Sarah Garofalo spoke with artistic director Livy Scanlon from THT Rep about Judith, The Crucible, THT Rep and more! Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 8:30 AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Sarah: Good morning. Welcome to Behind the Scenes with The Hanover Theatre. This is Sarah Garofalo and today, I’m joined by a very special guest, the Artistic Director of THT Rep, Livy Scanlon. Welcome, Livy!
Livy: Hi! Thanks for having me, Sarah.
Sarah: Thank you for joining us. Today we’re here to talk about some very special upcoming shows. We’ve got a lot of things coming to the BrickBox right around the corner. So Livy, could you give us a little rundown of the shows that are upcoming?
Livy: Sure. These are THT Rep shows, THT Rep is the abbreviation for The Hanover Theatre Repertory which is a new initiative of The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory. We had a nice fall season with Macbeth by Shakespeare, and the return of the Edgar Allan Poe Doubleheader. Some folks caught us even earlier than that with Julius Caesar on the Common a couple of summers ago. Just to contextualize, that’s who we are and what we’ve done so far. Coming up in March, we have a pair of experimental staged readings.
JUDITH, march 13
Livy: The first is an original piece called Judith. It’s written by a living playwright named Katie Bender, directed by Brendan Fox and I’ll be acting in it. This is a project that Katie, the playwright, and I have been working on for a couple of years. It reimagines a version of history where Shakespeare’s sister actually moves to London and takes up his name. She passes as a man, works as a playwright and high jinks ensue. We’ll be doing a staged reading of Judith on Monday, March 13. It’s open to the public with our tiered ticketing, which ranges from $8 to $150. The real goal of the staged reading is to share the play, to get feedback on it and to also invite members of the theatre industry, both local, national and international, because we’ll be live streaming it. So, folks from far away can tune in to generate some interest in the play so that hopefully, we can perform it not only in Worcester, but at other theaters in the area or beyond.
march 29 – april 2
Livy: Right on the heels of that, we’re doing an experimental staged reading of The Crucible, which is not at all a new play. In fact, it’s one of the most iconic American plays ever written by Arthur Miller. The experimental twist on this staged reading is that we’re trying the play with an all-female cast. The men’s roles will be played by women and the women’s roles will be played by women. We’re looking at how the play’s themes of misogyny and oppression against women resonate when women are playing the men’s roles. We’re also looking a little bit at the role that white women play in society as both occupying space as victims and victimizers. So, the cast is largely white women with a few actors of Color, cast carefully and thoughtfully in certain roles. The Crucible, we’re running for five nights, March 29 – April 2. Again, that is the iconic play by Arthur Miller about the Salem Witch Trials a few centuries back that he originally wrote in response to the McCarthy era political witch hunts.
Livy: What questions do you have for me, or what else can I explain or clarify?
Sarah: I was wondering, could you explain the tiered ticketing for our listeners?
Livy: Totally. We offer a variety of price points and ask people to pay what they can in both directions. What I mean by that is, if the price of a regular ticket to the theatre is too much, we have a subsidized option that starts at $8. If you’re a person of means and you can support the theatre, you could choose to pay for a ticket that is $150, which would include a gift to our current $1.5 million match. So really, the idea is you pay what you’re able to. There’s five tiers: Subsidized tickets at $8, Standard Full Price tickets for $35, True Cost tickets at $55, Angel tickets at $110, and Angel Plus Tickets at $150. there’s you’ll have to help me Sarah, I think the middle tiers are somewhere in the 20s Somewhere in the 40s. Then we have the higher up tiers 110 and 150. So it’s totally egalitarian, any seat is available at any price. People choose what they can pay based on that information.
Sarah: Since we’re talking about all these upcoming shows, do you want to talk about your inspiration behind where you got the ideas to perform these?
Livy: Yeah, sure. I, long ago, had the idea for a solo play for a queer actor, namely myself. The idea was a solo play where a woman passes Shakespeare, but I am not a playwright at all. My dear friend and colleague, Katie Bender, is a great playwright. She writes both solo shows and larger pieces. I just think her work shares a quality with my work. We’ve supported each other for a long time. I basically commissioned her to take my idea and run with it. Now, we’re fully co-partners of this piece, Judith. She’s the one who decided to make the woman specifically Shakespeare sister, which is such a cool twist. She really took my idea and did exactly what I hoped. She completely ran with it and made it her own and made it much more than I would have ever been able to. We’re really looking forward to sharing it with the public. It’s had some extensive development, as we did a reading at a small theatre in Austin, Texas, which is where Katie is based, Hyde Park Theatre. I love those folks down there, special shout out to them. Hyde Park was so enthusiastic about the piece, they gave it a non-equity production to develop it further last summer. It ran for a few weeks down in Austin, and it actually won a nice award down there. Now we’re ready to give Judith her first fully professional production. The point of the staged reading is to get people psyched about it. The director that we’re working with, Brendan Fox, he is just enormously impressive. He has directed plays from LA to Prague. He just has an enormous resume, and he’s based in Worcester now. I hope we can keep him. I just really look forward to being directed by him because he’s got such an enormous body of work. I think he has a really nice touch with people, and I imagine, therefore, a really nice touch with actors and with a creative team. So, I look forward to working with him in a professional capacity for the first time. That’s sort of how Judith came to be. I’ve long been obsessed with The Crucible. It’s such an incredible play, I remember reading it for the first time in ninth grade English with my teacher, Mr. Ladd, who did a great Giles Corey impression when we read it out loud. I’ve just always been obsessed with this play, it’s just really powerful. Of course, as I get older and as the world changes, my relationship to the play changes. With all that’s happening in our country between abortion rights being jeopardized, the rise of the Karen phenomenon and how white women abuse their privilege, I’m interested in how these current phenomena can live in this iconic play. I’m always thrilled to give as many women as possible the opportunity to work, so doing a big cast with an all-female team is an exciting thing for me. The reason we’re doing a staged reading of The Crucible instead of a full production is because it’s a big expensive play to produce and I want to be confident in this concept. Even as is, it’s expensive to put on as a staged reading. I want to thank the Mercury International Trading Corporation for sponsoring the piece. It’s nice to work on something without the pressure of a full production and the outcome of a full production.
To have the space and time to work on it as a staged reading is a real gift, and also a fun way for the public to engage with the pieceLivy Scanlon
Livy: I’m working on a series of speakers to participate in talkback discussions with the audience after each reading. We have Valerie Zolezzi-Wyndham and Camille Holmes from Promoting Good. They actually also work with THT Rep as our DEIB councelors. They’re going to host a talkback where we can discuss the racial implications of the play. Then, I’m chatting with a couple of local professors, one at WPI and one at Holy Cross who specializes in women and gender studies. I can’t reveal their names yet because they’re not signed on the dotted line. But, I’m hopeful to engage them in audience discussions. Then of course, the creative team will be available to answer questions and dialogue with the audience about what they see and experience when they see The Crucible done in this in the style and in this manner.
Sarah: Awesome. Well, I’m really looking forward to all these and I hope that everyone at home is also. It’s going to be an amazing time and the BrickBox is great to see shows in. It’s a very intimate setting if you’ve never been there. Both Judith and The Crucible are on sale at TheHanoverTheatre.org. As Livy mentioned, there’s the tiered ticketing that you can choose your price and pay what you can. Any parting words before we wrap up?
Liv: I’ll clarify that the BrickBox Theater is a smaller theater. As Sarah said, it’s around the corner from The Hanover Theatre. We actually manage the space on behalf of the Worcester Cultural Coalition. The BrickBox Theater is in the Jean McDonough Arts Center at 20 Franklin Street around the corner from The Hanover Theatre. The BrickBox is the home of The Hanover Theatre Rep, so The Hanover Theatre has spread its wings a little bit, we still have the big touring shows that you know and love here in the big house on Main Street. And now THT Rep is performing original stagings of classic works in the BrickBox theater. Very different and very complimentary theatre experiences that you can now have downtown between the big shows on the big stage and our little experimental, small but mighty works in the in the BrickBox.
Sarah: Exactly. Well, thank you very much for joining us today. Everybody else, I will see you next time on Behind the Scenes.