SpeakEasy Stage produces three new plays in spring season

Posted on January 19, 2021 by Leave a comment

SpeakEasy Stage Company is forging full speed ahead in its 30th anniversary season, with the New England premieres of three new, socially-relevant plays this spring. Each will be fully produced and professionally filmed, with the goal of offering a viewing experience as close to live theatre as possible. 

Playing March 5-11

  Up first is “The Pink Unicorn” by Elise Forier Edie, playing March 5-11. Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara and starring Stacy Fischer, it’s about Trisha Lee, who considers herself open-minded and accepting, at least compared to other mothers in her conservative Texas hometown. Her life comes under attack when her teenager Jo comes out as transgender and gay. The hilarious, heartfelt play traces Trisha’s journey from tolerance to acceptance to solidarity. 

Playing April 16-22

  “TJ Loves Sally 4 Ever,” playing April 16-22, is a wildly irreverent, whip-smart satire by award-winning playwright James Ijames. Directed by Pascal Florestal, in partnership with Boston Conservatory at Berklee, the show dissects a sordid slice of American history with the goal of re-imagining the future. It involves Sally, a young Black college student and her attempts to dismantle certain legacies when she’s faced with unwanted advances from TJ, the college’s white dean of students.

Playing June 4-10

  “The Boston Project: Project Resiliency” closes the season June 4-10. It will feature five new, site-specific, 10-minute plays, written by Boston playwrights and commissioned by SpeakEasy, that celebrate the resilience that sees us through each day — even in these tough times.

  “We wish we could all be together to experience these great plays,” said Paul Daigneault, the company’s founder and artistic director, “but know you will enjoy watching these smart, thought-provoking, and entertaining productions.”

   Subscriptions for the three-play series is $75 at www.speakeasystage.com.

In the wings

MRT GRANT: Merrimack Repertory Theatre — the Lowell-based MRT — recently received a Cultural Organization Economic Recovery grant of $100,000 from the Mass Cultural Council. The program, administered by the Mass Cultural Council, in partnership with the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, as part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s Economic Recovery Plan, helps to support cultural nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is essential to MRT’s survival as it nears the one-year anniversary of its shutdown. “We need this funding to survive until we can reopen,” said executive director Bonnie J. Butkas, in a press release expressing MRT’s thanks. She noted that the funding will help pay artists and arts workers who have been impacted by the pandemic.  MRT hopes to produce a limited series beginning in late March. Visit www.mrt.org for updates.

CANNON AUDITIONS: Littleton’s Cannon Theatre, which has been dark for almost a year, is excited for its next foray — and it’s out of this world. Coming in the spring is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show” by Douglas Adams. Auditions are starting now. To try out, email Jerry McMahon, the director, at jmcmahon@thecannontheatre.org. He will send cast hopefuls a portion of the script to the radio show, and they, in turn, will record the part they want and email it back to him. Contact McMahon via email with questions.

A DOGGONE REMINDER: Don’t forget the virtual performances of “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday-Saturday, January 22-23. It’s being produced by Lowell-based Dramatically Incorrect Theater Group & Dance Company. For info, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/2617933421831894/.

At Seacoast Rep late January until March 21.

NH SCENE: Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth opens its Mainstage season on January 28-March 21 with two short plays by Najee Brown, available live and livestreamed. “Stokely & Martin” is an imagined depiction of a real-life discussion between Martin Luther King, Jr., the recognized father of the civil rights movement, and a young Stokely Carmichael, who challenged King with a confrontational call for “Black power” and opposition to the Vietnam War. Brown’s second play, “Nevaeh’s Brother” depicts the familial love between an African-American woman and her younger brother, who’s in trouble and on the run. The plays, when staged together, represent a whole that could be entitled “Black Nobility, Black Identity,” says Brown.  Tickets are $30-$48. Visit www.seacoastrep.org for details…Peterborough Players revives its popular Playgroup, a series of interactive, online workshops that “pull back the curtain” on theatre-making by exploring essential elements of the art form. The series begins February 12 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. with Bridget Beirne sharing insight into musical theatre. Free but space is limited and registration is required. To register, email info@peterboroughplayers.org and indicate “Playgroup – Beirne” in the subject line. Upcoming 

sessions include Theatrical Design on March 5 & 12 and another, TBA, on March 26 & April 2.

Nancye Tuttle’s email is nancyedt@verizon.net

ALL Gallery goes green with winter show

Posted on January 14, 2021 by Leave a comment

The holidays are over and January’s bleak days are here. The landscape is a composition of unrelieved gray, brown and white, and the city streets are littered with dinginess and rattling papers. 

  But even in mid-winter, spring’s promise beckons. And the Gallery of the Arts League of Lowell fulfills that promise with “Color It Green,” the new show on view through the end of February.

‘Vernal Force’ at the ALL Gallery

  The airy gallery at 307 Market Street, suffused with glowing hues even on the gloomiest days, features the works of 20 artists that capture the essence of greenness. The 47 works, spanning media and intention, include ceramics, works on paper, collage, cast and welded metal, fanciful woodworking and paintings.

‘Bridge Over the Garonne’ at the ALL Gallery

  Highlights include William Turville’s cleverly crafted full-size Adirondack chairs, Margaret Femia and Jeanne Kunze’s delicate drawings, Amy Hamlet’s vibrant collages and a towering ceramic fabrication by Bill Cohn.

  In addition, viewers will love the glowing green-blues of Pamela Wamala’s mixed media works, Meredith Fife Day’s vibrant watercolor landscape and Haroon Khimani’s layered work.

  Enticing titles appeal to anyone starved for springtime — “Vernal Force,” “Conemara Driveway,” “Garden of Eden,” “Up the Hill” and “Gateway to the Berkshires.”

  The Covid-compliant gallery is open 1-4 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday. Visit www.artsleagueoflowell.org.   

 Gallery notes

ART IN BLOOM – Another shot of springtime in January takes place today through Monday, January 18 at Art in Bloom Concord. The event is a collaboration between the Concord Museum, Garden Club of Concord and Concord Art. Garden Club members have created floral interpretations of entries in the exhibition “Members Juried I: Painting and Sculpture” at Concord Art and watercolors in the exhibition “HOME: Paintings by Loring W. Coleman” at the 

Art in Bloom this weekend in Concord.

Concord Museum. The designs will infuse winter with the promise of spring and reflect the art that inspires them. Floral designs will be on displayThursday, January 14 through Sunday, January 17 at Concord Art and on Saturday, January 16 through Monday, January 18 at the Concord Museum. Virtual programming will also be available. Please confirm visiting guidelines on Concord Art’s website www.concordart.org. Please reserve timed tickets online in advance of your Concord Museum visit. www.concordmuseum.org

HONORING MLK:  Concord Museum plans a virtual celebration honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., on Monday, January 18.  The virtual forum at 2 p.m. includes a conversation with Congressman Ro Khanna, whose grandfather was inspired by Henry David Thoreau and was jailed as part of Ghandi’s independence movement. Khanna, who represents California’s 17th Congressional district, will discuss King, Ghandi, Thoreau and non-violent protest with Tom Kane, the museum’s executive director. There will also be two short videos on civil disobedience. Free but please sign up at www.concordmuseum.org. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston will also host a free community celebration honoring King. Visit www.mfa.org for info. 

ON-LINE ART LESSONS: Nothing beats learning something new — especially during a pandemic. You can take online art classes from various venues, including the Worcester Art Museum. Visit www.worcesterart.org/classes.

PERFECTION: Boston Cyberarts Gallery presents the window exhibit “In the Future Everything Will be Perfect” by mixed-media artist Anne Spalter.  It runs Saturday, January 16-Sunday, February 21 and is on-view 24/7. It includes a series of uplifting, interactive works such as palm trees, astronauts in space, butterflies and more. The gallery is located at 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston.   

OOPS: Apologies to Lowell artist Janet Lambert Moore, who provided the photos of the late Edith Burger, Lowell artist and arts patron, for the appreciation on Burger published last week in this space. Due to a reporting error, the Whistler House Museum of Art was mistakenly credited for sharing the photos. Moore and Burger were friends and colleagues for over 70 years before Burger’s passing on December 20 at age 109. Nancye Tuttle’s email address is nancye

History At Play tells British theatre tale

Posted on January 12, 2021 by Leave a comment

Let’s hear it for the women who make history. That’s the philosophy of History At Play, the immersive living history experience that chronicles the lives of legendary women who changed society.

  It was created by Judith Kalaora, who writes solo pieces and portrays historical females like Dolley Madison and Hedy Lamarr. Kalaora also brings in acclaimed actors and historical interpreters to add more personalities to her stable of historic figures, notables who appear virtually every other Friday at 7:30 p.m.in a livestream performance.

  HAP jumps the pond on Friday, January 22, traveling to 18th-century England and the creation of a theatrical empire with “Mrs. Baker, Governess General of Kentish Theatre.” The performance features Kate Mechedou, an actress and historical interpreter, portraying Sarah Baker, a British theatre impresario. Kalaora will host the performance.

Kate Mechedou as Sarah Baker in upcoming History At Play performance.

  Baker was a dancer and single mom who used her business acumen to become one of the most successful self-made women of her day. The performance begins in 1776 as the widowed Baker assumes control of a rag-tag collection of performers. Viewers will experience the delight as her empire grows. But, as with all success, her troubles grow in direct proportion.

  Ultimately, they encounter an older — but not necessarily wiser — Mrs. Baker as she reveals her secret: How could a humble dancer afford to build a successful theatre empire? She muses on her own legacy, including inspiring one of Britain’s greatest writers, as the audience asks itself “who is responsible for creating a myth?”

  The performance lasts 45 minutes and is followed by a real-time audience Q&A.

  Pay-Per-HAP Livestream Series brings the vibrancy of theatrical history and educational escapism direct to your screen! HAP, LLC’s 2021 Pay-Per-HAP livestream programming is presented on the 2nd and 4th Friday of every month, at 7:30 PM ET (GMT-5). Episode access is granted at a Pay-What-You-Can rate of $10-$25, available at this Eventbrite link:  https://www.eventbrite.com/o/history-at-play-17409523528Episodes are viewable for 48 hours. BONUS MATERIALS, including primary sources, reputable information, and merchandise giveaways are shared after every episode! No refunds/date transfers. Patrons receive a link to view the program 24 hours prior to the event via email

  Other schedule Winter/Spring performances include Feb 12:  Cato & Dolly: A New American Play (Written by Patrick Gabridge)Starring HAP, LLC Troupe Members, Boston, MA

Feb 26:  CrispusAttucks, Revolutionary RecollectionsStarring Jon F. Rice, Chicago, IL

Mar 12:  Not Your Momma’s History; Starring Cheyney McKnight, New York City, NY

Mar 27:  Mrs. Nathanael Greene (“Lady Caty”); Starring Carin Bloom, Charleston, SC

In the wings

CONSERVATORY CLASSES: All manner of classes from “Folk & Fairytale” to “Teen Improv” to “West African Dance” are scheduled this winter in to spring at the Hanover Theatre Conservatory for the Performing Arts in Worcester. Over two dozen theatre arts classes are on the docket for kids, teens and adults, plus an array of dance classes that started in September but are accepting new mid-year students. In light of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, Conservatory staff decided to push out the start of the spring term. It now runs January 25-May 22, and they will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments accordingly. Visit https://tickets.thehanovertheatre.org/conservatory/Online/default.asp for classes and reservations. 

Classes start January 25 both in-person and on-line,

‘DOG SEES GOD’: The characters in the upcoming “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” sound similar to the Peanuts gang — only they are experiencing teen angst and anxieties after CB’s dog dies from rabies and he begins to question the existence of an afterlife. Presented virtually by the Dramatically Incorrect Theater Group & Dance Company of Lowell, performances are Friday-Saturday, January 22-23 at 7:30 p.m. Other dilemmas confronting CB include a burnt-out best friend, a little sister gone goth, an institutionalized ex-girlfriend and pals too inebriated to offer solace. Drugs, suicide, eating disorders, teen violence, rebellion and sexual identity collide and careen toward an ending that’s both haunting and hopeful. To see the show, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/2617933421831894/ to make reservations.

SAVE THE DATE: Acclaimed jazz pianist Ethan Iverson performs a livestream concert on Saturday, January 23 from Blackman Hall at Indian Hill Music in Littleton. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit https://indianhillmusic.org/performances/live-from-indian-hill/ethan-iverson/.

Nancye Tuttle’s email is nancyedt@verizon.net

Remembering artist Edith Burger

Posted on January 5, 2021 by Leave a comment

Artist and arts patron Edith Williams Burger told her friend Liz Trull Burke that she thought she had a couple more years left to live when they visited recently — and that would have been no small feat since Burger was 109 years old.

Edith Burger, 109, passed away on December 20.

  Unfortunately, she was mistaken. Burger, who formerly lived in Lowell, passed away on December 20 in the nursing home section of Newbury Court in Concord, where she had lived for the past few decades.

  “She was amazing, determined and brilliant,” said Burke. “She loved Lowell and lived and breathed Whistler.” 

  Born on May 19, 1911, Burger was the president of the Lowell Art Association-Whistler House Museum of Art for over 35 years and supported all of its activities.

  “Edith, our oldest member ever, was the jewel of the Lowell Art Association and the Whistler House Museum of Art for over 80 years. She not only guided the organization as president, but was an artist in her own right. She was amazing – bright, lucid, and engaging, and even in the end, was able to recall information from many years ago,” said Sara Bogosian, executive director of the Whistler House. 

  Burger was married to attorney Calvin Burger and lived in Lowell’s Belvidere section before moving to Concord. Besides the Whistler House and Lowell Art Association, she was active in many other community organizations including the Lowell General Hospital Auxiliary, Middlesex Women’s Club, Lowell Garden Club, and the Paint and Powder Club. She was the first woman to serve on the board of directors of Lowell General Hospital.

  An accomplished watercolor and portrait artist, Burger studied with Wallace Rugg, who lived in the Greater Lowell area.

  Lowell artist Janet Lambert Moore has known Burger for over 70 years, ever since Moore started painting herself as a child.

‘Lorna Doone,’ a portrait by Edith Burger

  “She did wonderful watercolor sketches from her travels with Calvin and kept them in notebooks,” said Moore. “And she did fabulous portraits, including one of the actress Bette Davis (who was born in Lowell).” 

  Burger donated the painting to the Whistler House, one of many artworks, antiques and historic books that she also gave to the museum.

  Burger remained active in her later years at Newbury Court, starting a flourishing art group there, said Burke.

  She loved having her Lowell friends visit and often welcomed them for lunch, recalled Bogosian.  

  “We always started with a small glass of brandy — which I believe was her secret to a long life. We would invite her to the Whistler House to celebrate her birthday every May with children from our youth art program. It was always a wonderful time for all who loved her,” said Bogosian.  

  Even in her final days, Burger was extremely animated and had a wonderful spirit, said Burke.

  Her passing is “the end of an era,” said Moore.

  Burger hoped to have a funeral at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Lowell, but arrangements have not yet been announced.

Gallery notes

SURREAL SHOW: “New and Worsening Conditions,” featuring the work of Lowell artist Robb Sandagata, is on view online through January 20 at the Linda Hummel-Shea ArtSpace at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill. Using marker and acrylic paint, the artist explores various aspects of the human condition in the 26 artworks on view. Sandagata uses “surrealism, parody, humor and grotesque imagery” in his work that includes references to pop culture, music, politics and social issues mixed with grotesque portraiture and raw emotions. “Characters engage in implied, uncertain narratives — struggling for power, facing heartbreak and uncertainty, finding strength to push against oppression, horror and chronic illness,” he explains. Born in New Haven, Ct., he studied sculpture and liberal arts at Sarah Lawrence College. He lives in Lowell with his wife Emily, some dogs and “piles of artwork.” To see the exhibit, visit https://mcclump3.wixsite.com/website-1. For more info, contact Marc Mannheimer, gallery coordinator, at mmannheimer@necc.mass.edu.

‘Alone Together’ by Robb Sandagata

NEW IN NH: The artwork titles are almost as intriguing as the works themselves in “A New Day,” the New Hampshire Art Association’s New Member Exhibit on view this month in the Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery, 136 State Street, Portsmouth, NH. Among them are ”Why We Go To Florida,” “Loon’s Eye View” “Hunters in the Snow” and “Hellish Sunrise.” All are on view and for sale, now for viewing in person in the gallery windows and online at www.nhartassociation.org. A Zoom reception for the artists is slated for this evening, Thursday, January 7 at 6 p.m. Access it by going directly to www.zoom.us and using the following login info. Meeting ID: 810 4713 2330; passcode 863891.

OUT AND ABOUT: Lisa Kovvuri, a contemporary realist painter specializing in portraiture, is Lowell’s Whistler House Museum of Art’s January Artist of the Month. Honored with numerous awards, she had a well-received solo show in 2017 at the Whistler House and works full-time in her southern New Hampshire studio. For info or to purchase her paintings, contact sbogosian@whistlerhouse.org or call 978-807-6699…Learn all about arms and armor used by Roman soldiers, Medieval knights and more on the Worcester Art Museum’s live-stream Arms and Armor Presentation this Saturday, January 9, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Facebook Live. Use this link to access the program: https://www.worcesterart.org/events/?wamid=252767.

Nancye Tuttle’s email address is nancyedt@verizon.net

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