Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog



Filled with humor, heart and hope, Beasley’s Christmas Party adapted by C.W. Munger from the story by Booth Tarkington receives its New England premiere at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, November 26 – December 19, 2010, stage direction by Carl Forsman (Heroes, The Breadwinner). From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Magnificent Ambersons comes this story of a curious journalist and his extremely eccentric next-door neighbor who is planning a most unusual Christmas party. Magically and imaginatively delivered, it is a distinctly American and spiritually uplifting holiday story for the whole family. Subscriptions and individual tickets are available online at or by calling 978.654.4MRT. Special Family 4-Packs (2 Adult/Senior tickets + 2 Student tickets) are available for $100 by calling the Box Office at 978.654.4678.

The all-Equity cast of Beasley’s Christmas Party features Joey Collins, Crystal Finn and Tony Ward, all making their MRT debut. Joey Collins and Tony Ward reprise their roles from the Keen Company’s 2008 Off-Broadway production of Beasley’s Christmas Party, which the New York Times heralded as “Wholesome and winning.” A 2007 graduate of Brown/Trinity Rep MFA program, Crystal Finn recently appeared at 59E59 Theaters in New York City, and was directed previously by Carl Forsman at the Dorset Theatre in Vermont. Beasley’s Christmas Party reunites the design team from last season’s critically acclaimed production of HeroesOBIE Award-winner Carl Forsman directs, along with Beowulf Boritt (set design), Theresa Squire (costume design), Josh Bradford (lighting design) and Will Pickens (sound design).

“For years, I had hoped to produce an original holiday play at my theater in New York,” recounts director Carl Forsman about the origin of the stage adaptation of Beasley’s Christmas Party. “Finding the right source material, however, became a many-year odyssey – until a dusty copy of the short novel Beasley’s Christmas Party was handed to me in a used bookstore in Sarasota, Florida by my girlfriend, who said, ‘I just read the first page. Here’s your Christmas play.’ And she was right. My friend C.W. Munger adapted Booth Tarkington’s turn-of-the century charmer into a holiday treat that can be enjoyed by everyone, and is a pleasant reminder of the joys to be found in companionship and imagination, two of the greatest gifts one could hope for. I can’t wait to share it with my friends at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.”

Author Booth Tarkington was born Newton Booth Tarkington on July 29, 1869 and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tarkington attended the prestigious Philips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. After high school, Tarkington returned to Indiana for his first two years of college at Purdue University, and later transferred to Princeton University. While at Princeton, Tarkington was a member of the Triangle Club and did his first acting there. He never earned his degree, but was given an honorary one from Purdue in 1918. He spent most of his time writing and his debut book, The Gentleman of Indiana (1899), was a success. Tarkington continued writing, and as more of his works were published, his profile as an author grew, culminating in Pulitzer Prizes for his novels, The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams. Alice Adams was turned into a feature film in 1935 starring Katherine Hepburn, and in 1942, the film adaption of The Magnificent Ambersons, directed by Orson Wells, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. He was also an accomplished playwright, with over 25 works produced on Broadway between 1901 and 1931.

Most of Tarkington’s major work, such as Beasley’s Christmas Party (originally published in 1909), was set in Middle America, where he grew up. A major theme in Tarkington’s writing was the rise of industrialization and its effects on the Midwest, and his writing reflected his loyalty to small-town America. Tarkington was also involved in politics, and, in 1902, he spent a single term in the Indiana Legislature. Around this time, he married his first wife, Laurel Fletcher, but the couple divorced seven years later. Tarkington remarried in 1912 to Susanah Kiefer Robinson. The couple never had children, but Tarkington was especially fond of his nephews, who inspired him to write the Penrod series. As he aged, Tarkington developed vision problems. He was able to still publish his work but only with the help of his secretary, who would record his stories through dictation. Fortunately, through this method, he managed to write a great deal during the last years of his life until he passed away in 1946 at age seventy-six.

This production of Beasley’s Christmas Party is sponsored by Courier Corporation, with additional support by WCAP. Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s 2010-2011 season is sponsored by Lowell Cooperative Bank. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.


Joey Collins

JOEY COLLINS (Man 2) Merrimack Repertory Theatre: debut. Broadway: The Glass Menagerie with Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson, Rock -n- Roll, The Lonesome West. Off-Broadway: Vieux Carre directed by Austin Pendleton, Bug, Beasley’s Christmas Party originating the role of Beasley et al, The Antigone Project, Venice Preserv’d, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, Apartment 3A. Regional: The Glass Menagerie, Cincinnati Playhouse directed by Charles Towers; The Night of the Iguana, Triad Stage; Pillowman, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis; A.C.T.; Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Yale Repertory Theatre; Pittsburgh Public Theater; Cleveland Play House; Pioneer Theatre; The Old Globe; Cape Playhouse. Film: Dottie’s Thanksgiving Pickle with Olympia Dukakis; Bittersweet. Television: Law and Order, Kidnapped, All My Children, As The World Turns, Guiding Light, 13 Bourbon Street. Education: BA, University of North Carolina at Wilmington. MFA, Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

Crystal Finn

CRYSTAL FINN (Woman 1) Merrimack Repertory Theatre: debut. New York: What Happened to Bill Viola, ARS NOVA; Brack’s Last Bachelor Party, Crime and Punishment, 59E59 Theaters; Cooler, The Chocolate Factory; With Claws and Beak, 3LD. Regional: The Cherry Orchard, Trinity Repertory Theatre; Henry V, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Illinois Shakespeare Festival; Merton of the Movies, The Hollow, Dorset Theater; Speech and Debate, Power of Sail, Brown/Trinity Playwrights Repertory Theatre. Education: MFA, Brown/Trinity Consortium.

Tony Ward

TONY WARD (Man 1) Merrimack Repertory Theatre: debut. Broadway: The Norman Conquests, Dir. Matthew Warchus, Circle in The Square Theatre12 Angry Men, tour, Roundabout. Off-Broadway: Beasley’s Christmas Party, Dir. Carl Forsman, Keen Company; Wonder of the World, Dir. Scott Ellis, Manhattan Theatre Club. Regional: Vesuvius, Terra Nova, South Coast Repertory Theatre; The Three Sisters, King Lear, The Wilder Plays, As You Like It, CENTERSTAGE; Morphic Romance, Westport Country Playhouse; As You Like It, Edward II, Yale Repertory Theatre; The Steward of Christendom, Huntington Theatre. Film/TV: To The Lighthouse, The Guiding Light, Law and Order. Education: MFA, Yale School of Drama.

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