Dec 03

The Status of Post-quarantine Community Theatre in Eastern Massachusetts: An Interview with Kai Chao

Headshot of Kai Chao.

Interview by Kitty Drexel

EMACT website

Boston’s indoor mask mandate was lifted on March 5, 2022 according to the City’s government website. Residents and visitors to Boston are not required to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces such as gyms, bars and restaurants, museums, and entertainment venues.

Many Boston theatre companies still require their patrons to wear face masks when attending professional, live theatre events. Professional theatre companies are guided by union rules but are free to establish their own masking requirements.

The Huntington in Boston strongly encourages masks at evening performances and requires them at matinees. A few blocks away, The Lyric Stage Company encourages masks but doesn’t enforce them. One mile farther, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre requires masks at all performances.

Community theatre companies are not obligated to follow the rules of the Actors’ Equity Association. Director, choreographer, and photographer Kai Chao is the President of Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres (EMACT). He graciously agreed to discuss the state of our post-quarantine community theatre in New England.

Please note: this interview has been edited for length, clarity, and grammar. Continue reading

Nov 23

A call to action: Time is of the essence for arts & culture policy

A gathering tour by the MASSCreative
Presented by MASSCreative

Friday, November 18, 2022
MASSCreative on Facebook

Article by Afrikah Smith

ONLINE — After the winning victory of elected State Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll in the Massachusetts midterm election, will the state’s arts & culture sector be ready to advocate for policy and legislation in January 2023?

MASSCreative has taken action in touring around the state, both virtually and in-person, to hear from institutions, cultural leaders, creative advocates, and artists about the top priorities from the sector. Geared towards a conversation between MASSCreative staff and attendees, the gatherings tour offers the opportunity for all to connect and discuss the ways that federal, state, and local governments can push and ensure the sector to become stronger, more equitable, and better funded. Continue reading

Nov 18

Safe But Not Sorry*: “The Play That Goes Wrong”

Photo by Mark. S. Howard.

Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston 
By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields
Directed by Fred Sullivan, Jr.
Stunt Coordinator/Fight Captain: Michael Liebhauser
Scenic Design by Peter Colao
Run Crew: Hazel Peters, Talene Pogherian
Featuring Kelby T. Akin, Alexa Cadete, Nora Eschenheimer, Dan Garcia,
Mitch Kiliulis, Michael Liebhauser, Marc Alexander Pierre, and Dan Whelton. Understudies: Margaret Clark, Patrick French, and Matt C. Ryan.

November 11 – December 18, 2022
Lyric Stage Co.
140 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116

Approximately two hours, including one intermission.
This production uses strobe lighting and fog effects. There is one live simulated gunshot in Act 2.

Review by Kitty Drexel

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” — G. K. Chesterton

BOSTON, Mass — Chesterton was a Christian philosopher who argued, with this statement, that most things are done by novices who do those things imperfectly. This Chesterton saying goes along with the Voltaire-attributed aphorism, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” 

Neither Chesterton nor Voltaire was responsible for a cast of accident-prone actors or an elaborate set determined by fate to destroy itself on opening night. Not even Voltaire, the paragon of eighteenth-century French amateur and society theatre, could have imagined The Play That Goes Wrong.  Continue reading

Nov 09

A kind stop for death: “Lighting”

Photo courtesy of David Weiland.

Presented by Double Edge Theatre
Lightning
Directed and devised by DE Design Director Jeremy Louise Eaton
and co-created with the DE Company (Amanda Miller, Dylan Young, Phoebe Hiltermann, Ewa Timingeriu)
Lighting and sound design by John Peitso

My Soul is in Command: a tragi-comic musical creep show
Conceived, written, performed by Robert Carlton
With guidance from Jennifer Johnson

November 4-6, 2022
Performed at The Farm
948 Conway Road
Ashfield, MA MA 01330

Review by Maegan Bergeron-Clearwood

Leaving the barn performance space at Double Edge Theatre this weekend felt like stumbling off of a merry-go-round. As my friend and I removed our masks and breathed in the fresh farm air, our eyes drifted upward; for a breath or two, we found ourselves stunned by the moon spinning through the sky, until we realized it was just the clouds, not the universe, drifting across our gaze. I’m not sure if we would have fallen under the spell of this cosmic optical illusion if we hadn’t just emerged from Lightning, a dizzying, trickster-y performance that blurred the edges between dream and reality. Continue reading

Oct 17

A Season of Farewells in Western MA: KO Festival of Performance and the Royal Frog Ballet

“The Surrealist Cabaret” by The Royal Frog Ballet. Image from Frog Ballet/Facebook

The KO Festival of Performance
FLUSHING: Make Room for Someone Else
Presented by Sandglass Theater and Parris-Bailey Arts
Written and Performed by Linda Parris-Bailey and Eric Bass
Directed by Kathie deNobriga
Puppets by Ines Zeller Bass
Hampshire College
July 22 – 24, 2022

EZELL: Ballad of a Land Man
Presented by Clear Creek Creative
Written and Performed by Bob Martin
Directed by Nick Silie
Hampshire College, Amherst MA
July 29 – 31, 2022

The Royal Frog Ballet
Surrealist Cabaret
Park Hill Orchard, Easthampton, MA
October 7 – 8, 2022

Review by Maegan Bergeron-Clearwood

Western Mass — Theatre artists should be experts in grief: we build sets with the knowledge that we will strike them in a few brief months; we play trust games and cultivate micro-communities, only to part ways once our contracts end; we witness our art fade from memory as quickly as it’s brought to life. We are peddlers in ephemera. And yet, when it comes time to bid farewell to a process or project, it is sometimes nigh-impossible to release our white-knuckled hold on what-was.

This year, two long-standing Western Massachusetts theatre companies – both dedicated to producing work that is fresh, surprising, and even strange – reckoned with their own relationships to endings, grief, and release.

The KO Festival of Performance staged its 31st and final season this summer around the theme of “Stepping Up / Stepping Back.” KO has a storied history of producing original work, supporting local and visiting artists, and cultivating a sense of community through post-show discussions and workshops. Continue reading

Oct 01

Where’er the Surge May Sweep: “Ada and the Engine”

Mishy Jacobson in Ada and the Engine. Photo: Nile Scott Studios.

Presented by Central Square Theater
Brit d’Arbeloff Women in Science Production
A Catalyst Collaborative@MIT Production
Written by Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Debra Wise
Choreography by Judith Chaffee
Featuring Kortney Adams, Diego Arciniegas, Mishy Jacobsen, and John Hardin

The online playbill

September 22 to October 23, 2022
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

Critique by Kitty Drexel

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Lauren Gunderson’s Ada and the Engine at Central Square Theater is not either’s best work. Central Square Theater has produced better shows and produced better shows by Gunderson. Gunderson has written better plays.

Ada and the Engine is problematic, and the script has problems. It reorganizes the life of English mathematician Augusta “Ada” King, Countess of Lovelace to tell a unique story about the intersection of computational science and gender roles. It approximates Ada Lovelace’s life to continue the discussion about the uphill battle women face in STEM.  Continue reading

Jul 18

Edith Wharton’s Intelude: “Mr. Fullerton, Between the Sheets”

Photo by Jason Grow. Newhouse as Wharton.

Presented by Gloucester Stage Company
By Annie Undeland
Directed by Judy Braha
Featuring Sarah Newhouse* as Edith Wharton, Ryan Winkles* as Morton Fullerton, Joshua Wolf Coleman* as Henry James, and Bridgette Hayes as Posy.

June 8 – 22, 2022
Gloucester Stage Company Theater
267 East Main St
Gloucester, MA

95 minutes without intermission

Review by Craig Idlebrook

GLOUCESTER, Mass. — How do you bring an iconic author’s love letters to life? That was the unenviable task that playwright Annie Undeland volunteered to do when she came across the letters Edith Wharton wrote to a lover during an extramarital affair. In reading the letters, Undeland has said she was struck how Wharton, who was known to be a refined and biting observer of Gilded Age society, became so nakedly besotted and unguarded, like any fool in love. Continue reading

Jun 11

Believe Victims, Listen to Black Women: “The Light” at the Lyric Stage

Photo by Mark S Howard; Dominic Carter and Yewande Odetoyinbo.

Presented by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston
By Loy A. Webb
Directed by Jacqui Parker
Intimacy direction by Ted Hewlett
COVID safety officer: Emily Collins
Music credit: “Natural High” from the EP “After Hours,” Allyssa Jones feat. Apollo Payton
Featuring: Dominic Carter and Yewande Odetoyinbo

June 3-June 26, 2022
Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116
The Playbill 
70 minutes with no intermission

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON — The Light at Lyric State of Boston demands its audience believe victims, to listen to them. Trust their stories; lead with compassion. 

In a 2020 article by the American Psychological Association, “Black Women Often Ignored by Social Justice Movements,” lead researcher Stewart Coles said “Black women are often overlooked in people’s conversations about racism and sexism even though they face a unique combination of both of these forms of discrimination simultaneously.” Continue reading

Jun 04

Could be Better, Could be Worse: American Repertory Theater’s “1776”


Presented by American Repertory Theater
Produced in association with Roundabout Theatre Company
Book by Peter Stone
Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Based on a Concept by Sherman Edwards
Directed by Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus
Music Direction by Ryan Cantwell
Choreography by Jeffrey L. Page
Music Supervision by David Chase
Orchestrations by John Clancy
Vocal Design by AnnMarie Milazzo
Dialect Coaching (NYC) by Dawn-Elin Fraser
Dialect Coaching (Cambridge) by Erika Bailey
Fight Direction by Thomas Schall

May 17 – July 24, 2022
Loeb Drama Center
Cambridge, MA
Run Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission

The mask goes over your nose.

Critique by Kitty Drexel

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Contemporary performances of Stone & Edwards’ 1776 are a response to Hamilton. The 1997 Broadway revival production at the Roundabout Theatre had an all white, all cis male cast (with Star Trek TNG’s Brent Spiner in the role of John Adams). American Repertory Theater tries something different with its 2022 production. It is largely successful thanks to the brave, button-pushing performances of its actors. 

1776 is the reproduction of the infamous congressional meetings that lead to the United States’ declaration of independence on July 4, 1776. John Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry), Benjamin Franklin (Patrena Murray), and Thomas Jefferson (Elizabeth A. Davis) cajole the members of the Continental Congress into voting for American independence from British tyranny.  Continue reading

May 23

USDAC, the Arts & Mutual Aid: “Artists and Healers as Essential to Recovery from Crisis: A Reflection on Trying Times”

Images from the event. This discussion featured jackie sumell (The Prisoner’s Apothecary), Auntie Sewing Squad, Ana Rodney, and Taja Lindley.

A discussion presented by The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) with 18th Street Arts Center, in L.A.
Part of WE RISE 2022
Friday, May 20, 2022 6 pm-7:30 pm ET
ONLINE 
We Rise 2022 on Facebook
U.S. Department of Arts and Culture on Facebook

Review by Afrikah Smith

“As we have seen time and time again, when the governments fail us, it’s the people who come together and help communities survive…”  —Raquel de Anda, panel facilitator

ZOOM — Presented by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the discussion centered on the intersection of arts and mutual aid and what it means to create and be in community with one another. Emphasizing the ways that are anti-oppressive and that uplift and respect one another in community, the panel featured jackie sumell of The Solitary Gardens & Prisoner’s Apothecary, Kristina Wong and the Auntie Sewing Squad, Ana Rodney of MomCares, and interdisciplinary artist Taja Lindley. All whose work exemplified art, healing, and mutual aid efforts through the lenses of abolition, radical care, reproductive justice, transformative justice, and racial justice. Continue reading