civility. The world has changed a lot since the days of women like Emily Post and her loyal follower, Mrs. Mannerly, but the need good manners remains the same, if not more necessary than ever. To paraphrase a song made famous in 1967 by The Graduate: “Where have you gone, Mrs. Mannerly?”

Finally, I’d like to offer a quick personal anecdote. In 1997, thirty years after Jeffrey Hatcher’s manners class concluded, I met our playwright while performing a lead role in his hysterically funny comedy “One Foot On The Floor” at the Denver Center Theatre. I was a young actor and Jeff seemed to me a serious and imposing figure, pacing in the back rows of the theatre during rehearsals and handing out new pages each day. I was desperate to please him and thrilled when Jeff finally cracked a laugh at one of my big moments. I can still remember that chortle from the back row.

On Opening Night, I found a note from our author, neatly printed and folded in an envelope atop my dressing room table. “Mark, We’re lucky to have you in the play. I’ve tried to write you some good lines and I think you’re very funny in the role. Thank you for all of your hard work. Best, Jeff.” It meant a great deal to me. I still have his note in a drawer at home. It’s a reminder that, in any era, good manners never go out of style.

Perhaps Mr. Hatcher penned this play as a belated thank you note to a teacher who, in some small way, helped shaped the course of his life. If so, it is a beautifully written, remarkably gracious and heartfelt thank you note. And it speaks very highly of his manners, since a thank you note is always appreciated. Mrs Mannerly would be proud of her student.

We thank you for coming to MRT and we hope you enjoy your trip back to 1967 with Mrs. Mannerly.


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