Ashleigh Prince spoke with Liv Scanlon about THT Rep’s upcoming season, Worc At Play, the BrickBox 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.
Ashleigh: Good morning, everyone. Welcome back to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. This week, we’re checking in with Olivia Scanlon a.k.a. Liv a.k.a. Livy, the artistic director of THT Rep. Hey, Liv!
Liv: Hey, Ashleigh. Thank you for having me.
Ashleigh: It has been a long time since you’ve been on Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. I know we have a lot going on and a lot coming up, so I’m super excited to talk to you today. I know you’ve been on the show a few times, but let’s talk about THT Rep. Last time you were on here, we were talking about Julius Caesar. I know our community feedback has been really great, and everyone really loved experiencing that on the common last year. Do you have anything to say to our Julius Caesar fans?
Liv: Yeah! Hi, everybody. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since we were performing Julius Caesar out on the Worcester common. That was sort of the major project of THT Rep‘s first year. THT Rep was born here at The Hanover Theatre in response to the pandemic. When the main theatre was shut down, we said to ourselves, “Okay, what can we do? Well, we can make our own theatre.” We created this brand, The Hanover Theatre Rep, to do just that. We had the Edgar Allan Poe Doubleheader in October 2020, and then A Christmas Carol Reimagined during the 2020 holiday season. Then, last summer, as Ashleigh was mentioning, we had our most visible project, which was the Julius Caesar out on the common and the response to that was awesome. People are still coming up to me and saying things about it, which has been totally wild for that show to have such an impact on the community. Of course, now it’s a whole year later and what have we been doing in that time? As you all know, we reopened The Hanover Theatre and got shows back up and running, the conservatory continued all of its programming and quietly, behind the scenes, I’ve been planning a full season for THT Rep to return indoors as originally envisioned in the BrickBox. A few weeks ago, we were able to announce our 22-23 lineup, and I’m delighted to talk to you about it today.
Ashleigh: We’ve gotten a few messages and comments and I’ve spoken to some people that are like, “When is the next performance like that? That was incredible.” I’ve been telling people “Stay tuned and keep an eye out, I promise it’ll be back.” I’m super excited for this season, it’s going to be incredible. It’s going to open up with Macbeth. I know that is a naughty word to say in a theatre, but let’s talk about Macbeth first.
Liv: Sure. We’re going to start THT Rep’s 22-23 season with Macbeth, in the BrickBox theatre at the Jean McDonough Arts Center. I actually did a first draft of this production with The Hanover Theatre Conservatory Youth Acting Company in January of this year, and I’m going to take the work that I did, build upon it and restage the production with professional actors. We are going to be playing September 29 – October 15. The cutting of the play is about 90 minutes long and we have an incredible creative team. Some familiar faces will be returning from Julius Caesar, including Dale Place, who played Julius Caesar, will be playing the role of Duncan. And Meri Stypinski, who played the role of Cassia, will be playing Lady Macbeth. They are joined by just a wonderful team of people, and I can’t wait to do our first fully realized Shakespeare play in the BrickBox. It’s so perfect for Shakespeare in my mind and I am just thrilled to be able to share it with everybody.
Ashleigh: Yeah, I think I think the BrickBox is perfect for this show, as well. Macbeth is very dark and moody and brooding. I feel like it’s an excellent backdrop for this production. Let’s talk a little bit about the vibe, because I know that some people have seen your first draft with the Youth Acting Company, but what can people expect with this show?
Liv: I’ve cut it to be very fast paced at 90 minutes, and it’s usually four hours long. We are maintaining a nice large cast; there’s 19 people in the cast, and it’s contemporary dress with dark, black costumes, scenery and props. The only thing that sort of glitters is the crown. The titular character Macbeth is obsessed with power and maintaining his hold on the crown, so that particular costume piece does glitter. Otherwise, yes, it’s quite dark and bleak. The actors take over the whole space, so it feels very sort of up close and personal at times. I think it’s going to be really fun for fall.
Ashleigh: I am really excited. I really love the fall and it is the perfect spot for this production. I can’t wait to get spooky with all of you. I know we’ve been talking about how we’re going to promote the show and I think everyone’s going to be really excited about this one. So again, Macbeth will be September 29 – October 15 will be Macbeth. Now, moving on to the second show in the season is the Poe Doubleheader.
Liv: Yeah, so I mentioned earlier in the segment that when the pandemic cast its spell over us, we thought, “What can we do while the theatre is shut down?” So, I created this show, the Edgar Allan Poe Doubleheader, which consists of two Edgar Allan Poe short stories, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado, and this is a solo show that I perform. It’s about an hour long, and we’re just bringing it back for one weekend only this year in 2022. You can tell I really love Halloween, I guess. We’ll have Macbeth for three weeks, and then we’ll take a week off, then we’ll come back and we’ll have the Poe Doubleheader at the end of October, just for one weekend only for fully seated audiences. When we first staged it during the pandemic, we had private audiences of only 20 people at a time, so there are many, many more people out there who might want to check this out. A lot of people love Edgar Allan Poe; he certainly captured my imagination when I was a young teenager, and I’m hardly alone in that fact. I’m looking forward to bringing that back to the BrickBox at the end of October 27 – 29.
Ashleigh: A lovely pairing with Macbeth, for sure. As someone who went to school in Salem, Massachusetts, I have a very special, spooky place in my heart for things like this. I’ve seen the Poe Doubleheader and it is really fantastic. And I can’t wait to see the entirety of the show in the BrickBox, which will be absolutely fantastic. How big is that cast?
Liv: It’s just me, baby.
Ashleigh: One woman show, we love it. How does that compare to Macbeth? How many people are in Macbeth?
Liv: There’s 19 people in Macbeth.
Ashleigh: Let’s talk a little bit about the experience of the Poe Doubleheader. We talked a little bit about the vibe for Macbeth, but what can we expect there?
Liv: I staged this show as a séance, so I sort of play myself, then I invite the audience to help me conjure the two characters to visit us through me. It’s just me, and it’s two pieces. There’s a little act break in between and each story is about half an hour long. One of them is more dark, and the other one is more darkly funny. I have a blast performing it. You’ll start to learn this as THT Rep has more and more of a body of work here, but there’s always a light audience participation aspect to the things that I put on, and this will be no exception.
Ashleigh: Absolutely. We can’t have theater without ghosts and ghouls.
Ashleigh: It’s just a part of the culture. Moving on, the next up on our THT Rep series is The Crucible. That one’s a little different from the rest of the series, so let’s jump into that one that’s coming March 26.
Liv: I have long been fascinated by the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller, which dramatizes the Salem witch trials. In this day and age, I have this interest in what the play would be like if all of the characters were played by female actors. The characters will still be male and female, but I’m looking at an entirely female cast to bring the story to life. This Crucible that we’re doing in March 2023 is not a fully staged production; it is a week-long workshop that will culminate with a staged reading, which means the actors will be reading their lines from their scripts. This is really more an opportunity for me to test out the concept of having an all-female cast and for our audience to check out that concept as well and give their feedback to see if this is something that we want to pursue as a full production in the future. The Crucible is also a large cast play, so it’s quite expensive to put on. So we want to make sure that we feel good about the approach that we’re taking to it before we commit to fully staging it.
Ashleigh: Where did the inspiration to do this stage reading for The Crucible come from?
Liv: The play is largely about the persecution of women and yet, the play itself has a bit of misogyny in it. We live in a time where women are continuing to be, in my opinion, held back and persecuted by fundamental religion. Yet, women are also participating in their own oppression by oftentimes voting against, what I consider to be, our own interests. I’m wondering if those themes in the play and the resonance with today’s political climate might come to light with this all-female concept. Also, it’s a great opportunity to give a lot of women an opportunity to perform in roles that are not usually for them. It’s something that’s been brewing in my mind for a while, and I look forward to diving into it a bit.
Ashleigh: Do you envision audience participation in this, as well?
Liv: Yes, I do.
Ashleigh: I look forward to seeing that as well. Again, that’s March 26, 2023. Finally, our our last stop on the THT Rep season is The Marvelous Party, coming May 11 – 14. This one is very different from the rest of the season. When we were talking about this, I was really excited about this idea.
the marvelous party
Liv: Sure. The Marvelous Party has nothing to do with witches or spirits or ghouls or goblins, it’s light and fun. It is a concept that I created when I was still living in Cambridge running a small theatre company. It is a party performance that features the poem by Noel Coward, who was a British comedian and dramatist. He wrote a poem called “I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party.” It’s a silly poem about poking fun at upper-class British folks getting out of control and not acting like the highest society folks that they purport to be. I basically take the poem and I break it up into its different stanzas, so there will be an actor who performs a stanza, then that will roll into a series of musical numbers that are mashed up to complement the stanzas. For example, there’s a stanza where someone ends up swinging upside down from a chandelier, and then that goes into the song “Chandelier” by Sia. It’s a fun night of music and poetry and it’s not a seated performance, it really is like a cocktail party that has performances interspersed throughout it. We’re running it the weekend that culminates with Mother’s Day, so I think it could be fun also for folks to bring their mom out. It really was fun when we did it in Cambridge and I look forward to restaging it and refreshing it here in Worcester. It’s perfect for the BrickBox, so get your tuxedo ready.
Ashleigh: I think this is a really incredible season ahead. There’s a lot of variety in there, too. I think from performance to performance, people will have a really interesting experience.
Liv: I think so, too, even with heavy theme of witches and ghouls and goblins. The first three projects are very different from each other, and of course, The Marvelous Party is a whole other animal altogether.
Ashleigh: You just had THT Rep auditions and Worc At Play auditions, so tell me a little bit about what that was like.
Liv: Sure. THT Rep auditions were for professional and professional track actors to come out and do their thing. I was delighted to have some folks return and also to be able to hire some new folks. “Worc” in Worc At Play is short for Worcester At Play. This is a program that we started with Julius Caesar that I’m delighted to be continuing with Macbeth. Basically, it is a program to cultivate local aspiring actors, residents of Greater Worcester who are ages 18 and above, who have an interest in acting, but maybe have not been able to access the training or tools needed to investigate or develop that interest. Worc At Play provides actor training at no cost with an emphasis on classical technique, classical meaning the skills you need to act something like Shakespeare as opposed to something more contemporary. This is a program that I teach and I work with these adult acting students for a month. We’ll be meeting three times a week for three hours in the month leading up to Macbeth. Then, these folks will be playing small ensemble roles in the production of Macbeth, just as the first class have Worc At Play actors played ensemble roles in Julius Caesar. This is a real sort of grassroots effort to provide acting opportunities and artistic opportunities to folks who might not have been able to access them otherwise, or to folks who do have some background in theatre, but have not had professional conservatory, Shakespeare training.
This is a real grassroots effort to provide acting opportunities and artistic opportunities to folks who might not have been able to access them otherwise, or to folks who do have some background in theatre, but have not had professional conservatory, Shakespeare training.Liv Scanlon
Liv: It’s a program that I’m really proud of and I am thrilled for the actor trainees that we’ve selected for Macbeth. We had a lot of interest in the program which is cool, because that means it’s growing. We have two actors returning for a second year of Worc At Play after being in Julius Caesar. I just can’t wait to help them realize more of their potential as performers and to give them the opportunity to perform alongside the pros. It should be fun.
Ashleigh: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Whenever I’m out and about and experiencing Worcester, I’ll like look at the upcoming events in the BrickBox and I’ll see people that were in the initial Worc At Play or in Julius Caesar, and I’m always like, “I know you!”
Liv: It’s so important to have actors who live here, who live in Worcester and are part of our community, and to have the mix of local actors with professional actors from Boston and New York. That’s the magic sauce; everybody contributes and creates this fabric of creative energy. It’s just very important to me that we recruit and cultivate people here in town who have potential and talent and just need some tools to bring it all together. It’s very exciting.
Ashleigh: It is! Now, where can all of our listeners find out more about THT Rep read about everything that’s coming up about the season, and where to get tickets once those go on sale? Where can they find that?
Liv: Go to TheHanoverTheatre.org, and the first menu item at the top is “Shows & Tickets” When you click that, you’ll see The Hanover Theatre Repertory in the drop-down and you’ll be good to go.
Ashleigh: Absolutely! You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok and all the things, and I would be happy to point you in the right direction. We post a lot, so just keep an eye out for all of our official announcements. It’s going to be a really great series.
Liv: Thanks, Ashleigh, and thanks, everybody at home. I appreciate you listening.
Ashleigh: Thank you for coming on today! We’ll be back next week with more Behind the Scenes.