Lisa Condit and Ashleigh Prince spoke with Liv Scanlon about being named one of Worcester’s Women to Watch in 2022, THT Rep, the BrickBox Theater, the JMAC and more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Lisa: Thank you all for tuning in and listening! I’m so excited to be here with Livy Scanlon, of course you’ve heard from her many times. She’s the managing director of Worcester BrickBox Theater, artistic director of The Hanover Theatre Repertory, a lecturer in acting at WPI and co-owner of Canal District Wines. We’re so excited to have you here because you were recently recognized as one of Worcester’s Women to Watch in 2022. We all knew it was true anyway, but we’re so glad that you’ve gotten this recognition as one of the female leaders who’s really been able to push back against bias. We’re so happy to have you here.
Liv: Thank you so much for having me!
Lisa: Absolutely. These are pretty great women that you’re grouped with. I’m thinking that people are interested in what’s really inspired you and some of the ways that you’ve been able to push back against bias.
Liv: First of all, it was quite a crew of women. If folks missed it, it’s definitely still online. It came out right before the New Year. Definitely check out this cohort of ladies because it’s a very impressive group and I was honored to be among them.
We’re certainly pushing against bias. Women still have a lot of ground to cover.Liv Scanlon
Lisa: One of the things I just love that they say about you is that you are growing a professional theatre culture in Worcester. That is an acknowledgement in and of itself and I’m so proud to see that we have a professional theatre culture in Worcester now, in great part because of you and the great work that’s been done before you. You’ve really taken it to a whole new level, so talk to us a little bit about that if you don’t mind.
Liv: I think the first thing that is important to note is that the work that comes through The Hanover Theatre is, of course, professional level, Broadway level theatre and all sorts of incredible world-class events. What I mean by “growing a professional theatre culture in Worcester” is like a home-grown regional presence. The shows that come through The Hanover Theatre are shows that go all over the country and those actors, performers and creators are visiting us for a few nights while they’re in town, and then off they go to the next touring house in the next city. What I’m talking about is building a home-grown sense of a professional theatre presence where we have our own work that we create here, much like the Julius Caesar that we created over the summer, that uses local actors and people who live in Worcester, Boston, the Berkshires, Hartford, Providence and New York and manifesting our own theatre culture in addition to the professionals that come through and visit us on their way across the country.
Lisa: Absolutely. You have a great history of pushing boundaries, talk to us a little bit about that! We’ve heard a little bit about what brought you here, but talk to us about how you’ve really been able to push back. Some of the casting choices that you’ve made have been really great, and you have fantastic dreams and a vision for a bright future here as well.
Liv: Before I came to Worcester, I ran a little theatre company that I had founded myself from literally nothing and it was called Bridge Repertory Theater. Although there are a lot of challenges with having a very small theatre company, one of the real benefits of it is that you can dream big, you can do what you want to do provided you can raise the money for it, you can take risks and you can be out there and experiment in a way that sometimes larger organizations aren’t able to do because they’re hamstrung into a specific mold. It was really when I was building that theatre company that I started to say, “Why do we have to do this thing this way? Why do we have to do that thing that way? That may have worked up until now or that may have worked for big organizations, but it doesn’t necessarily work for smaller organizations or it’s not meeting the need of the moment.” We’re certainly continuing to work with non-traditional casting, although even that term is starting to be sort of old-fashioned and problematic. We had our Worc at Play program for Julius Caesar which brought actor training to adults in the area.
We did diligent work to make sure that we could hire a cast that was diverse across a number of demographics through casting actors out of Boston, New York City and graduate Conservatory programsLiv Scanlon
Liv: We’ll continue to do that work and we’ll also continue to push back on the traditional pricing structure of theatre, which I think is also outdated. We’ll continue to offer not just low cost, but a tiered ticketing structure that invites people to pay what they’re able to pay, whether that’s very little or a very high, above-market amount. I look forward to rolling that out more with THT Rep as it finds its groove here as the pandemic will maybe be in its final throes of holding us in its clutches.
Lisa: Absolutely, and I’m really looking forward to exploring that more. I know you have big dreams and big visions and they’re going to come true. You’re a person who wears a lot of different hats and that’s part of why, I think, you’ve been recognized here as well. We talk a lot about The Hanover Theatre, but the BrickBox Theater itself is also a fantastic space that’s so cool, edgy, cosmopolitan and hip. It’s like the “cool kid” in the family. Tell us a little bit more about that and the types of work that we’re able to see at the BrickBox Theater! The PopUp, the JMAC, is a fantastic resource for our community and I think people would love to hear more about that.
Liv: Absolutely, I’m thrilled to talk about the BrickBox. We’re talking about the BrickBox Theater and the Jean McDonough Arts Center, which is the space around the corner from The Hanover Theatre. The BrickBox Theater itself is just a totally wonderful and funky space. It’s all exposed brick and it’s this very industrial chic vibe. It seats events up to 290 people and even with COVID, we’ve had all sorts of different events in there. We just had a comedian on New Year’s Eve, we’ve had theatre in there and lots of music. The biggest thing that we were just able to announce on January 6 is a major funding initiative that is being made possible by the Barr Foundation, which is going to make use of the JMAC very inexpensive and accessible for a wide range of organizations and individual artists. Anyone who ha a dream of a performance event or another kind of event that they’d like to bring to life, please visit JMACWorcester.org/BarrInitiative. You can check that out and I’d love to help you make your event become a reality here at the BrickBox, I love working with our presenters. It’s a great space and a great opportunity to spread your wings.