Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Current and Upcoming Plays in New England

Currently (or Soon to Be) on stage in the coming month:

At The Huntington in Boston, Kate Burton and her real-life son Morgan Ritchie face off as the teacher and student in the classic “The Corn is Green” now through February 8th. Here is a review in The Boston Globe, and another review online at the Examiner.

Harvard University’s American Repertory Theater will present “End Game” by Samuel Beckett February 14th through March 15th.

The Majestic Theater of West Springfield, Massachusetts presents the comedy “Lumberjacks in Love” by Fred Alley and James Kaplan until February 15th.

Boston’s Colonial Theater currently features “Frost/Nixon” starring Stacy Keach through February 8th.

The Bushnell of Hartford, Connecticut will present the musical “Jersey Boys” from February 4th through February 22nd.

“Peer Gynt” by Henrik Ibsen opened last night at Maine’s Portland Stage Company, and will run through February 22nd.

If you have an opportunity to see any of these shows, please let us know and share your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ruth Gordon at the Cape Playhouse

Above is from a Cape Playhouse playbill of the week of August 12, 1935.

“Were you ever in Dennis? There’s not a whole lot of it,” so writes actress, playwright, and author Ruth Gordon in her autobiography, “My Side” (Harper & Row, NY, 1976). She describes coming to Dennis to perform the above play, “Saturday’s Children” by Maxwell Anderson in the summer of 1935.

The Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Mass. was founded by Raymond Moore in 1927. Photos here of Mr. Moore and the Cape Playhouse are from a booklet on “The Cape Playhouse and the Cape Cinema” from the late 1930s.

Transformed from a former Unitarian meeting house, The Cape Playhouse opened with Basil Rathbone in the theater’s first production, “The Guardsmen” on July 4, 1927. Many stars have performed there since, to be discussed on this blog in future.

Ruth Gordon’s wistful observations of her appearance that year at the Cape Playhouse for “A Church Mouse” have a somber edge to them, as she recounts that while she stayed at Mrs. Wittemore’s boarding house during her run, another member of the company stayed in a small cottage on the nearby salt marsh. Miss Gordon wondered why Margaret Bellinger stayed there instead.

“Were there no more rooms or was it because Margaret was black? In 1935, what would you think?”

After Miss Gordon appeared in “A Church Mouse”, the management asked her to stay another week to perform in the play “The Bride the Sun Shines On” because the star they hired did not arrive. Such was the scramble of summer theater in its early days.

Other actors stayed at Mrs. Whittemore’s as Ruth Gordon did, but not all the borders were actors. There was a grocery store across the road where telegrams could be sent. She wired her friend playwright Thornton Wilder to come down to see the play, and he did. They ate lunch at the Motor Car Inn, which Miss Gordon describes as expensive. This was probably The Sign of the Motor Car at the Bass River Golf Club in South Yarmouth. According to an ad in this same program for “Saturday’s Children”, luncheons and dinners went from $1 to $2.75.

Expensive, yes, for 1935. Tickets for the Cape Playhouse at that time ran from 50 cents to $2 for a matinee, and 50 cents to $2.50 for an evening performance. The highest priced dinner at the Motor Car cost more than the best seat at the Playhouse.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Intro to Theatre 101

This is to introduce a new blog on theater in New England. The New England states have a rich tradition in theater, even though it was banned in Massachusetts in the mid-18th century. Somewhere along the line our fascination with the footlights overcame our suspicion, mostly.

One hundred years later railroads brought stock companies, and with the advent of the automobile and the heyday of summer stock, actors who had been or would be famous in films were well-known to local audiences in West Falmouth, Cape Cod; Williamstown, Mass.; Westport, Connecticut; East Haddam, Connecticut; Harrison, Maine; and Skowhegan, Maine.

Many actors started their careers here, in some cases in theaters that were no more than a barn in a field, a boathouse on a pier. Past and present come together in the theater, where present-day performances of classics, or just well-worn chestnuts are spiritedly referred to as “revivals”, as if they never really expire, as if the last act was never called.

If you are a member of the theatrical community, which always includes patrons, then I hope you’ll find this blog a resource for current productions and a place of nostalgia for New England’s rich theater past. If you have any memories you’d like to share, just leave your comments. We’d all like to hear them.

I’ll be posting every Wednesday. Think of it as a Wednesday matinee.

On with the show. Places, please….