Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog


HELP MRT BUILD A MEMORY HOUSE

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 Amanda.Kinney@MRT.org by Wednesday, October 24 at 12pm.



MEMORY HOUSE
October 19, 2012, 1:35 pm
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MEMORY HOUSE

The last-minute stress of completing a college admission essay forces a mother and her adopted daughter to confront long-hidden family secrets in the very moving and funny “Memory House” by Kathleen Tolan, directed by Melia Bensussen. “Memory House” runs at Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) from October 25 through November 18. Tickets begin at just $20 and are on sale now thru MRT.org or by calling 978-654-4678.


“A captivating emotional ballet that is also a moving demonstration of the strenuous work that goes into good mothering.” —The New York Times


According to director Melia Bensussen, “Memory House” explores several different conflicts. “‘Memory House’ brilliantly captures the complexity of the relationship between a teenage daughter and her mother, and the painful process for them both of the daughter’s growing up. Kathleen’s play is smart and funny, and reminds us of how we’re not alone when enduring the complexities of our own family structures. No matter what our own backgrounds are, and whether we are in the midst of raising children ourselves or not, ‘Memory House’ reminds us of the validity of the struggles of intimacy and family.”


“Memory House” will feature Susan Pellegrino as Maggie and Rebecca Blumhagen as Katia, both in their MRT debuts. Melia Bensussen has previously directed “Two Jews Walk into a War…,” “The Blonde, Brunette, and Vengeful Redhead,” “Aunt Dan & Lemon”, and “Something in the Air” at MRT. The creative team for “Memory House” consists of Judy Gailen (Scenic and Costume Designer), Brian Lilienthal (Lighting Designer), Seághan McKay (Projection Designer), and Susan Hudspeth (Assistant Stage Manager).


Playwright Kathleen Tolan attended Empire State College, State University of New York, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. She continued her education at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, where she earned a Master’s degree in Fine Arts. After completing her undergraduate and graduate education in the 70s, she began her acting career. She has acted in experimental theatre, Off-Broadway theatre, regional theatre, television, and film. Some of her most successful and known work as an actress was on television and film, starring in the Emmy Award-Winning soap opera, “Ryan’s Hope,” as the character Mary Ryan Fenelli. She has also starred in a couple of big motion pictures, such as “Death Wish” (1974, Dino De Laurentiis Company and Paramount Pictures) and “The Rosary Murders” (1987, First Take and Rosary Take One). After retiring as an actress she became a playwright. Some of her most well-known plays include “The Wax,” “A Girl’s Life,” “Approximating Mother,” “Kate’s Diary,” “A Weekend Near Madison,” and her most recent and critically acclaimed play “Memory House.” She is currently working on a new play titled “Istanbul Notes,” for the Seattle Repertory Theatre. She has received numerous awards including the Thornton Wilder Fellowship, the McKnight National Residency and Commission, the Charles H. Revson Fellowship, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, several MacDowell Colony and Hedgebrook residencies, and two Sundance Institute residencies. Tolan is also a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Writer’s Guild of America, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, and the PEN American Center. She currently resides in New York where she teaches playwriting at Purchase College, State University of New York, and is the coordinator of the Dramatic Writing Program at the university.


MRT’s 2012-2013 Season is sponsored by LowellBank. “Memory House” is sponsored by Washington Savings Bank. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.


CAST BIOS


Susan Pellegrino (Maggie) MRT: Debut. Broadway: Equus, Prelude to a Kiss, Imaginary Friends, Present Laughter, The Kentucky Cycle, Two Shakespearean Actors. Off Broadway: Septimus, Clarissa Ripetime Theatre Co. Distracted, The Paris Letter, Roundabout Theatre. Outward Bound, Pullman Car Hiawatha, Keen Co. One Shoe Off, Second Stage at the Public, Marvin’s Room, Minetta Lane. Regional: Doubt, Virginia Stage Company, A Christmas Carol, Learned Ladies, McCarter Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Hartford Stage, Huntington Theatre, St. Louis Reparatory Theatre, Portland Stage, The American Conservatory Theatre (Five seasons—Dramalogue Award for Absurd Person Singular). Tours: Rumors, 84 Charring Cross Road. Film/TV: Michael Clayton, The Wendigo, Notes for my Daughter (ABC) MAC, The Becky Bell Story (HBO) Pan Am (CBS) Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, Law and Order Trial By Jury(NBC) Hack (CBS) One Life To Live, As The World Turns. Education: City College and San Francisco Stage College, The American Conservatory Theatre Training Program.


Rebecca Blumhagen (Katia) MRT: Debut. Regional: Our Town, Arden Theatre; Romeo and Juliet, Love’s Labours Lost, Virginia Shakespeare Festival; Smart Cookie, Alliance Theatre. TV/Film: The Girls Guide to Depravity (starring); Body of Proof, Underground; Lefty Loosey Righty Tighty; Adam Underground. Director: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Our Town (adaptation), St. Margaret’s English Medium School, Kisongo, Tanzania; The Sky is so far from the Land, (documentary, film). Other: Currently resides in New York, NY, where she studies with Michael Howard. She is thrilled to be joining the Merrimack Repertory Theatre for this production of Memory House!



ROLLING STONE REVIEWS BEAT GENERATION
October 11, 2012, 1:46 pm
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ROLLING STONE REVIEWS BEAT GENERATION


57 years after it was written, Jack Kerouac’s “Beat Generation” finally made its world premiere at Merrimack Repertory Theatre last night. Rolling Stone was just one of the many media outlets in attendance, and had this to say about the production.


“But it’s the Kerouac character who leaves the lingering impression, when he drifts outside at the end of the night to crawl into his sleeping bag under the stars, tootling a few notes of Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours” on a pennywhistle. Earlier, when a beautiful woman strode past in heels at the racetrack, Buck mumbled, “Why doesn’t God just stop the world with a snap of his finger?” It’s the free-associating Milo who does most of the jazzbo snapping in Beat Generation, but it is Buck who is the real dreamer.”

For Rolling Stone’s full review, click here. “Beat Generation” runs through October 14.



ANNOUNCING THE CAST OF “BEAT GENERATION” BY JACK KEROUAC

ANNOUNCING THE CAST OF “BEAT GENERATION” BY JACK KEROUAC


Jack Kerouac

Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) and the University of Massachusetts Lowell are thrilled to announce the cast of “Beat Generation” by Jack Kerouac. Directed by Charles Towers, Kerouac’s long-lost play will finally be heard for the first-time in his hometown as the centerpiece of the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at MRT.org or by calling the MRT box office at 978-654-4678. “Beat Generation” runs for eight performances only Oct. 10 through Oct. 14.

“Beat Generation” stars Tony Crane as Buck (based on Kerouac) and Joey Collins as Milo (based on Neal Cassady). “Beat Generation” will also feature (real-life character basis noted in parenthesis) Che Ayende as Jule/Julius Chauncy (Al Sublette), Larry Bull as Slim Summerville (Al Hinkle), Armin Shimerman as Tommy (Charley Mew), Elise Arsenault as Vicki (Connie Sublette), Brian Quijada as Manuel (Gregory Corso), Kitty Swink as Woman at the Tracks/Mrs. Bishop, Stephanie Bates as A Blonde, Ari Butler as Irwin (Allen Ginsberg), William Connell as Paul (Peter Orlovsky), Tamara Hickey as Cora (Carolyn Cassady), Christopher James Webb as Mezz McGillicuddy (Pat Donovan), Seumas F. Sargent as The Bishop (Bishop Romano) and Jean Lambert as Mrs. Twidley.

Returning to MRT are Joey Collins, who has previously appeared in “Beasley’s Christmas Party,” William Connell, who portrayed Bill Page in last season’s production of “The Voice of the Turtle” and Tamara Hickey, who appeared in “Aunt Dan and Lemon.” All other actors will make their MRT debut.

“We’ve assembled an amazing cast to speak Kerouac’s words aloud for the first time ever and bring them to life,” says MRT Artistic Director Charles Towers. “Some are MRT returnees along with a lot of new faces (or I should say ‘voices’ since speaking the words is the primary focus of a staged reading). We have actors coming from New York, L.A. and Boston who all reflect MRT’s usual caliber of acting talent. There’s no question that these eight performances are going to be a gas.”

The creative team for “Beat Generation” includes MRT Artistic Director Charles Towers (director), David Towlun (scenic design), Deb Newhall (costume design), Brian Lilienthal (lighting design) and Christine Hamel (dialect coach). Jeff Robinson will be featured on saxophone.

“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 counterculture as only Kerouac could. Taking place five years after the last road trip that ended the novel “On the Road,” “Beat Generation” follows a group of friends based on Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and others, over the course of one day in 1955 as they visit various locations around New York City and converse on philosophy, spirituality, and horse racing, among other topics. Written in Kerouac’s loose, jazz-prose style, the play is both a comedic look inside the Beat movement and a reaffirmation of the power of friendship.

MRT and UMass Lowell’s production of “Beat Generation” will be performed as staged reading. Actors will carry scripts, and there will be an abstract set to represent the three locations – a New York apartment, the race track, and Neal Cassady’s ranch house. Actors will be in costume, and there will be props, lights, sound, and music from a live saxophone player.

The play’s premiere is being presented in Lowell with the support and collaboration of UMass Lowell’s Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for the Public Humanities and Kerouac Literary Estate representative John Sampas.

For more information on the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival, please visit http://www.uml.edu/artsandideas

“Beat Generation” is sponsored by UMass Lowell, with additional support from 92.5 The River. MRT’s 2012-2013 Season is sponsored by LowellBank. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

CAST BIOS

Tony Crane (Buck) Film: Simone, Down with the Joneses, The War of the Roses. Television: Ugly Betty, Third Watch, Judging Amy, C.S.I, Touched by an Angel, Frasier Broadway: Butley, Sight Unseen.

Joey Collins (Milo) MRT: Beasley’s Christmas Party. Film and TV: Dottie’s Thanksgiving Pickle with Olympia Dukakis, Kidnapped, Law & Order, Guiding Light, All My Children
Broadway: Vieux Carre, Rock n Roll. New York: Beasley’s Christmas Party

Che Ayende (Jule/Julius Chauncy) Film and Television: Person of Interest, Surviving Family, The Good Wife, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, As the World Turns. New York Theatre: King Lear, Timon of Athens, Inked Baby

Larry Bull (Slim Summerville) Broadway: The Coast of Utopia: Voyage, The Coast of Utopia: Shipwreck, The Coast of Utopia: Salvage. New York Theatre: Kenneth – What is the Frequency?, Kirby

Armin Shimerman (Tommy) TV: Best known for his role as “Quark” on Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and a recurring role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Perception, Boston Legal, Girls Club, The West Wing, Charmed, Invisible Man, The Practice, Brooklyn Bridge. Film: Atlas Shrugged, Who Slew Simon Thaddeus Mulberry…, Star Trek Insurrection, Blind Date. Broadway: Three Penny Opera, St. Joan, Broadway, I Remember Mama.

Elise Arsenault (Vicki) Film/Television/Internet: Taste of You, Interchanges, Heroine Project, The Envelope. New York Theatre: Eclectic Eve of Shorts.

Brian Quijada (Manuel) Regional: How We Got On, The People Speak, Live!, A Christmas Carol, The Fantasticks

Kitty Swink (Woman at the Tracks/Mrs. Bishop) Film: I am I, The Selling, Hard to Come By, Patty Hearst (directed by Paul Schrader), Like Father Like Son, In the Mood (plus many more) Television: South of Nowhere (recurring), For the People Harry’s Law, Law and Order: LA, Leverage, Judging Amy (two episodes), Star Trek DS9 (two episodes), Monk, Without a Trace, Crossing Jordan, (plus many more, as well as six movies of the week) Off-Broadway: Augustus Does His Bit, Great Nebula in Orion, The Lugosi Trilogy. Regional: The Cavalcaders, Florida Stage; Love’s Labours’ Lost, The Barter; Little Heart, Center Theatre Group; Boldgirls, Dangerous Corner (Ovation and LA Drama Critic nominations), The Matrix Theatre Co.; Juno and the Paycock, The Odyssey Theatre; Macbeth, The Autumn Garden; Tonight at 8:30, Antaeus Theater Co.; Oedipus Cycle, (plus many more) Ken Cavander; Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, (plus many more) The Tiffany Theatre.

Stephanie Bates (A Blonde) Film: Opioid Overdose: A Hidden Danger. Regional: The Nutcracker, New England Civic Ballet

Ari Butler (Irwin) Film/Television: Coming Up Roses (with Bernadette Peters) Off-Broadway/New York: Poetic License, 59E59; Fugue (Director Judith Ivey), Cherry Lane Theater; Dreyfus in Rehearsal, The Beckett at Theater Row. Regional: The Shape of Things, Stanford Theater Works; How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (Finch), Drayton Festival; Broadway Bound, Crossing Delancy, Forestburgh Playhouse; Heir, Prince Theater; Bye Bye Birdie, North Shore Music Theater; Disney’s Aladdin, Hyperion Theater.

William Connell (Paul) MRT: The Voice of the Turtle. Television: The Twylight Zones, Law & Order, Gossip Girl, Guiding Light. New York Theatre: Alphabetical Order, A View from the Bridge, The Tempest

Tamara Hickey (Cora) MRT: Aunt Dan and Lemon Film/Television: In Your Eyes (with Zoe Kazan), It All Happens Incredibly Fast (Independent), Against The Ropes (with Meg Ryan) TV: The Makeover (ABC), The Gilded Lilys (ABC Pilot), Army Wives (Lifetime), One Life to Live (ABC) Off-Broadway/New York: The Wrath of Aphrodite (Aphrodite) – The Barrow Group Arts Center; Present Tense (Anais) – Ensemble Studio Theatre. Regional: Living In Exile (Briseis) – Actors’ Shakespeare Project; Cabaret

Christopher James Webb (Mezz McGillicuddy) Film and Television: Shutter Island, Hands of the Nocturnal Clock, Meet the Mayfarers, Meat Me In Plainville

Seumas F. Sargent (The Bishop) Film and TV: Art and Consequences, Caledirao, Tatort, Water, Mitte. New York Theatre: Blue Man Group.



STAR OF THE SHIELD SAYS TO CHECK OUT MRT

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!



HOMESTEAD CROSSING REVIEWS
September 14, 2012, 9:29 am
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SEE WHY CRITICS LOVE HOMESTEAD CROSSING

Homestead Crossing has been open for almost a week, with great reviews from surrounding critics. Check out the reviews from the Boston Globe, the Nashua Telegraph, and Broadway World. The show runs through September 30th, so if you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you can go to the Homestead Crossing show page and make sure you see this first-class show.

David Adkins, Ross Cowan, Lesley Shires and Corinna May in Homestead Crossing. Photo by Meghan Moore.

“Donnelly…has a gift for casting a spell on an audience before we even realize it’s happening.” –Boston Globe

Homestead Crossing is both smart and entertaining, making it a gem worthy to open the renovated theater.” –Nashua Telegraph

“Donnelly writes about life and love with insight, humor, authenticity, and a liberal dose of sarcasm tempered with tenderness.”-Broadway World



INTERVIEW WITH CORINNA MAY
September 12, 2012, 9:00 am
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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE CAST OF HOMESTEAD CROSSING: INTERVIEW WITH CORINNA MAY

Homestead Crossing premiered at MRT on Sunday, September 9th, and MRT has been interviewing the cast to get an inside look at the process of developing their characters. Corinna May, playing the part of Anne, speaks about her experiences so far.

Tell us about your character in Homestead Crossing

Anne is a middle-aged professional woman, happily married — and her 20+ year relationship with her husband has slipped into a comfortable routine. Maybe too comfortable.

How do you relate or connect with your character?

I identify with her sharp mind, her sense of humor, her strength, her willingness to give in to sudden impulses that would seem to come out of the blue. She’s tougher than I am, and her emotions are not nearly as close to the surface as mine tend to be — though we are both passionate, vital, curious, adventurous, she has lost or perhaps more accurately shut away that part of herself, and become rather buttoned-up.

David Adkins, Ross Cowan, Lesley Shires and Corinna May in Homestead Crossing. Photo by Meghan Moore.

What attracted you to audition for this role, and what was the process like?

The stars aligned in quite a magical way around this project; I knew Charles Towers and Kyle Fabel, and although we’d never worked together I’d seen and admired their work —and I was a fan of Bill’s as well, having seen his play No Wake, so I was thrilled to with the offer to play Anne. And the icing on the cake is that I’m playing opposite my real-life partner of 12 years, David Adkins!

Why do you think audiences will enjoy and connect with Homestead Crossing?

It’s a play that audiences of different ages will easily identify with: the characters, both the two twenty-somethings and the middle-aged pair are going through the sorts of passages that we all go through; and it’s also very, very funny as well as a bit mysterious. I believe audiences will be charmed, intrigued, and thoroughly entertained.

What are you most looking forward to in performing this play for a new audience here at MRT?

Being the first play in the newly-remodeled theatre at MRT is an honor – and doing a world premiere is always exciting. And since ultimately the audience is what makes theatre Theatre, I look most forward to creating this event with the MRT audience and hopefully getting to meet many of them and hear their responses and insights.



INTERVIEW WITH DAVID ADKINS
September 11, 2012, 9:00 am
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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE CAST OF HOMESTEAD CROSSING: INTERVIEW WITH DAVID ADKINS

Homestead Crossing premiered at MRT on Sunday, and David Adkins, the actor playing the character Noel, gave some insights about his role in the show.

Tell us about your character in Homestead Crossing

Noel is successful man in middle age who has stopped asking “what’s next in life…” He has become comfortable, even sedentary, and is surprised to find he was waiting for something to make him feel alive again.

How do you relate or connect with your character?

I’ve encountered times in my life where I’ve stopped asking “what’s the next challenge?” There is a saying: “do something that scares you” I think it’s important to shake things up once in a while… in a good way…

Lesley Shires and David Adkins in Homestead Crossing. Photo by Meghan Moore.

What attracted you to audition for this role, and what was the process like?

I didn’t audition. I worked with the director Kyle Fable and the writer Bill Donnelly on his last play “No Wake” and jumped at the chance to work with them again. The process proved to be just as exhilarating as the last time. Being in a room with talented people you like to work with is a blessing. And I especially wanted to work with my partner of many years, Corinna May.

Why do you think audiences will enjoy and connect with Homestead Crossing?

Well, first of all it’s funny… and two, any one who has been in a relationship will see parts of themselves in Noel and Annie, and in Claudia and Tobin…and have a good chuckle… at their own expense.

You have performed in past MRT productions. What are you looking forward to in returning to Lowell?

It’s simple. I really like the MRT organization. They make doing theatre fun, and do challenging, exciting plays. Charles Towers has brought together first rate people and Lowell is a great town. The architecture, the rivers, and the people all mix for a great theatre community and theatre experience for the out of town actor.



INTERVIEW WITH LESLEY SHIRES
September 10, 2012, 8:59 am
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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE CAST OF HOMESTEAD CROSSING: INTERVIEW WITH LESLEY SHIRES

Last night Homestead Crossing premiered at MRT in the newly renovated theater. Lesley Shires, playing the character of Claudia, responded to some questions about her character, in a recent interview.

Tell us about your character in Homestead Crossing

Claudia is a young girl who grew up in the foster system. She’s bright and sharp and beautifully uninhibited. She pops emotionally allowing herself to not be trapped in one feeling for very long. She is curious and in tune, savvy.

Corinna May, Lesley Shires, and David Adkins in Homestead Crossing. Photo by Meghan Moore.

How do you relate or connect with your character?

I understand the happiness in her longing. To me there is still a fairy tale in her, the belief that there can be and is a dreamlike outcome. I understand that perfectly. I believe it too.

What attracted you to audition for this role, and what was the process like?

The process is joyously ongoing. I still feel like I learn something new every night. In a world premiere you are the original. You can paint Claudia any way you imagine within the world of the play. I was attracted to that and the humor originally. Throughout it has been a layering of past events and sadness and forward momentum.

I wanted to uncover the truth behind her actions without weighing her down and I’m still doing that.

Why do you think audiences will enjoy and connect with Homestead Crossing?

It’s genuine. It’s not a shock value, current event piece. It will come into your home and cause you to see and laugh at yourself.

What are you most looking forward to in performing this play for a new audience here at MRT?

Fresh energy. New words from Bill. New atmosphere, space, temperature. I think everything will inform us in a new way. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow.



BEAT GENERATION OPEN CALL SEPT 8
August 16, 2012, 9:40 am
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BEAT GENERATION OPEN CALL SEPT 8

MRT will be holding an open call for select roles in our one-week/eight performance staged reading of Beat Generation by Jack Kerouac. Production details and dates are below. Actors should only attend the audition if they are available for ALL rehearsal and production times. Most available roles have a few lines only or are non-speaking. Some actors will be asked to do a cold reading at the call.


Audition Date: Saturday, September 8th

10:30am for Female Caucasians in their 20’s and 30’s.

12:00pm for Female Caucasians in their 60’s.

Location:

Merrimack Repertory Theatre Administrative Offices

132 Warren St.

Lowell, MA 01852

Production Dates:

Rehearsals: Friday, October 5th – Wednesday, October 10th. Rehearsals will be held between 11:00 am and 11:00 pm. MUST BE AVAIALBE FOR full rehearsal period.

Performances: Wednesday, October 10th – Sunday, October 14th on the following schedule:

Wednesday at 7:30

Thursday at 2:00 & 7:30

Friday at 8:00

Saturday at 4:00 & 8:00

Sunday at 2:00 & 7:00