Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Stock and Upcoming Plays

We begin the summer season with another round of upcoming plays in New England. Some of these represent summer stock, an aspect of the New England theatre that is a particular favorite of mine.

Back when modern American theatre was flourishing, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the theaters would close in summer. There was no air conditioning then, and the wealthier patrons left the city in summertime anyway. Summer stock arose out of the two new features of modern life: the automobile, and summer vacationers. Summer stock gave young performers cutting their teeth in “stock” companies a chance to perform with major stars who went on the circuit after their engagements were concluded after the regular season ended. It allowed vacationers in remote Cape Cod, Maine, Vermont, the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, and along the Connecticut shore, to enjoy legitimate theater without heading for the big cities, and without the top hat and tails. Summer whites were all that was required, and straw boaters.

More on the history of summer theatre in New England as the summer progresses, along with a few current plays.

Here are what’s playing for the final shows of the regular season for some theaters, and the first shows of this season’s summer stock:

At the Ridgefield Theater Barn, Ridgefield, Connecticut we have the musical “Camelot” by Lerner and Lowe, from May 29th through June 27th, directed by Craig David Rosen.

The Berkshire Theater Festival of Stockbridge, Mass. presents “Faith Healer” written by Brian Friel and directed by Eric Hill, with David Adkins, Colin Lane, and Keira Naughton from May 21st through July 4th.

The Goodspeed Opera House of Haddam, Connecticut is running “Lucky Guy,” a new musical until June 14th. Their production of “42 Street” runs until June 28th.

The Lakewood Theater of Lakewood, Maine, which bills itself as America’s Oldest Summer Theater, is presenting “Rumors” by Neil Simon, directed by Jeff Quinn. The cast features Bart Shattuck, Jeralyn Shattuck, Cheryl Seamans, Cory King, MJ Clifford, Jeff Quinn, Gary Dorman, Christine Demchak and Jason Hilton. The show runs May 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 8:00 p.m.; May 24th 4:00 p.m.; and May 27th 2:00 p.m . The Lakewood Theater is in Madison Maine, just north of Skowhegan.

The New Century Theatre of Northampton, Mass. opens its summer season with “Last of The Red Hot Lovers” by Neil Simon June 18-27th. The show is directed by Jack Neary.

The Peterborough Players, of Peterborough, New Hampshire present “I Remember Mama”, the classic by John van Druten on June 3, 5, and 6 at 8 p.m., and June 7th at 2 p.m. Some of the area’s best high school actors will work alongside professional actors Kathy Manfre, Ken Sheldon, and Michael Dell’Orto. Artistic Director Gus Kaikkonen directs.

Hartford, Connecticut’s The Bushnell presents the musical “The Color Purple” June 9th through 14th.

The Huntington in Boston presents “Pirates! (Or, Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder'd)” by Gilbert and Sullivan, directed by Gordon Greenberg in the Boston University Theater - main stage through June 14th.

The New London Barn Playhouse in New London, Connecticut opens its summer season with their “52nd Annual Straw Hat Revue” directed by Charles Massey June 11th through 14th. “Join the 2009 Intern Company as they introduce themselves and their formidable talent to our audiences. This barn tradition is free to the public but fills quickly so get your tickets early!”

The famed Ogunquit Playhouse begins its summer season in Ogunquit, Maine with the musical “A Chorus Line” featuring Lorenzo Lamas, through June 13th.

Westport, Connecticut’s Westport Country Playhouse presents “Children” by A. R. Gurney, directed by John Tillinger, through June 13th.

The heyday of summer stock in New England occurred in the 1940s through the 1960s, sometimes called the “straw hat circuit.” I hope you’ll just us in the weeks ahead for a look back, and a peek at what’s happening now, and share with us your memories of attending summer stock plays.

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