By my count, we had 36 world premieres of full-length plays and musicals successfully open in our region in the 2019-2020 season. At least half a dozen full-length premieres were canceled or delayed due to the pandemic, including LISA RAFFERTY’s Onward: Votes for Women from Birch Tree Productions, Our Daughters Like Pillars by Kirsten Greenidge at the Huntington Theatre Company, Sabrina by WILLY HOLTZMAN, music by Louise Beach, lyrics by DARRAH CLOUD at Portland Stage Company, Maiden Voyage by CAYENNE DOUGLASS from Fresh Ink, and The Lowell Offering by Andy Bayiates and Genevra Gallo-Bayiates at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.
In Boston, our pattern was as usual—some strong new play activity by the largest theatres, not much at the mid-sized level, and more from the fringe. The Huntington Theatre Company continued its strong commitment to producing local playwrights, with LILA ROSE KAPLAN’s We All Fall Down and MELINDA LOPEZ’s adaptation and translation of Lorca’s Yerma, as well as The Purists by DAN MCCABE, directed by Billy Porter. The American Repertory Theatre premiered two new musicals, Moby Dick with music, lyrics, book, and orchestrations by DAVE MALLOY and We Live in Cairo with book, music and lyrics by DANIEL and PATRICK LAZOUR. ART also collaborated with Company One on a site-specific production of Kirsten Greenidge’s play, Greater Good, staged at the Commonwealth School. (Other site-specific plays in our region included Avalon by Melody Bates at Nervous Nellie’s in Stonington, Maine, and my series of plays at Mount Auburn Cemetery.)
From the mid-sized companies, Greater Boston Stage Company brought us Last Night at the Bowl-More Lanes by Weylin Symes and Arts Emerson premiered a new play about Malcolm X—Detroit Red by WILL POWER and Lee Sunday Evans. BRENDA WITHERS’ hilarious translation and adaptation of Ubu Roar played at the Modern Theatre. Boston Playwrights’ Theatre staged the world premiere of MJ HALBERSTADT’s play about board games, Deal Me Out.
From small Boston companies, Fresh Ink produced The Last Catastrophist by DAVID VALDES. Ryan Landry’s Gold Dust Orphans staged two of his new plays, The Ebonic Woman and Christmas on Uranus. TC Squared brought MARY MCCULLOUGH’s play Smoked Oysters to life and Escena Latina Teatro staged Jecina Figueroa’s Marriage, Mentiras & Mantras. Zeitgeist Stage’s final show was Trigger Warning by JACQUES LAMARRE.
In Providence, Trinity Rep produced a new adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities by Brian McEleney and had a hit with The Prince of Providence by GEORGE BRANT. The Wilbury Theatre Group did a Hamlet freely adapted by BILL LATTANZI and also Darcie Dennigan’s Rescue! Or, The Fish.
Cape Cod saw new productions by MAUREEN CONDON—CRUDE—The Climate Change Musical (and we held a Guild event at the show) and Harbor Stage premiered The Hermitage by CARRIE BARRETT. Not far off Cape, in Norwell, was Paragon Park: The Musical, with book by Zoe Bradford and MICHAEL HAMMOND, music and lyrics by ADAM BROOKS at the Company Theatre.
To the north, The Players’ Ring Theatre in Portsmouth, NH was a hotbed of scrappy world premieres, with Wilderness by GREG HOVANESIAN, Jason, Jason and Florence, by Matthew Bickerstaff, J.D. Salinger in East Berlin by Chalmers, Final Analysis by Lawrence Hennessey, and Some Holiday with book by Justin Scarelli, music and lyrics by Marina Altschiller and Justin Scarelli. Hatbox in Concord, NH brought us Crippled Inside by Lawrence Hennesey and Background Check by G. Matthew Gaskell. Saltonstall’s Trial by MICHAEL CORMIER and Myricam Cyr was produced by PUNCTUATE4 Productions in Beverly, MA. Gloucester Stage gave us Too Fat for China by Phoebe Potts. Off to the west a bit, The Forge Theater Lab in Fitchurg, MA produced Chasing the Ghost by ASHLEY LAUREN ROGERS. And finally, up in Maine, Portland Stage Company brought us Read to Me by BRENDAN PELSUE.