Season Features Seven Women Playwrights, Three Premieres, and Three Provocative Plays with Music

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Also, the World Premiere of The Lowell Offering about the Lowell “Mill Girls”

Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) today announced the 2019-20 Season, which features seven plays by women, a world premiere historical drama, two East Coast premieres, and three provocative plays with music, according to Artistic Director Sean Daniels and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas.

The seven-play season begins Sept. 11 and includes the world premiere of The Lowell Offering, a play about the Lowell “Mill Girls” and the world’s first magazine written solely by women.

The season comprises Tiny Beautiful Things, the critically acclaimed stage adaptation of the Cheryl Strayed novel, adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos, directed by Jen Wineman; the East Coast premiere of Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, directed by Marti Lyons; the sequel to Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley – The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon; the romantic-comedy Maytag Virgin by Audrey Cefaly, directed by Eleanor Holdridge; the world premiere of The Lowell Offering by Andy Bayiates and Genevra Gallo-Bayiates; Nina Simone: Four Women by Christina Ham, directed by Kenneth Roberson; and the East Coast Premiere of Lullaby by Michael Elyanow, featuring music and lyrics by Garrison Starr, Chris Dallman, Curt Schneider, and Michael Elyanow.

The 19-20 Season includes co-producing partnerships with City Theatre in Pittsburgh and Victory Gardens in Chicago for Cambodian Rock Brand and Northlight Theatre in Chicago for Nina Simone: Four Women.

“This year features New England artists returning home – from Lowell born Andy Bayiates writing about the ‘Mill Girls’ to South Shore’s Michael Elyanow bringing us a musical that takes place there. It’s always exciting when nationally known New England-born artists return home,” said Daniels. “In addition we have Lauren Yee’s incredibly hot musical that delves into the long term effects of the Cambodian genocide, and MRT favorite Lauren Gunderson is back with a sequel to last year’s hit Christmas at Pemberley. We’re proud that the best in our country considers MRT and Lowell their artistic home.”

Butkas said, “I am thrilled about our 41st Anniversary Season—the breadth of the work, the diversity of stories, the talented artists, and our new partnerships with theatres across the country. We read dozens of plays in preparation for the 2019-20 Season, and Artistic Director Sean Daniels has selected a brilliant mix of plays and musicals to share with the Greater Merrimack Valley region.”

Butkas noted that Lowell has a rich history and vibrant artistic life, and she expressed gratitude for the community support given to the theater.

ABOUT THE PLAYS

Tiny Beautiful Things

Based on the book by Cheryl Strayed

Adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos

Co-Conceived by Marshall Heyman, Thomas Kail, and Nia Vardalos

Directed by Jen Wineman

Sep. 11 – Oct. 6, 2019

“A theatrical hug for turbulent times,” according to Variety, Tiny Beautiful Things is based on the book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed, author of The New York Times bestsellers Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and Brave Enough. Unlike conventional advice columnists, Cheryl Strayed answered hundreds of letters for two years with surprising candor and an often bruising, brutal honesty. Both hilarious and heartbreaking, Tiny Beautiful Things is her personal account of life as Dear Sugar.

Cambodian Rock Band – East Coast Premiere

By Lauren Yee

Featuring songs by Dengue Fever

Directed by Marti Lyons

A co-production with City Theatre in Pittsburgh and Victory Gardens in Chicago

Oct. 16 – Nov. 10

Late October brings the East Coast premiere of Cambodian Rock Band by nationally acclaimed playwright Lauren Yee, with music by the legendary band Dengue Fever. “It’s a riveting play that’s part mystery, part history lesson, and part unabashed jukebox musical concert,” according to Broadway World. The story of a young woman, who attempts to piece together her family history 30 years after her father fled from Cambodia, Rock Band celebrates the resilient bond of family and the enduring power of music.

The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley

By Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon

Nov. 27 – Dec. 22

For the holidays, MRT will follow up the phenomenal success of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with its counterpart, The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley. In December Miss Bennet, the holiday follow-up to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, became the bestselling production in MRT’s 40-year history. As the events of Miss Bennet unfold upstairs at Pemberley, the servants below find themselves in the midst of a scandal; an unwelcome visitor has stumbled into the kitchen in the middle of the night – Mr. Darcy’s nemesis and Lydia’s incorrigible husband: Mr. Wickham.

The San Francisco Chronicle said of the debut production three months ago, “Impossible to resist! Epistolary complications, empire-waist dresses, scheming female relatives, and romance – both sparked and thwarted by pride.”

Maytag Virgin

By Audrey Cefaly

Directed by Eleanor Holdridge

January 8 – February 2, 2020

The year 2020 will kick off with the sweet, funny, and very Southern romantic-comedy Maytag Virgin. “Hilarious and full of heart. Cefaly explores this very real clash for the characters between the customs of modern courtship through text messages and online dating, and a quaint culture where people still cook for each other to express romantic interest.” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Lowell Offering – World Premiere

By Andy Bayiates and Genevra Gallo-Bayiates

February 12 – March 8, 2020

MRT will present the world premiere of The Lowell Offering, a rousing historical drama by Andy Bayiates and Genevra Gallo-Bayiates. Andy and Genevra wrote MRT’s 45 Plays for 45 Presidents with Sean Benjamin, Chloe Johnston, and Karen Weinberg. Andy also wrote Lost Laughs: The Slapstick Tragedy of Fatty Arbuckle with Aaron Muñoz; Lost Laughs was nominated last week for Best Play by the Independent Reviewers of New England. In 1840 in Lowell, MA, a group of factory workers began publishing the world’s first magazine written solely by women; it was called The Lowell Offering. This is the story of the magazine’s editor, Harriet Farley, and a labor activist, Sarah Bagley – and the rise and fall of their friendship, the magazine, and Lowell’s “Mill Girl” culture.

Nina Simone: Four Women

By Christina Ham

Directed by Kenneth Roberson

A co-production with Northlight Theatre in Chicago

March 18 – April 12, 2020

With spring comes a rousing celebration of the singer, songwriter, and activist Nina Simone. The show is currently playing at Northlight Theatre in Chicago, and it is garnering brilliant reviews. The Chicago Tribune said, “A remarkable show! It is totally different from any revue you ever saw and, especially given this fine casting, it catches one of the great thinkers, activists and musicians of the 20th century as she surely was feeling in that given moment in time.”

Nina Simone: Four Women brings to life her song “Four Women,” her tribute to the four little girls killed in the 1963 church bombing in Alabama. Songs include “Mississippi Goddam,” “I Loves You, Porgy,” “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” “Sinnerman,” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”

Lullaby

BY Michael Elyanow

Featuring the music and lyrics of Garrison Starr, Chris Dallman,

Curt Schneider and Michael Elyanow

April 22 – May 17, 2020

The 2019-20 season will close with the East Coast premiere of Lullaby, a new play with an uplifting folk-rock score. Lullaby is a pulsating, provocative dark comedy about love and family and heartbreak – about lingering spirits and how we finally say goodbye to the past and move on to a lighter future.

TwinCities.com said, “There’s a modern, absurdist side to Elyanow’s humor – a bracing wit,” and Broadway World said, “Everything I want theatre to be: funny, smart, relevant, moving, and with awesome songs!”