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01.13 Group plans theater company for Worcester

Troy Siebels

Looks like Worcester may be getting a professional theater company back in the city.

Determined to continue the revitalization of the city, a group of civic, cultural, business, educational, foundation and community leaders have met over the past few years to discuss how to bring live, professional theater back to the city.

Since building a resident professional theater from scratch would be a long and financially risky venture, the group plans to use collaboration and civic cooperation to reinvent and transform an existing professional theater company into one that serves two home cities ~ Worcester and Lowell.

This initiative, MRT Worcester, is a producing partnership that includes the MRT Worcester Committee (an organization of community volunteers), Troy Siebels (executive director of the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts), Merrimack Repertory Theatre (also known as MRT) and the community leaders.

When the initiative is complete, MRT will come to stand for Massachusetts Repertory Theatre, celebrating its loyalty and connection to two metropolitan areas. With a cultural presence and performance venue in each city, it will serve a region of 1.3 million from its two urban hubs, guided by a single staff and a governing board comprised of representatives from throughout the region.

Siebels said, “A city the size of Worcester needs a resident theater company. We’re proud of what we do at The Hanover, but it should be just one piece of a broad and diverse theatrical scene. I believe that the partnership idea is a brilliant solution for providing excellent regional theater to smaller cities, and that MRT is the best possible partner for success.”

An effort is already under way involving public and private urban developers to identify potential sites in downtown Worcester for the construction of a 300-seat multi-use theater, of which MRT would be the anchor tenant. Area colleges and other nonprofits would have access to the facility as well.

Simultaneously, the MRT Worcester Committee is actively seeking inaugural donors to contribute the funds necessary to build the Worcester audience and donor base for this new professional theater company.

It plans to do this by sponsoring a number of productions to be presented in a temporary theater structure specially built for each production on the stage of the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. This “theater within a theater” will allow patrons to experience firsthand the intimacy and theatrical charge that occurs between an audience and professional New York actors, which has been one of the hallmarks of MRT’s success.

The first planned production is John Logan’s RED, winner of the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play, to be presented March 14-17.

A three-play “sampler season” will be presented in the same temporary onstage theater at the Hanover while the permanent facility is under construction.

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