Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog


Do you have a recipe for blueberry pie that is to die for? Or a favorite mother/daughter photograph that you love to show off? MRT wants to display it!

Memory House by Kathleen Tolan explores the complexities of mother/daughter relationships while Katia writes a college essay and Maggie bakes a blueberry pie.

Send us a copy of your legendary blueberry pie recipe or your favorite mother/daughter photo and MRT will proudly display it on the well in our newly renovated lobby during the entire run of Memory House! All submissions will be automatically entered to win a pair of tickets to any show in the remainder of our 2012-2013 season for you and a friend! Please send your recipe and/or photo to by Wednesday, October 24 at 12pm.


Michael Chiklis, Lowell-born actor and star of The Shield, recently sat down with the Improper Bostoninan for an interview. Check out what he recommends when asked for a reason to visit Lowell, Click here to read the article!




OCT. 10-OCT. 14

Merrimack Repertory Theatre and the University of Massachusetts Lowell announced today – which would have been Jack Kerouac’s 90th birthday – they will present the world premiere of the Lowell native and literary icon’s only full-length play, “Beat Generation,” in a staged reading for eight performances only.

The world premiere of the play is the centerpiece of the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival, which will be held Oct. 10 through Oct. 14 in Lowell, Kerouac’s hometown. The festival – held every two years by UMass Lowell, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! and numerous other community partners – features a variety of programs inspired by Kerouac’s works and life in Lowell, and showcases prominent contemporary authors. Anita Shreve, Russell Banks and Andre Dubus III were among the writers who participated in the last Kerouac Literary Festival. This year’s theme is “Writing and Music.”

“Beat Generation” is a story of friendship and karma set in the 1950s and its characters and dialogue capture the Beat mentality at the roots of American counter culture as only Kerouac could. The play’s premiere is being presented in Lowell with the support and collaboration of Kerouac Literary Estate representative John Sampas.

“At midcentury, Jack Kerouac and his fellow Beat writers posed a series of pertinent questions regarding the assumptions of the Cold War, the attractions of suburban family life, the costs of conspicuous consumption, and what they saw as American spiritual deprivation,” said Todd Tietchen, a UMass Lowell English professor and expert on Beat Generation writers. “Those questions take center stage in ‘Beat Generation,’ as the principal figures of this important literary movement reaffirm their friendship in a search for alternative approaches to life,” said Todd Tietchen, a UMass Lowell English professor and expert on Beat Generation writers.

The play’s premiere and the festival come during what many are calling “The Year of Kerouac,” which also includes the theatrical release of the feature film “On the Road,” based on the author’s most famous book and the U.S. publication of the recently discovered Kerouac novel, “The Sea is My Brother.”

“This is a moment of literary and theatrical history,” said MRT Artistic Director Charles Towers. “When the ‘Beat Generation’ manuscript was discovered in a warehouse in 2005, it made international news. Such is the remarkable influence of Kerouac on contemporary culture. Now, the entire script of ‘Beat Generation’ will be first spoken aloud on the stage in Lowell, his native city, and it is fitting that Lowell’s professional theater company – Merrimack Repertory Theatre – is producing its world premiere.”

MRT has a history of being the first to present Kerouac’s works to audiences. Its performance space, known as Liberty Hall, was the site in the 1980s of several sold-out screenings of the premiere of John Antonelli’s documentary, “Kerouac, the Movie” and in the 1990s, the stage adaptation of Kerouac’s Lowell-set romance, “Maggie Cassidy.”

UMass Lowell is home to the Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for Public Humanities, which works to strengthen the study of American culture through academic and other programs, including serving as the home for the Kerouac Writer-in-Residence program, the New England Poetry Conference and the literary festival. The center was established with the support of the Kerouac Estate and Sampas, who has generously granted permission for the first presentation of “Beat Generation” in Lowell.

The university posthumously awarded Kerouac an honorary doctor of letters degree in 2007. That same year, the university and Lowell National Historical Park hosted an award-winning exhibit of the “On The Road” scroll – Kerouac’s 120-foot-long original version of the manuscript – in honor of the 50th anniversary of the novel’s publication. The exhibit drew more than 25,000 people to Lowell.

“It is very exciting for UMass Lowell to be part of the world premiere of Jack Kerouac’s only full-length play,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. “As Kerouac’s artistic influence on this city, his hometown, is still so great, it is important that this work be presented in Lowell first. UMass Lowell is proud to partner with Merrimack Repertory Theatre to bring this unique literary experience to our students and the community.”

Ticket and casting information for the premiere of “Beat Generation” will be announced at a later date. For more on the production and the Kerouac Literary Festival, visit The website will be updated regularly with details on both in the coming months.


Born Jean-Louis Kerouac in 1922, Kerouac is Lowell’s most famous native son. He was a football star at Lowell High School and was awarded a scholarship to Columbia University. However, Kerouac was unhappy in college and after his father lost his printing business, he dropped out of school. During World War II, he joined the Merchant Marine and became friends with Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Kerouac wrote his first novel, “The Town and the City,” about his struggle to balance the expectations of his family with his unconventional life, which was published in 1950 with Ginsberg’s help. Kerouac took several cross-country trips with Cassady during this time, which became the basis for his most famous work, “On The Road.” The manuscript – presented to his editor on a single, unbroken roll of paper, the scroll that was later exhibited in Lowell – was rejected and six years would pass before it was published in 1957. In the years in between, Kerouac followed Ginsberg and Cassady to San Francisco and the term “Beat Generation,” which Kerouac coined, gained popularity. When Kerouac finally broke through with the release of “On The Road,” he was faced with challenges presented by the fame that followed, trying to live up to the image portrayed in his novels and facing criticism from the literary establishment for being part of what was considered a fad. He would go on to publish additional novels, many of which used settings based on Lowell – including “Doctor Sax,” “The Subterraneans,” “The Dharma Bums” and his final great work, “Big Sur.” He settled in Florida with his wife, Stella Sampas, and his mother, where he died in 1969 at age 47. He was buried in Lowell.

Even after his death, Kerouac’s popularity continues. “On The Road” has remained widely read and Kerouac was named one of the most important figures of the 20th century by LIFE Magazine and the Times of London. In recent years, interest in Kerouac has grown with the publication of his letters, poetry, spiritual writings, early novels and more from his remarkable literary archive. He has been cited as an influence by countless writers and musicians, including The Doors. A 2005 forum in New York featured a reading of a passage from “Beat Generation” by actor Ethan Hawke, but to date, the play has yet to be staged in its entirety.


Founded in 1979 by a group of committed civic leaders, Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s mission is “to advance the cause of human understanding by creating theatrical productions at the highest level of artistic excellence and making them affordable to the broadest possible community.” Merrimack Rep’s unique artistic vision is shaped by a passion for excellence and a profound commitment to its community. It strives to enhance the community’s quality of life while contributing to its economic strength, measuring success by the depth of the company’s artistic and social contribution to the region.

A member of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), MRT has received hundreds of awards and accolades, including recognition in American Theatre Magazine, The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine and The New York Times for artistic excellence and its contribution to the community. MRT’s history comprises more than 210 productions including 16 world premieres and 34 regional premieres, contributing significantly to the canon of the American theater and bringing new plays to audiences throughout New England. Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s 2011-2012 season is sponsored by Lowell Bank. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. For details on MRT’s season information, show times, tickets, directions or to request a brochure, visit or call 978-654-4MRT (4678).

UMass Lowell is a comprehensive, national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 15,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering, education, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, liberal arts, management, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.

February 29, 2012, 2:59 pm
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MRT is excited to announce Cameron Hughes, owner and co-founder of Cameron Hughes Wine will be attending the fourth annual Merrimack Repertory Theatre Wine & Beer Tasting on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 from 6:00PM-8:30PM at the Richard K. & Nancy L. Donahue Center at Bagshaw Mills, 132 Warren Street, Lowell, hosted by the Friends of MRT. Attendees will have the unique opportunity to meet Cameron and sample the many Cameron Hughes Wines that will be available that night.

Hughes got into the business a few years after college. His father, Steve Hughes, invited him to work the summer at his wine company supporting his direct-marketing team. Hughes quickly discovered that his passion was for selling wine, and he was good at it. He rose quickly within the organization but soon became disenchanted with big-company selling, so he went to work with a small French importing group. Soon after he decided to branch out on his own.

Along with his wife and business partner, Jessica Kogan, Cameron founded Cameron Hughes Wine. They began in 2001, setting out to offer high-quality wine at affordable prices. They hit their stride in 2004 with the Lot Series, which leads the company brand portfolio along with their other fantastic wines. Hughes now works with world-class growers, sellers, and winery owners to bring their customers premium wines at excellent prices.

Wine and beer for the MRT Wine Tasting will be supplied by Tutto Bene, with additional local beers from Lowell Beerworks. Tickets are $45 per person, 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 support Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s mainstage productions and education programs.



Love getting behind the scenes access?

Well you can’t do much better than interviews with the cast and director. Check out Director Carl Forsman with Hanley Smith, Megan Byrne and William Connell talking about their romantic comedy, “Voice of the Turtle.”


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Last night we held the Producer’s Circle for The Voice of the Turtle here at MRT. The cast and director mingled with patrons as we had wonderful catered food from Centro.

After dinner, director Carl Forsman spoke a little about the origins of The Voice of the Turtle and why it is held so close to his heart, followed by the cast giving a brief but fabulous glimpse into the play with a reading and talk back.

Want in on the action?

Are you interested in learning more about Producer’s Circles? Check out to find out more about how you can join us.



Last week we had a great interview with the RSC boys. We covered many topics including their favorite props, proper foot attire and lack thereof, Matt Rippy’s favorite healthy frozen snack and how Austin Tichenor is a Pagan.

Today we want to bring you behind the scenes and show you what’s going on behind the camera.


Just to preface a little bit, for every show here at MRT we conduct interviews with the actors and directors. Sometimes when we are so fortunate to have the writers staying with us – as is the case with The Reduced Shakespeare Company, we interview the writers as well. The interview takes place in our rehearsal hall, and then our wonderful Media Manager Mallory Johnston creates the videos that you see.

But what goes on before you see the final product?

Some things you don’t see include our Marketing Manager and interviewer extraordinaire Dan Berube asking the questions themselves, the poor soul (whoever it may be) who has to hold the boom microphone, and the rest of the marketing crowd sitting in on the interview.


This is more often a rarity than not, but during our last interview we had a few comical interruptions. Matt Rippy of RSC somehow managed to barge in on Reed and Austin to talk about the presents he wants for Christmas. Just so you all know, he’s really keen on a new Harley Davidson. It costs about $36,000, but the cost to joy ratio makes it a total bargain.


To make things really interesting, Reed Martin felt a bit left out and wanted to do Dan’s job. Once he was done with his interview and we were talking with Austin Tichenor, Reed elected himself to ask Austin a few questions.





While preparing for their interviews both Reed and Austin were having a few apparel problems. Reed was concerned about wearing black socks with his jeans, and Austin just neglected to wear any form of footwear at all.

Austin and his foot attire.

Matt came into the interview with a plastic bag filled with a somewhat unidentifiable snack. He explained after the camera stopped rolling that they were his favorite healthy snack – frozen grapes. We have to say, they’re really pretty good!

Later this week we’ll be exploring some of the props that the RSC boys drag around. Until then, to get the latest news of MRT follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook!




On the surface This Verse Business is, as Anthony Geehan from NE Theatre Geek notes, “very simple.” The set for most of the play is nothing more than a curtain. However it’s when you dive deeper that you notice nothing about what Frost is saying is simplistic. Much as how the set opens into an intricate compilation of past homes and a subtle moonscape, Frost’s words ignite the imaginations of his listeners.

Recently in our offices we have been discussing the impact that the play has had on us. We realized that some were quite profound, so we’ve put together some stories to share with you. “Every show that is presented here compels me go online to learn more.” Laurie Seluk, our Patron Services Manager explains “After seeing MRT’s production, I went online to learn more about his family.” This is a common reaction in the office. Alison Crane, Box Office Manager says that she once memorized poetry when she was younger. As she grew older she slowly neglected poetry, but seeing Gordon perform has actually inspired her to begin memorizing it again.

Written and designed by Ryan AxfordFor some staff, hearing Frost speak has driven them to try writing. Marketing Associate Ryan Axford gave poetry a shot again after having not written for nearly a decade. After seeing the show, Ryan wrote “Shatter Proof.” “I remember in college we would listen to our professor read poetry before we began writing prose. I haven’t written any poetry since early in high school, but hearing it from who sincerely feels like Frost himself has peaked my interest again.” For Ryan, poetry has kindled a new interest in design, not only of word construction, but artistic design utilizing text. You can see exactly what he means by following the link on the side.

Some were more inspired to read than to write. Media Manager Mallory Johnston has found herself at the library checking out Frost’s works. She wrote a longer piece that we will be posting tomorrow, but she says that along with running with the compulsion to read more, she has also been fighting the desire to become part of the play. “I frequently fought the urge to ask Frost questions during the show, and more importantly, the urge crawl up on the stage, sit on the porch swing beside him and stare at the stars.” You can read more of Mallory’s reaction to the play tomorrow.

Over the coming days we will be posting stories from our staff on the impressions left with them. We hope that upon reading these that you will join us for a magical night of listening to Frost, and if you have already seen the show, you can post a comment here, or send them to us at If it’s alright with you we will post them on our blog for others to read.

January 20, 2011, 4:54 pm
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Merrimack Repertory Theatre, the only fully professional non-profit theatre company in the Merrimack Valley region, has released its Annual Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010 on the Company’s website and by mail to its over 1,200 donors, sponsors and supporters. The report highlights the organization’s artistic and financial accomplishments for the 2009-2010 Season. The report is available to the public on the “About MRT” page of the Theatre’s website, Printed copies are available at the MRT administrative offices, located at 132 Warren Street in Lowell.

Highlights of the report and the 2009-10 Season include:

The Cast of THE SEAFARER. Photo by Meghan Moore.

A “Best Production” nomination for The Seafarer by the Independent Reviewers of New England

Continuing commitment to the development of new American plays with the world premiere of The Last Days of Mickey & Jean by Massachusetts native Richard Dresser

An operating surplus for the fifth consecutive season, allowing MRT to reduce its long-term debt and strengthen working capital

Expansion of the production season to seven productions and 191 performances for an audience of 40,233

42% of the theatre’s revenue coming from donations and contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations and government agencies, helping to keep the theatre accessible and affordable to all

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

For Merrimack Repertory Theatre, and many other American theatre companies, the 2009-2010 Season marked the deepest point in the recession. MRT’s dedicated and professional staff and leadership worked closely with the Board of Trustees to address projected declines in charitable giving and to develop creative and innovative ways to reduce the Company’s operating budget by approximately 20% while maintaining, and in some cases expanding, MRT’s core programming and commitment to quality. Despite the tremendous pressure the economy placed on MRT during the 2009-2010 Season, the Company was well prepared to address the fiscal challenges and successfully operated in the black for the fifth consecutive year. While MRT is now in the midst of the 2010-11 Season, plans are well underway for 2011-2012, the Company’s 33rd season of serving the Greater Merrimack Valley. The 2011-2012 Season will be announced in April.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s 2009-2010 season was sponsored by Lowell Cooperative Bank. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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Joey Collins and Crystal Finn in Beasley's Christmas Party. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Hamilton Swift Junior’s imagination concocts an array of larger than life, but realistic characters upon his arrival to Beasley’s home. His fantasy world is revealed slowly during the course of the play, beginning with a dog and a few friends, and later acquiring a large family. A group of bears also make a temporary appearance in Beasley’s home.In the past, having imaginary friends were seen as a common practice of young children who had experienced great pain and loneliness. They were thought to treat loneliness, boredom, or another part of life that was lacking. A child will often envision an imaginary friend with superior skills to compensate for his or her own perceived weaknesses or flaws. Hamilton Swift Junior has a friend named Bill Hammersley, who is his age and “very big and strong; he has very rosy cheeks, and can do more in athletics than a whole college track team.” This makes sense because Hamilton Swift Jr. is a very sickly boy who looks up to someone who is very brawny and athletic, something he will never be. Another one of Hamilton’s friends, Mr. Corley Linbridge, is a very distinguished, retired mountain climber. He falls into the same sort of category as Bill Hammersley. Hamilton Swift Junior cannot do very much physically; he cannot even walk around, but has his friends to do that for him. The Hunchberg family stems from Hamilton’s loss of family after his parents passed away.

Today, imaginary friends are seen as a very important part of developing social skills. By giving kids extra time to play, they are given what they need to create their own fantasy worlds. This creative time is hugely beneficial for their brain development and academic achievement. Kids who talk to their imaginary friends tend to have a more advanced sentence structure and a more extensive vocabulary.

Children who have had time to use their imaginations tend to perform better in school. Imaginary friends are products of the limitless creativity of a curious child’s mind as he or she experiences the complicated world around them. Kids use this imagination to practice for the real life relationships they will have in the future. Utilizing an imaginary friend allows a child to take on different sides in conversation and begin to think abstractly. One day Hamilton has to discipline Simpledoria for chasing a cat. He demonstrates this example of authority to exercise his knowledge of right from wrong.

Joey Collins, Crystal Finn and Tony Ward in Beasley's Christmas Party. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Normally, parents are encouraged to acknowledge the imaginary friend. Saying hello and setting an extra place at the table are nice ways to support the child’s role playing. Beasley does an excellent job of fostering Hamilton’s imagination. Each day, he asks Hamilton, “Who’s with us today?” He pets Simpledoria, plays games with Bill Hammersley, and converses often with the Hunchberg family. He even speaks loudly for Aunt Cooley, who Hamilton says is a bit deaf. House guests also play their parts when visiting Beasley. Booth and Dowden always greet the imaginary characters and treat them as real people. At the end of the play, Booth, Dowden, Miss Apperthwaite, and a few others all find Beasley hosting a lavish Christmas party for Hamilton and his friends. He even makes a speech to the invisible guests and dances with them. Beasley’s efforts, although outlandish, were very thoughtful and loving because they made a lonely little boy feel special on the most cherished holiday of the year, Christmas.

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