The Ivoryton Playhouse is an historic, not for profit, 280-seat, professional theatre located on the Connecticut Shoreline. The Playhouse operates a year-round season, which includes eight main stage productions, educational programs, special events and a Summer Children’s Theater Series.

A summer internship at the Ivoryton Playhouse offers students and recent graduates the opportunity to expand and develop technical theatre skills, make professional contacts, and develop the insight and experience necessary to pursue a career in theatre.

This year, the playhouse is very excited to be able to offer two options for internship experiences:

The Production Internship is designed for students aspiring to careers in technical theatre, production or design, including but not limited to the following: Carpentry, Costuming, Lighting, Painting, Run Crew, Scenic Design, Technical Direction, Properties, Production Management and Stage Management.

The Performance Internship is designed for students aspiring to be actors, dancers and/or singers. Performance Interns will work closely with professional directors, actors, stage managers, and staff as the internship takes them from the first day of rehearsal, through the opportunity to perform on stage in a professional production.

Internships run from mid-May to early-September.

Ideal candidates must be at least 18 years of age, enrolled in college or be a recent graduate and should be working towards a career in theatre or performing arts. Please refer to FAQ document for other candidate information.

For FAQ please follow this link:  Ivoryton Playhouse Summer Interns FAQ

For an application form for a Production Internship, please follow this link:
Ivoryton Playhouse Summer Internship Application – Production

For an application form for a Performance Internship, please follow this link:
Ivoryton Playhouse Summer Internship Application – Performance

The application deadline is Friday, March 1, 2019. All applications postmarked by that date will be accepted.

The internship positions will be filled by March 15, 2019.

Contact dnischan@ivorytonplayhouse.org for more information.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is an Equal Opportunity Provider and Employer.

Leave a comment

Third Annual Women Playwrights Initiative:
PASSION POWER PROSE 2019.

Our mission is to Inspire, Empower, Validate, and Celebrate women playwrights.

The Women Playwrights Initiative at the Ivoryton Playhouse develops new one-act plays by and about women, and the issues that shape their lives. Friendship, political and economic advocacy, sexual satisfaction, aging, gender equality, racial issues, marriage, singlehood, motherhood, careers, and power. The Initiative provides a safe, nurturing environment for play development, including a week of intensive rehearsal with the playwrights, directors, and actors. The workshopping week culminates in a staged reading festival, featuring interactive talkbacks with the playwrights, directors, actors, and audience.

==========================================================

Performance times are 7:00pm. 

Ticket prices are:
$20 adult; $15 senior; $10 student

Single tickets are available to purchase on line by clicking on this link.

Buy tickets for Friday and Saturday night performances and save:
$30 adult; $25 senior; $10 student.  Please call the box office to purchase these ticket packages – 860.767.7318

==========================================================

WPI 2019 PLAY SYNOPSES 

Friday March 1: 

HOW TO BE A WIDOW
by Tori Keenan-Zelt
Directed by:  Susan Einhorn

As the Civil War draws to a close, cholera and Gettysburg have claimed the lives of two husbands. In this wickedly funny play, two young women grapple with the freedom and power of their new widowhood. If they had the chance to have their husbands back, would they take it?

 

WATER WITHOUT BERRIES
by Waltrudis Buck
Directed by:  Todd Underwood

Two brothers—a school teacher and Shakespearean actor—return to Harlem to persuade their infirm grandma to leave the tenement where they grew up. In this bittersweet drama, yearning, art, rivalry, and hope struggle against the relentless forces of reality.

 

Saturday March 2:

PARTNER OF –
by Rachael Carnes
Directed by:  Leslie Snow

What can her grandmother and mother teach young Sally about agency, expectation, and the roles society permit women? Through the lens of three enslaved women, the property of Thomas Jefferson, we face what it means to be the “partner of –”

 

THE ROBERTASSEY
by Kathleen Cahill
Directed by:  Hannah Simms
Roberta’s trip to Ireland becomes a surreal odyssey when the airlines lose her suitcase containing her father’s ashes. The dialogue is sharp, and the tone is magical, in a comedy that explores the universe’s indifference, filial obligation, forgiveness, and the power of love.

 

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHTS

Waltrudis Buck  (Water Without Berries) is thrilled to make her playwright’s debut at Ivoryton. She has worked in film, TV, and theatre as an actor, appearing opposite De Niro, Julia Roberts and Woody Allen, among others. She has published poetry and short stories, and her novel The Berlin Girl can be found here: amazon.com/author/waltrudisbuck but this is her first foray into playwriting. Thank you so much Ivoryton! She just finished a full-length comedy titled Real Estate inspired by the current political situation, excerpts of which have had readings at “Naked Angels Tuesdays@9.” Any producers out there? It’s a very funny play, if it weren’t so sad (waltrudisb@gmail.com).

 

Kathleen Cahill (The Robertassey) Kathleen’s awards include three Edgerton Foundation Awards, the Jane Chambers Playwrighting Award, two Connecticut Commission on the Arts Playwrighting Awards, a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Award, a Rockefeller Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts New American Works Grant, and a Drama League Award. Her play Charm (NNPN Showcase) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and has been produced around the country, upcoming at the New Hampshire Theatre Project. Her play/dance/romance, Silent Dancer, premieres at the Salt Lake Acting Company in April 2019, and at BStreet Theatre in Sacramento in August, 2019. She is Playwright-in-Residence at the Salt Lake Acting Company, and Dramatists Guild Fund Master Teacher. Her play Henry, Louise and Henri was part of the Women’s Playwrights Initiative at Ivoryton Playhouse in 2018.

 

Rachael Carnes (Partner of -) as an arts nonprofit founder and educator, Rachael has spent her career developing inclusive performing arts experiences for people of all ages and abilities. She discovered playwriting in 2016 and is humbled by her many productions since, with performances across the country and throughout the U.K. Recent highlights include invitations to the Inge Festival, the Midwest Dramatists Center Conference and the Mid-America Theatre Conference. Rachael’s work has been published by the Coachella Review, she is a Bechdel Group workshop semi-finalist, and her full-length play, Canopy, will receive a staged reading at the WriteON Festival, in Cambridge, U.K. in 2019. A community builder, Rachael founded #CodeRed, a playwrights’ collective dedicated to writing, and sharing, plays in response to gun violence. Rachael is beyond grateful for the opportunity to be in residence at the Ivoryton Playhouse. And she thanks her many playwriting mentors, and her husband and kids, for their continuing support.

 

Tori Keenan-Zelt (How to be a Widow) Originally and proudly from Pittsburgh, Tori writes curiosity-chasing plays that sniff out in-between spaces in big theatre to change the world. Many of them decide to be comedies. She has developed and presented work around the country and abroad. Recent plays include How the Baby Died (Ingram New Works), Seph (Araca Project, Princess Grace Finalist), Air Space (Kilroys 5 Most Recommended Plays, Ingram New Works Lab, Princess Grace Finalist), Truth/Dare (Project Y Theatre, Best Ensemble Pittsburgh Fringe, Kilroys List, Princess Grace Finalist), Egypt Play (InterAct 20/20 Finalist), Episode #121: Catfight! (Yale Cabaret), and others. Having written for Colonial Williamsburg’s Emmy Award-winning PBS education series, Tori has been named an Emmy Nominee, Kilroys Lister, Jerome Finalist, Princess Grace Finalist, Playwrights of New York Nominee, and some other things. She is an affiliated writer with The Lark, The Playwrights’ Center, Ingram New Works Lab, Ensemble Studio Theatre Playwrights’ Unit, Fresh Ground Pepper, & the Dramatists Guild. Several of her short plays are published by Next Stage Press. AB, Harvard. MFA, NYU Tisch Asia (Singapore).

Leave a comment

 

Ivoryton: On March 20th, 2019 the Ivoryton Playhouse opens its doors for a new season – a year full of exciting, affordable professional theatre. Plays for romantics and plays for cynics; shows for families and shows for sweethearts; music from the movies and Broadway as well as zany comedies and classic dramas – the Ivoryton Playhouse 2019 season has something for everyone and more than you ever expected.

The season opens on March 20th with a new musical, BURT & ME
(Book by Larry McKenna, Lyrics by Hal David, Music by Burt Bacharach).  If you fell in love to the music of Burt Bacharach, then you won’t want to miss this nostalgic romantic musical comedy running through April 7, 2019. Featuring the classics: “What the World Needs Now,” “Walk On By,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” and many more. Runs through April 7th.

A progressive white couple’s proud liberal sensibilities are put to the test when their daughter brings her black fiancé home to meet them in this fresh and relevant stage adaptation of the iconic film, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER by Todd Kreidler (April 24th – May 12th.) A multi-family clash of racial and generational differences and at the end of the day, will love prevail?

GODSPELL (May 22 – June 16) is the first major musical theater hit from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, and Children of Eden). Loosely based around the Gospel of St. Matthew, GODSPELL features a parade of beloved songs, including ”Day by Day “, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” and “Learn Your Lessons Well.

July is family musical time and this year is no exception. On June 26th, summer opens with a splash with the blockbuster musical MAMMA MIA, (Music and Lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus) Over 60 million people worldwide have fallen in love with the characters, the story and the music that make MAMMA MIA the ultimate feel-good show! Set on a Greek island paradise, the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship, creating an unforgettable show. A mother. A daughter. Three possible dads. And a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget! Runs through July 28th.

CABARET (Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb, Book by Joe Masteroff) takes us back to Broadway on August 7th – Sunday, September 1st. The international classic musical and winner of 8 Tony awards, CABARET is as relevant today as when it first opened on Broadway over 50 years ago. Join us at the Kit Kat Club as the Emcee takes us back to those tumultuous times with unforgettable musical numbers including, “Willkommen,” “Cabaret,” and “Two Ladies.”

SHEAR MADNESS (Paul Portner) is one of the most popular productions in the world, delighting audiences with its unique blend of madcap improvisation and spine-tickling mystery. This unique comedy-whodunit takes place today in the “Shear Madness” hairstyling salon and is chock full of up-to-the-minute humor. A murder is committed and the audience gets to spot the clues, question the suspects, and solve the mystery. Voted “Best Comedy of the Year” seven times by the Boston Globe and “Best Play of the Year” by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Philadelphia Enquirer, “Shear Madness” has also received the Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America and has been inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame, the first play ever to receive that accolade. Runs from September 18th – October 6th.

David Lutken and his trusty band of musicians return to the Playhouse in WOODY SEZ  – THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF WOODY GUTHRIE – a musical celebrating the original folk hero and an iconic American troubadour. Tap your feet and sing along with Woody Sez in this uplifting musical portrait. You will be transported through his fascinating life with moving ballads and energetic foot-stompers like “This Land is Your Land,” “The Ballad of Tom Joad,” “Pastures of Plenty” and “This Train is Bound for Glory” in this incredible, award-winning musical journey. Devised by David Lutken with Nick Corley and Darcie Deaville, Helen J. Russell and Andy Teirstein.  Runs from Wednesday, October 23 – Sunday, November 10, 2019

Don’t miss some of the most exciting, entertaining and affordable theatre on the shoreline!

Subscriptions and gift certificates are on sale now.

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE:

Subscriptions can be purchased by downloading the forms below and sending by mail.  We offer 18 possible series during our season. On the form below, please circle the Series that you’d like for Season 2019, complete all of the information and mail to us with payment. Remember that, for a Series, you must stay within the same row of dates.

You will be able to switch any single dates that don’t work for you after February 20, 2019.

Full 7-play subscriptions are $295 (only $42 per ticket)

5-play series subscriptions are $225 (only $45 per ticket)

3-play series subscriptions are $145 (only $48 per ticket)

To view the list of shows for our 2019 season please click here:  2019 Season

To view the 2019 subscription series dates please click here:  2019 series dates

To download the 7 and 5 play subscription form please click here:  7 and 5 play form

To download the 3 play subscription form please click here:  3 play form

Checks payable to Ivoryton Playhouse and mailed to:
Ivoryton Playhouse, PO Box 458, Ivoryton, CT  06442

To discuss seating options please telephone Susan McCann on 860.767.7318 x 203

Individual tickets for 2019

Single ticket prices for 2019 are:  $55 adult / $50 senior / $25 student / $20 children 12 and under.

Individual tickets go on sale February 20, 2019.

Visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call (860) 767 7318 for the latest ticket information.

Leave a comment

It is with deep sadness that I share with you the news of the death of longtime Ivoryton Playhouse Board member and Essex resident Harvey Hoberman. Harvey joined the Board in 2008 and was an active supporter and advocate for the Playhouse. He was a well known and admired Hartford attorney who often shared his legal expertise with us as a member of the Governance Committee during his time on the Board.

We send our thoughts and prayers to his family. Harvey was predeceased by his wife Joan who died in 1997. He leaves two daughters, Julie Hoberman and Anna Hoberman, son-in-law Greg Lowrey, grandsons Jonah Lowrey and Elias Lowrey. Also his long-time companion Penny Parker, his brother Ed and sister-in-law Lisa, and his mother-in-law Ruth Solomkin.

Al Jaffe
President, Ivoryton Playhouse Board of Trustees

Leave a comment

Auditions for Ivoryton Playhouse Production

“Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”

The Ivoryton Playhouse will be holding local auditions for Equity and non Equity actors for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by Todd Kriedler, a fresh and relevant stage adaptation of the iconic film, on Friday, January 25th, 2019 from 10-6pm at the Ivoryton Playhouse Rehearsal Studio, 22 Main Street in Centerbrook, CT

Looking for actors to fill all roles. Directed by Kathryn Markey, the show runs from April 24 – May 12, 2019. First rehearsal – April 9th.

All auditions are by appointment. Bring a picture and resume. Sides are available by following this link and clicking on the character names at the bottom of the page.

For audition appointments, call 860-767-9520, ext.207 or email lizzy@ivorytonplayhouse.org

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
by Todd Kreidler
Centerbrook – CT EPA by Appointment
Ivoryton Playhouse, Ivoryton, CT

Audition Date Location
Friday, January 25, 2019
Ivoryton Playhouse Rehearsal Studio
10am – 6pm
22 Main Street,
Centerbrook, CT 06409
Office can be found opposite Pizza Pub (15 Main Street) and Ideal Cleaners (17 Main Street) on the same side of the road as the Essex Steam Train.
Please do not go to the Ivoryton Playhouse theatre for these auditions

Personnel and Other Dates
Executive/Artistic Director: Jacqueline Hubbard
Associate Artistic Director:  Dan Nischan
Director:  Kathryn Markey

First Rehearsal – April 9, 2019
Opening: April 24, 2019
Close: May 12, 2019

SPT
$500 minimum/week

Sides will be available at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org soon.
Please bring a picture and resume, stapled together

Seeking actors for various roles

Matilda Binks – 50s, black; has worked as a maid for the Draytons for the past 27 years. Has a special closeness and protectiveness with the Drayton family.

Hilary St. George– 30s, – 40s white; works as the associate director of the Drayton Gallery. Chic, gossipy.

Christina Drayton 50s – 60s white; Joanna’s mother, runs the Drayton Gallery. Strong and articulate, she is the steady figure her family revolves around.

Matt Drayton. late 60s, white; Joanna’s father and the publisher of San Francisco newspaper The Guardian. An accomplished, hard-working person, sees himself as open-minded and intellectual, but his world view is shaken when Joey announces she is marrying Dr. Prentice.

Joanna Drayton early 20s, white; Matt and Christina’s daughter, a medical researcher, engaged to Dr. John Prentice. Optimistic, forward thinking, willful and filled with love.

Dr. John Prentice – mid 30s, black; a medical research doctor who is renowned in his field. Impressive and assured, he is realistic about the world and willing to challenge the status quo. He has survived the death of his wife and young son, and his relationship with Joanna is beginning to rebuild his faith in the world.

Monsignor Ryan 50s – 70s. longtime family friend of the Draytons, and advisor to Matt.

John Prentice, Sr. – 60s black; John’s father, a schoolteacher Dignified, proud, capable of rage.

Mary Prentice 50s – 60s black; John’s mother who works as a department store clerk. Solid, serious, trustworthy.

 

Theatre’s mailing address: Ivoryton Playhouse, PO Box 458, Ivoryton CT 06442.

Leave a comment

Coney Island Christmas
by Donald Margulies
at the Ivoryton Playhouse

The Ivoryton Playhouse Holiday show opens on December 13th and runs until December 23rd. Coney Island Christmas by Donald Margulies is a heartwarming story with a lot to say about how life could be better through understanding and tolerance for one another. An instant holiday classic and a new family tradition.

Shirley Abramowitz, now a grandmother visiting her family in California, tells her granddaughter the story of when she was a little girl in Coney Island and was cast as Jesus in the school pageant. Suddenly we are transported back to Coney Island in 1935 with all the nostalgia of post war America. The story is a familiar tale of immigrant parents worried that they will lose their identity if they give up their traditions and immigrant children embracing the idea of being American and part of the new world.

Coney Island Christmas captures the message of Christmas in a different way yet it feels so familiar and nostalgic at the same time. Coney Island Christmas is about community and about what makes Christmas in this country so special. It is about accepting and embracing our differences and coming together to find joy in our shared human experience.

Commissioned by the late Gilbert Cates, Coney Island Christmas premiered at the Geffen Playhouse in 2012. This community production in Ivoryton is directed by Sasha Bratt, who also directed Biloxi Blues last season. Musical direction is by Frank Natter. Set design is by Dan Nischan, lighting design by Marcus Abbott, costume design by Lisa Bebey and sound design by Tate Burmeister.

Bursting with feel good holiday spirit, Coney Island Christmas is traditional, family friendly entertainment for all ages: an antidote to cynicism and a love letter to good old fashioned holiday fun. The cast includes actors young and old – many Playhouse favorites and some new faces – Amy Buckley, Cory Candelet, Mark Gilchrist, Jordan Godburn, Avital Goldberg Curran, Lenore Grunko, Nia Marchese, Gaby Onorati, M.E.Rich, Norm Rutty, Moira O’Sullivan, Ben Stone Zelman.

Make the Playhouse part of your family holiday tradition this year. Come and visit the village of Ivoryton, decorated with over 500,000 Christmas lights – have dinner and take in a great show at the Playhouse.

Coney Island Christmas opens on Thursday, December 13th and runs thru December 23rd for 2 weeks. Performance times are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm, Evening performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm. There is also a Wednesday matinee on December 19th.

Tickets are $35 for adults, $32 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Leave a comment

 Visit the Brightest Village in Connecticut
Ninth Annual Ivoryton Illuminations

Ivoryton:  Looking for a different way to celebrate Christmas? Then head down to Ivoryton for the Ninth Annual Ivoryton Illuminations to see one of the states’ largest living Christmas Trees and the village green lit up with over 450,000 lights!

The Illuminations will shine brightly through January 5th and visitors can tune their car radios to 101.5FM and watch as the lights dance to the music!

This Ivoryton Illuminations are organized entirely by volunteers.  Major sponsors are Christmas Décor, Essex Lions Club, Essex Rotary, Essex Saving Bank, Essex Steam Train, Hocon Gas, LC Doane, Riggio & Sons, Inc., Saybrook Ford and Wilcox Tree Experts.  Other supporters: Essex Police Union, Gowrie Group, Robinson and Wright and Westbrook Elks.

If you want to experience some real Christmas cheer, then come and join the party in Ivoryton, the brightest village in Connecticut!

For more information, visit us online at www.ivorytonalliance.org

Photo by Jonathan Steele

 

Leave a comment

AUTHENTIC TAVERN CUISINE IN YOUR FAVORITE OLD STOMPING GROUNDS

Enter into Scotch Plains Tavern through the iconic barrel doors and our hostess will happily seat you in our downstairs dining room, outside patio or upstairs in our industrial-themed bar. For private parties and celebrations we invite you into our private dining room, bathed in sunlight from four sets of french doors.

Our menu has a vast variety of items, sure to please your entire circle of friends and family, including our Thursday Night Lobster & Clam Bake and our new Lighter Fare Lunch Menu with $10 entrees. We also offer a carefully curated wine list and selection of craft beers from around the state. Enjoy Happy Hour specials Monday through Friday from 3:00 – 6:00pm and half-price wine bottles on Mondays. Catch every game on one of our 14 TVs throughout the bar.

If you’re in search of fun and entertainment, look no further! With trivia on Tuesday nights, our game room featuring both pool and shuffleboard as well as live music Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, Scotch Plains Tavern is where you’ll want to be!

We look forward to welcoming you again and again to your favorite neighborhood tavern!

www.scotchplainstavern.com

124 Westbrook Road
Essex, CT 06426
(860) 662.4032

Special promotion for Ivoryton Playhouse ticket holders:
10% off dinner bill with tickets presented

Leave a comment

Back by popular demand!

Celebrate an Old Fashioned Christmas with Holiday Standards & Sacred Songs!

Wednesday, December 5th at 7:30pm
Thursday, December 6th at 2:00pm
Thursday, December 6th at 7:30pm
Friday, December 7th at 7:30pm
Saturday, December 8th at 7:30pm

An Ivoryton Playhouse Christmas Hour with David Pittsinger and Friends

World renowned artist David Pittsinger will be performing his heart warming holiday show, “The Ivoryton Playhouse Christmas Hour” from December 5th through 8th at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

An old fashioned Christmas celebration of holiday standards and sacred songs, the evening will feature David with his wife, Patricia Schuman, son Richard, Carly Callahan, Ryan Bloomquist and Anna Fagan.

 

Set in a 1940s radio station, the show will take you back to the days when the radio had pride of place in the living room and the family gathered round in the evening to listen to their favorite shows. Baby, it’s gonna be cold outside so come on down to the Ivoryton Playhouse to warm your heart with music we all know and love.

These concerts are to benefit the 106 year old Playhouse to further its mission to provide entertainment, education and cultural experiences to the residents and visitors to our community.

Tickets are $50 adult/ $45 senior/ $22 student and $17 child. Performance times are 7:30pm with a 2pm matinee on Thursday, December 6th.  Groups of 10 or more ticket price is $35.

 

Seating is limited; please call the theatre box office at 860.767.7318 or visit our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org to reserve your seat for these very special events

Leave a comment

Comments from the audience:

“Kudos to the entire Ivoryton Playhouse team! Outstanding acting, directing, set design, music and portrayal of such a dark subject matter. I was moved to tears.”

“Strongly recommend seeing this premier production. I suggest you put your “mental seat belt” on during intermission because the second half is the turbulent ride that the first act has been gently foreshadowing. The subject matter is thought provoking and forces us to be introspective about our present outlooks on social issues. You are not likely to leave the theater feeling blasé”.

“This play will move you, it will take you on a ride into a dark chapter of this country’s history by visiting a kitchen in Celestial, Alabama during the summer of 1961. You will visit the world of woman in the KKK, both the good and the bad. At the end of the play Disturbed’s version of the Sounds of Silence will deposit you back into 2018. You will ask yourself, my gosh, are we heading back to this now? It is thought provoking, It is eye opening, It is a daring play. It is a must see.”

“Haven’t stopped thinking about this powerful play since I saw it! Timely and brilliantly acted!”

============================================================================

Reviews from the Critics:

Catharsis at the Ivoryton Playhouse: The Queens of the Golden Mask
By Brooks Appelbaum
Special to the Times

ESSEX:  Carole Lockwood’s “Queens of the Golden Mask,” a world premiere running from October 31 through November 18, brings to the Ivoryton Playhouse audience a rare opportunity to experience catharsis at a time when theater can help us process the disturbing events of our time. We have Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard to thank, both for including this remarkable play in Ivoryton’s season, and for directing it with insight, sensitivity, and brilliance.

Hubbard has said that she chose the script in part because of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last August. “This is not a political play,” she states. “The main reason for doing this play is that it can be a catalyst for conversation. If we don’t learn from history, then we’re just doomed to repeat it.”

The first act is set in 1961, in Celestial, Alabama, a small town just south of Birmingham. As women friends bring various cakes, cookies, and pies into Ida’s kitchen, preparing for a social gathering, it becomes clear that Ida—nicknamed “Moma”— is very much the matriarch of the group. Expertly played by Ellen Barry, Ida’s motherly warmth shows flashes of flinty despotism. She describes her daughter-in-law, Martha Nell Sage (a heartbreaking Sarah Jo Provost) as having “sawdust between her ears,” and gives Martha Nell orders as she might a servant—or a slave.

Martha Nell is white, of course, but the question of “color” comes up early. Rose (a sincere Anna Fagan), newly married and having just moved to Celestial from Ohio, has been invited so the friends can decide whether she will be an appropriate seventh member of the “Women’s Auxiliary” group, which needs seven women to be official. As Faith (the stunning and chilling Gerrianne Genga) sweetly interrogates Rose about her feelings regarding “darkies,” Rose learns two things: the “Auxiliary” is a women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan; and if you don’t belong, you don’t belong in Celestial, Alabama.

The whole of the story covers the next two years, bringing us up to 1963 (the year of the Birmingham church bombing, which Lockwood cleverly keeps in the background, trusting her audiences to make the connections themselves). To reveal more of what happens, especially to Rose and Martha Nell, would do the production, and the audience, a disservice; but know that the ending is clear-eyed, hard-hitting, and honest.

Lockwood’s script is riveting, though it needs some revision of the plot. However, she is a master at creating sharply etched characters, all of whom (with two exceptions) remain, throughout the action, sympathetic in their self-deceit. And Hubbard’s casting is superb. In addition to Provost, Genga, Fagan, and Barry, the other women—Jes Bedwineck (the tough and playful Jean), Bonnie Black (the sweetly dithering Ophelia, older than all except Ida), and Bethany Fitzgerald (the simple-minded Kathy Two)—inhabit their characters, and their deep friendship, with a remarkable level of authenticity.

Using every inch of the Ivoryton stage up to its rafters, Dan Nischan has created a terrifically realistic set that focuses on Ida’s kitchen, but also includes the front porch and a back shed, both of which enclose crucial scenes. Marcus Abbot’s lighting enhances both the atmosphere and the plot, and Elizabeth A. Saylor’s costumes perfectly delineate each woman’s unique and vivid personality.

Hubbard has also collaborated with Sound Designer Tate R. Burmeister to create music and sound that bring out the nuanced power in Lockwood’s script. Weaving classic hymns throughout the scenes, Hubbard reminds us that these women adamantly believe they are doing Jesus’ work. And the final rallying cry and curtain song warn us that this story’s history is all too close at hand.

Ivoryton Playhouse has given us a sensationally fun, beautifully acted, and strongly directed season this year. Ending with a world premiere—a serious play that speaks with tough eloquence to the moment in which we live—is courageous, but the choice goes far beyond that. “Queens of the Golden Mask” does what the best of art does: while telling a compelling story, it challenges us to examine our pre-conceptions, no matter what they may be. This is not a production to be missed.

============================================================================

THE QUEENS OF THE GOLDEN MASK
Reviewed by Tony Annicone

“The Queens of the Golden Mask”, a world premiere, is currently running at the historic Ivoryton Playhouse. Carole Lockwood’s new play pulls aside the Cotton Curtain to reveal a piece of history that tells a little known story and also raises a warning. It starts off in 1961 and moves two years later in Act 2. The normalizing of hate is dangerous and toxic, not only to the objects of the hatred but eventually destroying those who are caught up in its comfortable complacency. The play is based on the experiences of Elizabeth H. Cobbs written by Petric Smith who also wrote the autobiographical “Long Time Coming: An Insiders Story of the Birmingham Church Bombing That Rocked the World”. Smith’s work provides more than an insiders account of one of the most atrocious events of the civil rights era; it is also the personal journey of a woman inside the world of the most extreme opponents of racial justice. In the violent world of the Klan, women were subservient; men beat their wives with impunity in order to maintain white male supremacy But there were many who, quietly and with great moral courage, put their lives on the line. This is their story. They hide behind a religious facade while performing despicable actions, pretending they are only in a patriotic social club.

Director Jacqui Hubbard takes this story that could have been ripped out of today’s headlines and casts 7 incredible actresses in this dramatic yet sprinkled with humorous incidents along the way. She directs these women on a terrific unit set of kitchen, front stoop and outside the house area by Daniel Nischan with marvelous lighting by Marcus Abbott which figures greatly in this show with the overhead kitchen light and the authentic 1960’s costumes by Elizabeth Cipollina who also designed the scary Ku Klux Klan outfits worn at the end of Act 1 during an initiation ceremony which leaves the audience stunned but eager to find out what happens to these women two years later during the Birmingham Church Bombing.

Thunderous applause is given to this talented cast as the awful and tragic sounds of the Charlottesville riots end this show while the red lights display the tragic events of the church bombing mixed together with two other tragic deaths. The show ends with the Simon and Garfunkel song “The Sounds of Silence” which demonstrates we can’t stand by and let these atrocious things happen not back then and not now in this country so divided by unrest and dissatisfaction with the American government.

These seven women are all easily identifiable under Jacqui’s direction and gives each of them their moment to shine in this show. She uses religious music in between scenes including “In the Sweet Bye and Bye”, “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Shall We Gather at the River.” Each of these women are very talented and deliver the goods in their roles. The mother figure of this story is Ida who is the backbone of this group of staunch supporters of segregation.

Ida’s played wonderfully by Ellen Barry. Ida is sweet and nice but also has a darker sinister side to her. The Queens are very near and dear to her. They are her pride and joy and when anyone crosses her, there is hell to pay with the Kiss of Death. Once somebody joins the Klan there is never any escape.

One of her friends is Faith Carlyle, an Avon Lady who shares her husband’s involvement with the Klan is excellently played by Gerianne Genga. Faith is part of Ida’s close circle of friends. She is used to entice Rose, the northerner who moves to town to join this religious and social group. Faith spews some hateful dialogue to convince Rose to join the group, explaining that she was a Southerner from Atlanta who moved to Alabama so Faith understood how Celestial women felt.

Ida’s daughter-in-law, Martha Nell Sage is vulnerable, lonely and gentle and fabulously played by Sarah Jo Provost. She’s quite a contrast to Ida when the older woman’s dander is aroused. This character is verbally abused by Ida and her plight tugs on your heartstrings when you learn about her five pregnancies and how her husband and his mother really treat her. This character is smarter than the audience is led to believe at first.

One of the most colorful ladies of this group is Fifi Barnett who is a lifetime member of the Queens, played perfectly by Bonnie Black. She is unloved and unnoticed by her husband and resorts to putting on airs as well as gossips up a storm, too. She has been a long time member who brings a coconut cake to the meeting and hopes they can gather seven women together to reinstate the charter of the Queens again. Fifi always argues with Jean but they reach a truce in Act 2 and buy ice cream together while laughing up a storm while a tragic death takes place across town which was initiated by the sheep in wolf’s clothing, Ida.

A complicated character is Jean Mooney who is tough on the outside with her wisecracks and gruff demeanor but hides an intelligent side which emerges in Act 2. Jes Bedwineck brings great depth to this character who at first comes off as a royal pain in the butt but turns the tide later on. The young bride of the Mayor’s son is Kathy (Two) Boggs who seems to always be pregnant. Kathy is very anxious to be a grown up while still is a youngster at heart. Bethany Fitzgerald as Kathy, fantastically plays the young gal who wants to be a Queen so desperately in Act 1 and then turns on a dime when she receives tragic news about Kathy One who moved away and whose death greatly changes her perception of things. She delivers a poignant and touching crying scene on her dramatic exit.

The only Yankee in the group is Rose Jackson who just moved South recently from Ohio. Rose is a teacher who is intelligent, kind and good hearted. Anna Fagan is dynamite as this woman brought to the South by her new husband and who is thrust into this insidious situation. She ponders what she should do. Rose becomes very close to Martha Nell and treats her like her little sister. Her acceptance into the Queens society in Act 1 is startling. Rose learns what is really happening in the town through Martha after she taught her how to read and write. Martha’s in the midst of a medical crisis when Rose learns the truth. Finally events lead up to a climatic revelation in Act 2 where she stands up to the oppressive society, calling them out on their evil and duplicitous behavior even when she is threatened with the Kiss of Death and how no one can ever escape from the Klan after taking a blood oath from them.

The exposition of this new script needs to be tightened up because Act 1 is a little on the longish side but after learning who is who, the second act grabs you and never lets go, hoping you learn from the past and try not to make the same mistakes now and in the future. Speak up and do something about things that are not just and right. Do not sit idly by while injustices take place, get out there and vote so things like this don’t happen.

So for a very timely play that will wake you up to face reality, be sure to catch “Queens of the Golden Mask” to see terrific direction and acting in a world premiere right here in Ivoryton, CT at the historic Ivoryton Playhouse.

THE QUEENS OF THE GOLDEN MASK (31 October to 18 November)
Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
(860)767-7318 or www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

============================================================================

“Jacqueline Hubbard embraces the risk of exposing the roots of this insidious evil as she directs this revealing and monumental work. Based on a true story, this drama tells what happens when women inside the fold stand morally upright in protest and for civil rights and humanity.”

Review by Bonnie Goldberg for the Middletown Press and member of the Connecticut Critics Circle

============================================================================

Ellen Barry and Sarah Jo Provost talk about The Queens of the Golden Mask on stage now until November 18.

Haunting and powerful, this brand new play pulls aside the Cotton Curtain to reveal a hidden piece of history that tells a little known story and also raises a warning. The normalizing of hate is dangerous and toxic – not only to the objects of the hatred but eventually destroying those who are unwittingly caught up in its comfortable complacency.

The play is based on the experiences of Elizabeth H. Cobbs/Petric Smith who wrote the autobiographical Long Time Coming: An Insiders Story of the Birmingham Church Bombing that Rocked the World. Smith’s work provides more than an insider’s account of one of the most atrocious events of the civil rights era; it is also the personal journey of a woman inside the world of the most extreme opponents of racial justice. In the violent world of the Klan, women were subservient; men beat their wives with impunity in order to sustain white male supremacy. Most women were partners in the goal of maintaining white supremacy but there were many who, quietly and with great moral courage, put their lives on the line. This is their story.

Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.

There will be a talk back with the cast and director plus guests after every performance on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Tickets are $50 for adults; $45 for seniors; $25 for students and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Our thanks to Overabove for producing this video clip for the Playhouse.

Leave a comment