Summer Stages: Rhode Island Theatre Offerings
Co-Written by Rhode Island Contributing Editors Robert Barossi, Veronica Bruscini and David De Almo
Rhode Island's ever-growing arts scene shows no signs of slowing down over the summer months. With ambitious theatrical productions planned from Providence to South County, and internationally-renowned musicians bringing sizzling concert performances to the Ocean State, summer 2014 is shaping up to be a most memorable season of stories and songs.
- 2nd Story Theatre in Warren presents a summer lineup that is equally thought-provoking, mysterious and hilarious. Appearing in the DownStage space will be two historical figures, Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis. Freud's Last Session presents a fictional meeting between these two intellectual giants, as they meet at Freud's home and clash over weighty topics including God, love, sex and the meaning of life. In their UpStage space, 2nd Story will offer a double-bill with two plays in rep, one a murder mystery and the other a high-class comedy. Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None will have audience members trying to solve the murderous whodunit till the very end, while Noel Coward's Hay Fever will have them laughing out loud at the antics of an eccentric family and their weekend guests. Visit www.2ndstorytheatre.com for more information or contact the box office at (401) 247-4200.
- Artists' Exchange will be busy all summer. Burbage Theatre Company presents the last show of their spring season, Ionesco's absurdist masterpiece The Bald Soprano, in late June. OUT LOUD Theatre, who will be taking up residency in the Artists' Exchange's smaller space at 50 Rolfe Square this summer, first will present Sarah Kane's CRAVE in Providence. The Artists' Exchange's resident company will have their annual summer tradition, two waves of One Acts in their One-Act Play Festival. See www.artists-exchange.org to view the season's calendar and to purchase tickets.
- Contemporary Theatre Company continues its tradition of running audience-pleasing comedies in the summertime at their home in Wakefield, though this year they're going a bit deeper. They'll start the summer off with a brand new political satire called The Rescue, a piece created by local playwright Ron Maine. Next is Michael Frayn's classic showbiz farce Noises Off, and the season is rounded out by Yasmina Reza's comedy Art, concerning the nature of art, as told by three friends arguing over whether a white canvas could be called art. For tickets: www.contemporarytheatercompany.com.
- Steve Broderick and The 100 Watt Suns kick off the summer season at Kingston's Courthouse Center for the Arts. Broderick, formerly a full-time touring member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, heads this "nuclear roots rock band" and will be joined on stage by singer/guitarist Dan Watson, drummer Don Culp, Bill Light and Marty Maroney. Rhode Island's own Longshot Voodoo will open for The 100 Watt Suns. Courthouse will also host Bob Perlow's Tales from Hollywood. Audience participation is encouraged in this "journey through the back stages of Hollywood," and proceeds will support The Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. See Courthouse's full calendar at www.courthousecenterstage.org; tickets are available online www.brownpapertickets.com/profile/383249.
- Epic Theatre Company has an ambitious summer planned. Throughout June, both parts of Tony Kushner's Angels in America will be running in rep. In August is the Rhode Island premiere of the controversial Cock, or the Rooster Play, and sandwiched between the two is the Epic Summer Show, which generally involves well over 100 local actors all performing pieces written by Epic's artistic director, Kevin Broccoli. This year's summer show is entitled Leaving Rhode Island, and it will feature monologues and scenes pertaining to that topic. Tickets for Epic Theatre Company are available through Artists' Exchange, www.artists-exchange.org.
- Mixed Magic Theatre has an eventful June in store, opening with an encore run of Ntozake Shange's experimental play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. Later in the month, the company will host the First Annual Mixed Magic Theatre Juneteenth Celebration. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States; visit the MMT website for a full schedule of Juneteenth events. In July, Fate Comes Knocking takes center stage at MMT with a look at the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King "through the eyes of people who observed his life and the national and world events that would shape him." The company closes July with a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, performances to be staged at Town Landing in Pawtucket. See Mixed Magic's full calendar at www.mmtri.com.
- Ocean State Theatre Company welcomes two musical productions to their Warwick stage this summer, starting with Always...Patsy Cline, a tune-filled tribute to the life and music of country music sensation Patsy Cline (playing June 4-22). Then in July, the company "rolls the dice" on Guys and Dolls, one of musical theater's most beloved romantic comedies. Guys and Dolls plays OSTC July 9-27. For tickets to any of Ocean State Theatre Company's performances, visit www.oceanstatetheatre.org or call the box office at (401) 921-6800.
- The artistic directors of OUT LOUD Theatre and La Voce: Theatre that Speaks will partner in June on the "2 Women. 2 Weekends. 2 Shows." project. Mother-daughter team Patricia Hawkridge (La Voce) and Kira Hawkridge (OUT LOUD) will first stage a Youth Summer Shakespeare production of Hamlet (June 19-21) and then present Sarah Kane's CRAVE (June 26-28) as part of the URI, RIC, and CCRI celebration of "The State of the Arts." All performances are free and open to the public; see www.outloudtheatre.org for full details. Presented by the URI Feinstein Providence Campus Arts and Culture Program.
- The Providence Performing Arts Center has a full calendar of song and celebration planned for the summer season. Starting things off in June, powerhouse pop/opera quartet Il Divo teams with special guest and musical-theater superstar, Lea Salonga, for their new tour A Musical Affair. Later in June, the legendary Ringo Starr arrives at PPAC with his All-Starr Band for a one-night-only evening of impressive musicianship. This year's All-Starr lineup includes Todd Rundgren, Steve Lukather (Toto), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Gregg Rolie (Santana/Journey), and drummer Gregg Bissonette. Fittingly following Ringo on the June schedule is RAIN - A Tribute to The Beatles, returning to PPAC by popular demand after wowing Providence audiences in 2013. In July, PPAC welcomes Queens of the Stone Age and singer-songwriter Beck, hosts An Evening with Crosby, Stills & Nash, and celebrates with Rhode Island Monthly at the annual Best of Rhode Island Party. Jackson Browne brings his Solo Acoustic show to Providence in August, and later that same month, internationally-acclaimed soprano Sarah Brightman takes to the PPAC stage as part of her Dreamchaser world tour. A performance by Steely Dan, featuring Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, rounds out the song-filled season in September. Visit www.ppacri.org for ticket information or call the box office at (401) 421-ARTS (2787).
- Shakespeare in the Park: Shakespeare is once again well-represented this summer, with both outdoor and indoor productions all over the state. The summer begins with The Rhode Island Shakespeare Company presenting Henry IV, Part 1 at the Roger Williams Memorial. Soon after, TRIST, recently rechristened What Cheer, Shakespeare?, will present The Tempest with a touring production that will have engagements in Tiverton, Newport, and at their home in West Kingston. Finally, two productions of Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night will appear in Rhode Island this summer, at opposite ends of the state: [the aforementioned] Mixed Magic will present a gender- and race-blind version of the show at Pawtucket's newly re-opened Town Landing, and The Colonial Theatre in Westerly will present their version in that town's beautiful Wilcox Park. TRIST/What Cheer, Shakespeare? $25 per carload, $15 for drivers with no adult passengers, $15 for walk-ins (kids free); Mixed Magic Theatre www.mmtri.com; The Colonial Theatre www.thecolonialtheater.org.
- Songs and sea breezes abound at Matunuck's Theatre by the Sea. This season begins with the swinging sounds of Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show (June 4-22), followed by Grease (June 25- July 19), Mary Poppins (July 23-August 16), and Monty Python's SPAMALOT (August 20-September 7). Five Children's Festival productions are also scheduled, including A Year with Frog & Toad, Steve Johnson's Magic Variety Show, Disney's High School Musical, Little Red Riding Hood, and Keith Michael Johnson's Bubbleology. Once again, TBTS offers a two-week long Camp Theatre by the Sea program for children aged 9-14. For show times and ticket prices, log on to www.theatrebythesea.com or call the box office at (401) 782-TKTS (8587).
- The Wilbury Group has a couple of entertaining and intriguing offerings planned for the summer. In early June is Roadhouse: The Musical, which will be presented as a workshop concert of a new musical, based on the film of the same name. The movie, which starred Patrick Swayze and has developed into a cult favorite, should make for an entertaining musical. Later in the month of June, Wilbury is presenting a new work titled Veja Doolittle, Live in Concert. The one-woman show is described as a "multimedia solo performance, a traveling show, a memorabilia tour, and a concert of covered songs." Wilbury will also be producing FringePVD this summer, July 24-26. Similar to many other Fringe Festivals across the country, Providence's Fringe Festival will be dedicated to new works and independent artists, with a focus on artists from the New England area. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 401-400-7100 or visit www.thewilburygroup.org.
Pictured: Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show plays Theatre by the Sea in June. Photo courtesy Theatre by the Sea.