Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog



Two mothers from very different backgrounds struggle with tough decisions about the futures of their uniquely gifted children in The Exceptionals, a world premiere drama by Bob Clyman, stage direction by Charles Towers, at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, February 10 – March 6, 2011. Set in the near future at the site of a prestigious donor insemination research program, mothers Gwen and Allie have been called to meet with Claire, the parent liaison for the program. Claire is about to offer their children a once in a lifetime opportunity to realize their full potential – but no choice is without sacrifice. Gwen and Allie must ask themselves how far they are willing to go to ensure their children have every possible opportunity to be truly exceptional. The Exceptionals is a smart and compelling exploration of parenthood in the new millennium. Subscriptions and individual tickets are available online at or by calling 978.654.4MRT.

This fall, The Exceptionals was awarded a prestigious Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, which is given to select theatres that have demonstrated a strong and consistent track record in producing new work. The goal of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Awards is to utilize up-front development time to help extend the future life of the plays. Over the past four years, 111 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Awards, totaling $3.2 million, had been granted and thirty-four of those plays had gone on to further productions, including 2009 Tony Award Winners Next To Normal and 33 Variations; and 2010 Tony Award nominees Time Stands Still and In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play. Next To Normal also received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The all-Equity cast of The Exceptionals features Carolyn Baeumler as Gwen, Judith Lightfoot Clarke as Claire, Catherine Eaton as Allie and Joseph Tisa as Tom. Catherine Eaton, Carolyn Baeumler and Joseph Tisa all make their MRT debuts, while Judith Lightfoot Clarke returns for her fourth time, having previously appeared in The Homecoming, Boston Marriage and Three Days of Rain. The creative team for The Exceptionals includes Charles Towers (director), Judy Gailen (set design), Brian Lilienthal (lighting design) and Deb Newhall (costume design).

“Playwright Bob Clyman has his own signature style,” says Charles Towers, MRT Artistic Director and director of The Exceptionals. “He writes verbally-agile characters whose dialogue deftly blends intellect and comedy, in stories that raise fascinating questions about the ethical decisions we all face. His plays are a unique mix of smart dialogue, humor and surprise. We have an outstanding cast collaborating with Bob as he develops his new script for its world premiere at MRT. As with Bob’s other plays, The Exceptionals promises to be intellectually-stimulating, funny, emotional and disturbing.”

The Exceptionals is the third Bob Clyman play that Merrimack Rep has produced in the past four years. In spring of 2007, MRT produced Secret Order, which MRT remounted Off-Broadway at 59E59 Theaters later that year, as well as the Alley Theatre in Houston in 2008. The New York and Houston productions, as well as the Lowell production of Secret Order, were all directed by Charles Towers. In 2009, MRT produced the regional premiere of Clyman’s psychological thriller Tranced.

Clyman has had his plays performed Off-Broadway in New York and in regional theatres around the world. He has received numerous national awards for his writing including the Eugene O’Neill Summer Conference Fellowship, New Jersey State Council on the Arts Award, Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship, and Shenandoah Valley Playwrights Fellowship. His play Famous Ali was commissioned by Playwrights Theatre for Rowing to America: The Immigrant Project. In addition to being an award-winning playwright, Clyman is also a clinical psychologist with a practice in Oldwick, New Jersey noted for working with criminals and testifying at trials and appeals in the State.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s 2010-2011 season is sponsored by Lowell Cooperative Bank. The Exceptionals is sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, with additional support from Yellowbook. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. The Exceptionals is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award.


Carolyn Baeumler

CAROLYN BAEUMLER (Gwen) Merrimack Repertory Theatre: debut. Off-Broadway: Milk, New Georges; Creature, New Georges and Page 73; Mourning Becomes Electra, New Group; originated the roles of Marci, Lili and Nina Spicer in The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, Fourth Street and 37 Arts; Trouble in Paradise, Mae West in SEX, Hourglass; Speak Truth to Power, Culture Project; Hedda in Heddatron, Les Freres Courbusier; originated Lydia in Big Love, BAM; A Streetcar Named Desire, New York Theatre Workshop; Courtney Love in Love in the Void, Self Defense, In Betweens. Regional: Rag & Bone, Big Love, Long Wharf Theatre; Member of the Wedding, All My Sons, Westport Country Playhouse; King Lear, Playmakers; Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Cincinnati Playhouse; Marilyn Monroe in Miss Golden Dreams, ACT Seattle; Big Love, Goodman Theatre; Berkeley Repertory Theatre; A Clockwork Orange, Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Film & TV: Lights Out, New FX series; CopDoc, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Focus Group, Gypsy 83, Diminished Capacity.

Judith Lightfoot Clarke

JUDITH LIGHTFOOT CLARKE (Claire) Merrimack Repertory Theatre: The Homecoming, Three Days of Rain, Boston Marriage. New York: GMHC/Anyone Can Whistle Benefit, Carnegie Hall. Off-Broadway: Three Travelers, Theatre at St. Clement’s; The Normal Heart, Public Theatre; Eve-olution, Cherry Lane; Communicating Doors, Variety Arts; Hamlet, Kaufman; Sacrifice to Eros, York. Regional: Hayfever, The Old Globe; Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey; People’s Light, Absence; Misalliance, Alley Theatre; Cloud 9, The Wilma Theater; Closer, Cincinnati Playhouse; Blithe Spirit, Indiana Repertory Theatre; Three Tall Women, Syracuse Stage; Nora, Medea in Jerusalem, Capital Repertory Theatre; Measure for Measure, Soho Repertory Theatre. Television: Credits include Outlaw (pilot episode), Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, As The World Turns, What Goes On. Education: The College of William and Mary, Virginia.

Catherine Eaton

CATHERINE EATON (Allie) Merrimack Repertory Theatre: debut. Regional: Corsetless, The Bohemians, Carnegie Hall; Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Importance of Being Earnest, Venetian Twins, A Christmas Carol, Guthrie Theatre; Clocks and Whistles, Origin Theatre; Hedda Gabler, A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Cobbler, Irish Classical Theatre; Bee Luther Hatchee, Blue Heron Theatre; Comedy of Errors, Hamptons Shakespeare Festival; Child’s Guide to Innocence, New Jersey Repertory Company. Television: The recurring role of Sherry on All My Children. Film: Training Day, The Collaboration, Last Seen, Miss Bertram’s Awakening, Showers of Happiness, With or Without You. Awards: Katharine Cornell for acting, Field Report for writing, Emmy Award for production, and a NYFA Fellowship. She wrote and performs the solo-show, Corsetless, which has toured internationally and is being adapted for film. Other: Founding partners of the Manhattan production house, Stir. Education: BA, Cornell University; MFA, University of Minnesota.

Joseph Tisa

JOSEPH TISA (Tom) Merrimack Repertory Theatre: debut. Regional: The Fantasticks, Long Wharf Theatre; Stones in His Pockets, Beau Jest, The Dresser, Old Lyric Repertory; Oleanna, The Diary of Anne Frank, Derby Day (by Samuel Brett Williams), Blue/Orange, The Country Wife, The Birthday Party, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Cloud 9. Film: Virgin Alexander with Bronson Pinchot, Weakness with Bobby Cannavale. TV: Superego with Will Janowitz for FOX Television Studios. Education: MFA, Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

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