Merrimack Repertory Theatre has completed its 31st season as the only professional theatre serving the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire, and it is proud to report that 2009-2010 was both an artistic and financial success. With the books now closed on fiscal year 2010, which ended June 30, the company reports that it has finished in the black for the fifth consecutive year and recorded a moderate operating surplus. This surplus has helped the theatre further reduce its mortgage on its Bagshaw Mills office/rehearsal/artist housing facility, and build an operating cash reserve. The challenging economy has impacted MRT, as unrestricted contributed income declined about 24% for the year. The number of theatergoers increased approximately 10% during the same period, however, and the number of season ticket holders increased slightly.
2009-2010 was a season of many highlights for audience members. The Seafarer, directed by Charles Towers and featuring a cast of MRT veteran actors, was praised by the Independent Reviewers of New England, receiving nominations for Best Production, Best Director, Best Actor (David Adkins) and Best Supporting Actor (Gordon Joseph Weiss). The regional premiere of Heroes continued Merrimack Rep’s relationship with Keen Company and director Carl Forsman, and was another critically acclaimed production, being named to the Boston Globe’s Best of 2009 List and garnering a Best Actor nomination for Ron Holgate. Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s commitment to new work continued, as the theatre presented two world premiere productions during the season, the Flying Karamazov Brothers’ Flings & Eros and The Last Days of Mickey & Jean by Richard Dresser, the latter of which was commissioned by MRT. Also receiving New England premieres at Merrimack Rep this past season were audience favorites Black Pearl Sings! and The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, which featured the return of local favorite Karen MacDonald to the MRT stage. In January, playwright John Kolvenbach was introduced to MRT audiences with the production of his comedy Fabuloso.
“I’m extremely pleased that we were able to maintain our artistic quality on stage during the 09-10 Season after making a 20% budget cut,” says Artistic Director Charles Towers. “I would put our productions of The Seafarer, Heroes and The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead among MRT’s best productions of the past ten years. That’s our plan for next season as well: create exciting theatre productions by attracting the finest actors, directors and designers from on- and off-Broadway, other major regional theatres, film and television, even as we keep our financial management tight and secure. We have a great season line-up for 10-11 of world and regional premieres – fresh contemporary plays that are not tired or overdone. And we will create invigorating productions of those plays by attracting top-level theatre artists from across the country who are attracted by MRT’s singular taste and aesthetic, by the knowledge that they will be creating work at the highest standards of excellence, and by the opportunity to perform for our wonderfully smart and sophisticated audience.”
June 2010 marked the conclusion of Merrimack Rep’s five-year Keep Live Theatre Alive Campaign (KLTA). Beginning in the 2005-2006 season, KLTA asked businesses, foundations, government agencies and individuals to pledge annual sustaining gifts to cover the systemic gap between contributed and earned income. Because of the support garnered by KLTA, Merrimack Repertory Theatre was able to hire Executive Director Tom Parrish in 2006, eliminate the theatre’s accumulated deficit, generate positive working capital and operate in the black for the past five seasons.
Artistically, the past five years have been highly successful for MRT, with the theatre receiving 27 IRNE nominations (8 wins), 5 Elliot Norton Nominations (2 wins), an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, and designation as the Best Live Theatre of the North Shore in 2009. Co-productions with theatres such as Keen Company, Shakespeare & Company, and Virginia Stage resulted in the acclaimed productions of Heroes, Bad Dates, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. Merrimack Rep also transferred its 2007 production of Secret Order Off-Broadway and later to Houston’s Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre. In 2009-2010, MRT expanded its season to seven productions, and served over 40,000 theatergoers.
At Merrimack Rep’s Annual Meeting on June 22 at Liberty Hall, the Board of Trustees elected seven new members, including Roy Anderson (Dracut), Rich Bolton (Stow), Michael Conway (Lowell), John Byrne Carroll (Andover), Linda Lieberman-Monticciolo (Andover), Will Soucy (Dracut) and Sandra Wilson (Chelmsford). Trustees serve a three-year term. The following Trustees were re-elected to a new three-year term: Debra Grossman (Lowell), Alison Kalman (Nashua), Ann Kazer (Andover), Susan Mitchell (Dracut) and Lincoln Pinsky (Carlisle). Retiring Board Members Susan Cooney, Carol Duncan, Frank Marchilena, Jack O’Connor and Jim O’Donnell were also recognized for their combined 96 years of service to Merrimack Repertory Theatre.
For the 2010-2011 season, the Board will be led by Chair Nancy L. Donahue (Lowell); President Norman Sieman (Newton); Vice President Debra Grossman (Lowell); Treasurer Stephen Irish (Scituate); and Secretary Patricia McCafferty (Tyngsborough). Artistic Director Charles Towers returns for his tenth season, and Tom Parrish enters his fifth season as Merrimack Rep’s Executive Director.