Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog



John Kooi, Kate Udall, Gordon Joseph Weiss and Michael Canavan. Photo by Meghan Moore.

The Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) have nominated Merrimack Repertory Theatre artists and productions for 9 awards in the Large Theatre category. Headlining Merrimack Rep’s nominations are The Seafarer and A Moon the Misbegotten, which are both nominated for Best Production of a Play, a category Merrimack Rep has won previously with Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance (2008) and The Drawer Boy (2003). 

IRNE Nominees David Adkins & Gordon Joseph Weiss in The Seafarer. Photo by Meghan Moore.

In total, four of Merrimack Rep’s productions in 2009 garnered IRNE nominations. Eugene O’Neill’s American classic A Moon for the Misbegotten, which culminated MRT’s 30 Anniversary Season, leads the way with 5 nominations. In addition to Best Production of a Play, it also received nominations for Best Director (Edward Morgan), Best Actress (Kate Udall) and Best Ensemble. Gordon Joseph Weiss is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performances as Phil Hogan in A Moon for the Misbegotten and as Richard Harkin in The Seafarer. The Seafarer is also nominated for Best Production of a Play, and David Adkins received a nomination for Best Actor.

Jonathan Hogan, Ron Holgate & Kenneth Tigar in HEROES. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Also nominated for Best Actor is stage veteran Ron Holgate, who made his Merrimack Rep debut as Gustave in Heroes in November 2009. Elizabeth Aspenlieder, who starred in the one-woman show Bad Dates, is nominated for Best Solo Performance, an award she won for the same role earlier this year at the Boston Theatre Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards. 

Elizabeth Aspenlieder - Photo by Meghan Moore

The IRNE Awards will be held on Monday, April 19, 2010 at the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama. The full list of IRNE nominees, along with event information is available online at

Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s 2009-2010 Season is sponsored by Lowell Cooperative Bank. The Seafarer was sponsored by Wannalancit Mills, an investment of Farley White Interests. Heroes was sponsored by Courier Corporation. Bad Dates was sponsored by Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank.


Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online



Jonathan Hogan, Ron Holgate & Ken Tigar in HEROES. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Here are a few more articles about Heroes that we weren’t able to post on Monday.

Tom Garvey of the Hub Review has written a follow up post to his review of Heroes, entitled War and Remembrance, about the political subtext of Gustave’s plot to travel to Indochina.

Sheila Barth reviews Heroes for the Theatre Mirror, highlighting the contributions of Chelsea native Ken Tigar.

What to know how actors remember their lines? Merrimack Repertory Theatre actors Allyn Burrows (The Homecoming) and Elizabeth Aspenlieder (Bad Dates), who have both won Elliot Norton awards for their work on the Liberty Hall stage, share their tricks.

Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online



Elizabeth Aspenlieder - Photo by Meghan Moore
Elizabeth Aspenlieder – Photo by Meghan Moore

Actress Elizabeth Aspenlieder, star of the one-woman hit comedy, Bad Dates, which ran at Merrimack Repertory Theatre from March 19 to April 12, 2009, took home the award for Outstanding Solo Performance at the 27th Annual Elliot Norton Awards last night, May 11, at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre in Cambridge.  Originally produced by Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA earlier this year, Bad Dates transferred to Merrimack Rep in March, where it ran for four very successful weeks and played to packed houses.  Bad Dates became Merrimack Rep’s 11th highest grossing production in its 30-year history.  When combined with the Company’s recent IRNE Awards, Ms. Aspenlieder’s Elliot Norton marks the fifth time in the past year that local reviewers have recognized a Merrimack Rep actor for an outstanding performance on the Liberty Hall stage.

The Elliot Norton Awards, now in their 27th year, recognize excellence in Greater Boston Theatre.  The awards, which are presented by the Boston Theater Critics Association, were founded in honor of Elliot Norton, who served as drama critic for Boston newspapers for forty-eight years and as moderator of Elliot Norton Reviews on WGBH-TV from 1958-1982.  At the event, actor Al Pacino accepted a Special Elliot Norton Award honoring the late Paul Benedict.  A complete list of winners can be found here.

Bad Dates was originally sponsored by Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online



Elizabeth Aspenlieder - Photo by Meghan Moore
Elizabeth Aspenlieder – Photo by Meghan Moore
The nominees for the 2009 Elliot Norton Awards, which recognize excellence in Greater Boston theatre, were announced yesterday. We are proud to report that actress Elizabeth Aspenlieder has received a nomination for Best Solo Performance for her role as Haley Walker in Bad Dates. The 27th Annual Elliot Norton Awards will be held on Monday, May 11 at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, so be on the lookout to see if Elizabeth is the winner.

View the complete list of nominees here.

Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online

Cast Change for Bad Dates

Cast Change for Bad Dates

Due to a physical injury, actress Elizabeth Aspenlieder will be unable to complete the last two weeks of the run of Bad Dates at Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Filling her shoes as Haley Walker for the final two weeks will be Haviland Morris, who is fresh off a five-week run of Bad Dates at the Tony Award-winning Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT. To allow time to adequately rehearse and make the substitution, the performance originally scheduled for Wednesday, April 1, has been moved to 8 pm on Tuesday, April 7. The Thursday, April 2, performance has been moved to Sunday, April 12 at 7 pm, and is the new closing performance for Bad Dates. Performances will resume on Friday, April 3 at 8pm.  All other shows and times remain as scheduled.

Haviland Morris

Haviland Morris

Haviland Morris has a long and varied career in film, television and theatre.  She has appeared in the films Sixteen Candles, Who’s That Girl, Reckless, Love or Money, A Shock To The System, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, The Last Supper, Dear Diary, Home Alone 3, All Your Difference, Rick, The Baxter, Joshua, Cherry Crush, Calling It Quits and Adam. She has performed on television in “One Tree Hill,” “One Life To Live,” “Canterbury’s Watch,” “Madigan Men,” “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “Sex and the City,” “Cosby” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Family Ties,” and in the “Law and Order” franchises.  Morris has appeared on Broadway in Ring ‘Round The Moon and Arcadia at Lincoln Center and Tartuffe: Born Again at Circle in the Square. She has acted Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, Naked Angels, Manhattan Theatre Club, WPA, and Theatre Off-Park.


Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online

Bad Dates Reviews

Bad Dates Reviews

Elizabeth Aspenlieder - Photo by Megan Moore
Elizabeth Aspenlieder – Photo by Megan Moore

The reviews are pouring in for Bad Dates, and as was the case at Shakespeare & Company, the show and star Elizabeth Aspenlieder are garnering raves!  Read what all the critics are saying, and be sure to catch Bad Dates at Merrimack Repertory Theatre before April 12. If you’ve already seen Bad Dates, feel free to leave a comment with your feelings on the production.

Irresistible” – The Boston Globe

“Get ready to laugh” – Lowell Sun 

“Merrimack Repertory Theatre offers a completely entertaining stimulus package for the spouse deficient and the romantically disadvantaged among us.” – Broadway World 

“Artfully constructed” – Boston Phoenix 

This is a comedy not to be missed for a good laugh, even if you’re a guy.” – Zingology 

Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online



Cast Interview – Elizabeth Aspenlieder

Cast Interview – Elizabeth Aspenlieder

Elizabeth Aspenlieder. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

Elizabeth Aspenlieder. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

Bad Dates star Elizabeth Aspenlieder, originally from Toronto, Canada, has spent the last 13 years working at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, MA. She has acted in numerous productions over that period of time, including Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, and Richard III. In addition to her acting work at Shakespeare and Company, Elizabeth is also the Director of Public Relations and Playbill Sales. 

Bad Dates ran for two months at Shakespeare and Company, starting in January of this year. During her time off from the show, Elizabeth answered a few questions about Bad Dates and her character, Haley Walker.


How has Bad Dates been going for you out at Shakespeare and Company?


It has been a wonderful experience stepping into Haley’s shoes every night – literally and figuratively! We’ve had great houses and so much fun. I was surprised how quickly I became comfortable with the audiences every night and them with me — so much so they talk back to me…give me advice, you know, sigh and gasp at some of my not so ‘hip’ clothing choices, like “wear the blue dress darling – that skirt is awful…don’t go out with him…” stuff like that. It sure keeps me on my toes because I am after all doing a play 🙂 . But it’s been great fun to interact with them and form a bond, a level of camaraderie and trust. They are after all coming into my bedroom every show, so it’s a pretty intimate setting and thankfully, we both seem to feel like we are just talking to a best friend, sharing our ups and downs and trying to figure it all out together — at least that’s how it feels at my end, and it’s really inspiring.

How were you able to balance performing with your day job at Shakespeare and Co.?


It sure has been a balancing act. Kind of like that silly human trick of rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time…it’s not always easy :)! I’ve always felt that women, or at least most of the ones in my life are great at multi-tasking – and luckily it’s something I have been doing here for years so it’s second nature. I just look at the whole picture, plan out my day and be sure give myself plenty of time to prepare before each show – I usually leave the office by 4pm if I have a 7pm show so I can clear out the days clutter in my head, let work go and move into Haley’s world and psyche. And power naps are so under-rated! 


How, if it all will you adjust your performance when the show moves to MRT?


I think I will most likely have to adjust my intentions and up my desire to reach a 300 seat house as opposed to the intimate 100-seat house I have been playing in. I just have to sense if the audience is with me, I can feel it in my bones and in the air if they are ‘getting it’ – the story, so I may have to adjust my volume, my intentions – like tuning a guitar so it’s all in sync and harmony. My first experiences with S&Co. were performances on the 600-seat outdoor Mainstage, and for the past 8 years I have been playing in their 428-seat theatre so I am very familiar and comfortable with playing to larger houses.


Do you have any bad date stories in your past that helped you understand or indentify with you character, Haley?


Oh, boy! Do I. Let’s see, I have code names for all of them of course…there was the ‘chicken man’ – you don’t want to know…the ‘tattoo man’, I couldn’t tell if he actually was wearing a shirt or if he truly had a tattoo that covered his entire body – that just ‘looked like a shirt’…hmmm….oh then there was the ‘kid’ (he said he was 35…turns out he was 23 and I’m like…well, to quote Haley “It doesn’t matter how old I am.” Yes, you can say I have drawn from my personal experiences with bad dates. But not only that,  Haley really has this incredible journey where she goes through a gamut of emotions from elation, to despair, to hopeful, ecstatic happiness, to humiliation and heartbreak – all experiences most of us have had in our lives, which makes this play accessible to so many of us. It holds a mirror up to our lives, our human desires, needs and faith that it will all work out in the end. And if it doesn’t? Well, it’s not the end. 🙂


Finally, is it ever possible to have too many shoes?


In a word, NO.


Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online



Bad Dates Press

Bad Dates Press

There were two stories about Bad Dates in the papers today. The Boston Globe spoke with MRT Executive Director Tom Parrish about the theatre’s partnership with SuitAbility on the Bad Dates shoe drive, and The Lowell Sun interviewed star Elizabeth Aspenlieder.

First preview is tonight at 8pm. See you at the theatre!

Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online.


Interview with Bad Dates Director Adrianne Krstansky


Interview with “Bad Dates” Director Adrianne Krstansky

Do you, as a director, have to make any changes to “Bad Dates” with the show moving from Shakespeare & Company to MRT? Specifically, what happens when you have to put the show in a different house (Shakespeare & Company vs. MRT). Also, how will this affect Elizabeth as an actress?

So, Shakespeare & Company and MRT are two very different playing spaces. (At Shakespeare & Company) Elizabeth was acting in more of a proscenium configuration and what we hope to do at MRT is get her a bit more out into the audience. It would be a great question to ask Lizzy once she gets into the space how it feels comparatively to her, but I imagine, even though it is a bigger house, the way MRT is configured will actually make the play feel a bit more intimate to her. She is so intuitive as an actress and will easily adjust her energy to give the play that same sense of intimacy, that we are right with her in her bedroom having a chat with a wonderful friend, as it has at Shakespeare & Company.

How it is different working with a one-person cast vs. an ensemble?

It is an amazing opportunity to focus all of your attention on one actor – it feels to me as if it is akin to directing a play under a microscope. So much more actually lands on an audience in terms of detail when one actor is onstage. Also, when you have the opportunity to work with an actress as spontaneous and engaging as Elizabeth, she always makes me feel as if I am seeing the play for the first time – so the opportunities she presents as an actor, to a director, are endless. And part of the joy of now being at Merrimack is that we have this fantastic opportunity to go back into rehearsal for a few days and revisit our choices, see how the play has grown and where it wants to go now with the brilliant input of Charles Towers and the Merrimack audience.

Is there a certain show you have directed that stands out as very difficult to direct, or does each show present a unique challenge?

Each show does present a unique challenge, but a real tough one that stands out is Howard Barker’s Scenes from an Execution. Beyond the technical elements and the design challenges, the play is so densely written. Barker is a political writer, so you have a play with these extremely brilliant and passionate characters, who have this incredible command of language and ideas but at the same time the visceral desires and impulse control of an animal. So it was like directing a room full of lions with PhDs. Great fun but completely exhausting. In terms of sheer difficulty, though, I think the hardest shows to direct are the ones you have no personal way into – no way to understand not only in your mind, but your heart and imagination. Best to say no to those, I’ve learned.

You work at Brandeis University. How long have you been associated with the university, and what classes do you teach?

I started working at Brandeis in 1999 as an Artist in Residence and was made an Assistant Professor in 2004. I teach Acting, Improvisation, Suzuki, Viewpoints, and Collaborative Process in the undergraduate and graduate MFA Acting program and I direct university productions.

Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online









Bad Dates Schedule of Events

Bad Dates
Schedule of Events


Bad Dates is running from March 19 through April 12 at Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Here is the schedule of special events and ticket deals for the run of Bad Dates. Visit the MRT online box office to purchase tickets


March 19 @ 8PM – First Preview/Pay What You Will Night – For Pay What You Will Pricing, you must purchase tickets in person, with cash, between 5PM and 8PM on March 19th. ID required. A director’s dialogue will follow the performance.


March 21 @ 8:30PM – Lowell Night – Lowell residents may purchase tickets for $10. Tickets must be purchased in person, with cash, between 5:30PM and 8:30PM on March 21th. ID required.


March 22 @ 7PM – Opening Night – Join MRT for the official press opening of Bad Dates and a post-show champagne toast.


March 25 @ 2PM – Cookie Matinee – Complementary cookies and coffee are supplied by Brew’d Awakening Coffehaus in Lowell.


March 25 @ 7PM – Wine Lovers Night – Starting at 7PM, sample fine wines from around the globe. There is a $5 admission charge to participate in Wine Lovers Night.


March 26 @ 8PM – Post Show Forum – Your chance to ask Elizabeth Aspenlieder and others questions about the show.


April 2 @ 7PM – Young Professionals Night – Pre-show meet and greet with members of the Young Professionals of Greater Lowell, with free appetizers from a local restaurant. Visit the YPGL website for ticket information.


Ticket Deals for Bad Dates


Senior – 10% of regular ticket price with ID

Students – UML and MCC students pay $10. All other students pay $15. ID required

Rush Hour – Purchase half-priced tickets between 5PM-8PM for that night’s performance. Available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings only.

Groups – Groups of 6 or more receive a 25% discount off the regular ticket price. Call 978-654-7595 or email for rates and booking.


Visit Merrimack Repertory Theatre Online