Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog

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.


October 4, 2013, 9:07 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre


The Friends of MRT will host their fifth annual Merrimack Repertory Theatre Wine & Beer Tasting on Wednesday, October 23 from 6:00 pm-8:30 pm at The Donahue Center Rehearsal Hall, 132 Warren Street, Lowell. Local wine and cheese cellar Tutto Bene will select their top wines from a collection of 700 Old World and New World favorites, as well as a selection of fine brews. Local beers from Lowell Beer Works will also be available. The fundraiser will be hosted at MRT’s rehearsal facilities, allowing guests to go “backstage” while increasing their knowledge of wine and beer in a casual, social environment. Light hors d’oeuvres will be provided by Centro Restaurant & Bar and Blue Taleh. Tickets are $45 per person (must be 21+ to attend), and can be purchased online at or by calling 978-654-7552. Parking is available on the street and in the Lower Locks Parking Garage for $5. Proceeds from the event and any purchases patrons make support MRT’s mainstage productions and education programs.

The Friends of MRT is a volunteer fundraising group that hosts special events, social functions and fund drives. The Friends play a pivotal role in strengthening the theatre’s base of support by introducing new people to MRT and making events like this possible. Members of the Friends of MRT enjoy a fun, social environment, and opportunities to network with other theatre lovers and supporters, and the valuable sense of accomplishment that accompanies volunteer work. To join the Friends of MRT or for more information, please contact Jeffrey Prescott at or 978-654-7552. Learn more about the Friends of MRT by clicking here.

September 16, 2013, 10:54 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Merrimack Repertory Theatre, the only professional theatre in the Merrimack Valley, is looking for Fall/Winter Marketing and Development Interns. Intern responsibilities include assisting the marketing department in the production and distribution of our current season’s print materials, development database management, creation of student study guides, and public relations work such as writing press releases and promoting next season’s productions. Other projects including video editing and graphic design may be assigned based on knowledge of necessary software.

Marketing & Development internships are unpaid, but can be used for credit. Interns are expected to be available for 15-20 hours a week between Monday through Friday.

To apply: Email resume to

August 6, 2013, 10:28 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

targetMerrimack Repertory Theatre was awarded a grant from Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT). In recognition of the efforts of the Student Matinee Series: Partners in Education program, the grant will be used to provide opportunities for local students in the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire region to experience live professional theatre on site. Comprised of matinee performances in a professional setting, study guides integrated with the curriculum, and post-show forums with the artists, this program helps students explore and understand the issues and possibilities that MRT’s plays inspire.

Normally ticket prices cost an average of $40 per person, but MRT has continued to offer student tickets for only $8.50, with teachers and chaperones attending free of charge. This grant from the Target Corporation will allow us to offer disadvantaged schools within the region free tickets.

The grant is part of Target’s ongoing efforts to build strong, safe and healthy communities across the country. These efforts include Target’s long history of giving 5 percent of its profit to communities, which today equals more than $4 million every week. As part of this commitment, Target is on track to give $1 billion for education by the end of 2015 to help kids learn, schools teach and parents and caring adults engage.

Other supporters of the Student Matinee: Partners in Education program include the Robert M. Ansin Foundation, Deluxe Corporate Foundation, Aubert J. Fay Charitable Fund, the Nathaniel and Elizabeth Stevens Foundation, the Trustees of the Ayer Home, the Lowell Cultural Council, Lawrence Cultural Council, the Walmart Foundation and individual donors.

July 1, 2013, 10:00 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Entertainment Weekly just released their list for the Top 50 Plays of the Last 100 Years, and it features several plays that have graced the MRT stage. Below is a list of the shows (in alphabetical order) and what number they rank.

Awake and Sing! #47
The Front Page #39
The Glass Menagerie #12
Glengarry Glen Ross #13
The Homecoming 22
Long Day’s Journey Into Night #4
Noises Off #29
Our Town #10
A Raisin in the Sun #9
Waiting for Godot #7
The Weir #50
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? #3

Did any of your MRT favorites show up on the list? View the full list here.

June 25, 2013, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

On Thursday, June 20 the Friends of MRT held their “A Cause for Applause” charity auction to benefit Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT). The event was held at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center and featured celebrity auctioneer Susan Wornick, a live and silent auction, and a seated dinner. With almost 300 people in attendance, “A Cause for Applause” raised over $116,000 for MRT, which will benefit the theatre’s mainstage and education programs.

Joellen Scannell, Chair of the Friends of MRT was thrilled with the event. “This auction is always a fun evening out, but I feel this was our best one to date! We were able to garner more sponsors and community support than ever. Susan Wornick was amazing as always, and provided us with some hilarious entertainment during the live auction, which featured some fabulous prizes. We raised a lot of money for a very worthy cause, one that certainly adds to our community.”

Items featured in the live and silent auction included a trip to Bermuda, a cruise, tickets to the sold out Jason Aldean concert at Fenway, a dream car experience, and more. This year, local artists from the Lowell area were asked to enter their pieces in for the auction, which provided a wonderful showcase for the artists in the community.

Browse through the gallery below to view pictures from the auction.

June 7, 2013, 11:17 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Another season has gone by at MRT, which means we are now preparing for our Annual Charity Auction, Annual Meeting, and, of course, the 2013-2014 season. To help us out with all of that, and to get a taste of what it’s like to work for MRT, we have taken on a summer intern, Sonya Santorelli. We asked Sonya to write up a little bio about herself, so she could introduce herself to all of you! Look forward to more blog posts from her this summer, covering what she is working on and learning about. Welcome to the team, Sonya!

Sonya’s Bio

Born and raised in this historical city, I have always been aware of MRT. I grew up attending The Immaculate Conception Church, located right beside the theatre. Every Sunday as a child, I would wonder what goes on behind those stone walls and what kind of “shows” – as my mother had put it – were being held there. “What are they unloading from those big trucks? What are they setting up for? And why am I not invited to the party?” Needless to say, entertaining the thought of a fun and fascinating performance going on next door was more than enough for my little mind to be distracted from the weekly sermons – especially when Sesame Street Live! would pay the Lowell Memorial Auditorium a visit.

Although I spent less time around the theatre as I grew older, I never lost those curious feelings that crept into my every Sunday. Its memories like this that make me even more thrilled and excited to start my summer internship with the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, which is being offered through extended study with the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I’m looking forward to utilizing the writing and communication skills the university has given me thus far and working with the MRT team behind the scenes as we prep for the upcoming shows!