It’s a wild world out there for anyone attempting to produce live performances for local audiences. The cautionary tales shared in hushed tones over a cast party buffet are many. Local theater companies fueled by big personalities, a core of talented performers and unique artistic interpretations of the work still face the challenges of finding their audience, raising funding and avoiding box office misfires.
Thankfully, there is still a growing number of new groups with the talent, drive and a boatload of new ideas to keep our theater listings overflowing. Here’s a rundown of some promising newcomers you should check out and support this year.
WomensWork Theatre Collaborative: WomensWorkTheatre@gmail.com, artists-exchange.org. One of the more exciting new groups on the horizon is WomensWork, a creative collective conceived by well-known 2nd Story Theatre executive director and actress Lynne Collinson. Working out of Artists’ Exchange in Cranston, the group is focused on creating more meaningful theatrical opportunities for women – especially those over 40. Creative director Collinson explains, “We want mature women to be in the driver’s seat where their talent and expertise can be put to work to make great theater.” The group will stage their inaugural production this October with Susan Miller’s My Left Breast, starring local stalwarts MJ Daly, Joanne Fayan and Rae Mancini, and directed by Colllinson.
West Bay Community Theater: @wbctheater, wbctheater.org. Hot off their successful GoFundMe campaign to file the requisite 501(c)3 paperwork to become a non-profit, The West Bay Community Theater is a welcome addition to the West Bay area cultural scene. The group’s mission is to provide an outlet for creative community involvement while seeking to produce quality entertainment. Group president Terry Shea explains, “We’re filling a need for the West Bay communities of North Kingstown, East Greenwich and the surrounding areas to have a local theater company.”
Re-Imagine Theater Company: FB: @reimaginetheatre. Only a little over a year old, Re-Imagine Theater Company has a distinct mission to explore what it means to identify as a woman despite, and because of, societal expectations. This goal is front and center in their ’18-’19 season Re-Imagine Femininity: Defying Expectations, a collection of plays written and directed by women. With their September season opener, The Rover, female playwright Aphra Behn’s 1677 play challenges society’s division of women into the virgin-whore-wife tropes and then lets the full spectrum of feminine power fly. Re-Imagine’s planned duo of Wendy Wasserstein plays The Heidi Chronicles and Uncommon Women and Others, being performed in rep this March, intrigues me to no end. Rebecca Maxfield, artistic director of Head Trick Theatre, is helming Uncommon Women, and Maxfield has a proven talent of breathing new life and relevancy into often forgotten plays.
JDP Theatre Company: FB @JDPTheatreco, jdptheatreco.com. Putting the spotlight on the younger set, JDP Theatre Company is a community theater made up solely of actors ages 11 to 25. The group’s leaders, Jillian Gesualdi, Jessica Mayette and Judy dePerla, explain that JDP Theatre Co. strives to be “inclusive, accessible and professional…” with the goal of providing their young performers with “a sense of freedom, family and home.” Currently the group is raising money for a permanent home, but in the meantime, the good folks at Barker Playhouse are hosting their production of Legally Blonde: The Musical, set to hit the board in early 2019.
Attitude Check Theatre Company: @AttitudeCheckTheater, attitudecheck.org. These “friendly neighborhood theater kids” known for their Rocky Horror Picture Show casts are on forced hiatus from their digs at Patriot Cinema; you need to keep an eye out for their next “Baked-speare” event. Yes. “Baked-speare” — as in a cannabis-infused take on Billy Shakes. This summer the group teamed up with Pirate Girl Smoke Boutique in Plymouth, Mass, to present a series of sold-out “baked” staged readings of Much Ado About Nothing. I have high hopes for future events from these fertile minds.
A Common Thread Theatre Company: FB @ACommonThreadTheatre, acommonthreadtheatre.org. Rachel Baril, founding member of A Common Thread Theatre in Framingham, Mass, tells me that the new group is committed to “bringing the community together through the arts” with a keen eye to keeping a theater ticket actually affordable. Baril directed the group’s recent production of the Stephen Schwartz Biblical epic musical, Children of Eden, which featured a multi-generational cast and played to family-friendly audiences. While the group itself is new, Baril and the group’s members have been creating theater in the greater Boston area for years. Stay tuned to see what the group’s second season has in store.
The Studio at The Edward King House: edwardkinghouse.org, firstname.lastname@example.org. This “fabulously hidden treasure” of an acting group has been making theater for the past year and a half, nestled in the historic The Edward King House Senior Center. Producer Carmela Geer (also executive director of the Edward King House) is joined by director Rob Reimer in staging their newest production, Doubt, in the Newport venue’s black box theater this October.
Seaside Stage Society: @SeasideStageSociety. Seaside Stage Society was founded in 2016 by recent Emerson College grad and Newport native Morgan Capodilupo. Judging from the group’s site-specific production of Macbeth (set in a playground) and Hamlet (set in Newport’s Emmanuel Church), their commitment to “bringing various mediums of theater” to Newport has been well met. I was also happy to see familiar names among the cast of their recent production of Hamlet. Graham Stokes appeared alongside his father, well known actor/lawyer Ralph Stokes, and Samantha Geer, the emerging “next generation” talent of actors Greg and Stacey Geer.
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