Players'Ring Late Night Series Offers Another Choice For Summer

Players'Ring Late Night Series Offers Another Choice For Summer

It's not easy to be a tiny little theater in the shadow of Prescott Park once the summer rolls around.

But the 75-seat Players' Ring on Marcy Street has found a way. While thousands of people are flooding out of big-name events at Prescott Park late on summer nights, this homespun theater in an historic building on the edge of the park is ramping up to show cutting-edge plays from up-and-coming writers and producers .

The Players' Ring launched the Late Night Summer Series in 2001 as a showcase for alternative and experimental pieces, as well as a way to keep the theater open year round, working around the Prescott Parks Arts Festival's schedule.

The majority of the Late Night productions are originals, and many of them are from first time playwrights or producers that may be looking to workshop their piece on a small stage.

"Late Night gives producers and playwrights a chance to put work out there that doesn't really fit with a 'typical' season of theatre," said playwright Greg Hovanesian, who wrote "Wilderness," the first show in the Late Night Series this summer. "It's a special place where new works are able get out on stage, when otherwise they may never have had the opportunity."

The Late Night Series offers shorter shows through the summer at 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 9 pm on Sundays.

"This is an alternative or a companion to the rest of the Seacoast's active summer night life," said Joi Smith, board member at the Players' Ring.
"The series is almost a right of passage," Smith said, noting many Seacoast artists began their journey with the Players' Ring through one of these productions.

Matthew Bickerstaff of York, for instance, two years ago submitted his first play when he was 17 and his co-writer was 14. By what Bickerstaff called "some stroke of fate," his dark comedy about a hostage situation, "Heist," was accepted. This year, his play, "Jason, Jason, and Florence," will open July 19 as part of the Late Night Series

Bickerstaff feels the late night set-up influenced both who came to see the show, and how comfortable he and his co-writer felt submitting it.

"Something seemingly trivial like starting two hours later, really changes the feel and experience for both the production and the audience," Bickerstaff said "You may not think that simply moving the time the curtain goes up would change the atmosphere of the theater, but it actually does."

The biggest difference, he said, is the atmosphere. "While this is not always the case, the summer series acts as a refuge for avant-garde and experimental productions."

In his case, both writers felt "less restricted as to what we could write and include in our script, being familiar with the more off-beat crowd the summer series attracts," he said.

Hovanesian also see different shows working in the 10 pm slot, "shows that are darker than usual, or have a slightly wacky sense of humor, or maybe have a run time that's a little bit too short for an 8 pm time slot."

First timer John Breneman of Portsmouth, who is on the creative team for "Somebody Dies," running Aug. 16 to 25, agrees the Ring series offers an appealing venue for writers and producers.

"As a writer, it's a chance to create for the stage in a setting that feels both intimate and intensely personal," said Breneman of Portsmouth, who is part of the shows creative team. "Connecting with this special little theater in my virtual backyard for the first time is both exciting and terrifying,"

This year the Late Night Series will feature these weekend shows: "Wilderness," by Greg Hovanesian, June 21 to 30; "A Backwards Fairytale" by Alison Lehnhoff, July 5 and 14; "Jason, Jason and Florence" by Matthew Bickerstaff, July 19 to 28; "Final Analysis" by Lawrence Hennessy, August 2 to 11; and "Somebody Dies" by John Breneman and Christopher Elliott, Aug. 16 to 25.

Tickets are $14 with discounts for students, seniors, and Players' Ring members. Reservations and information at or 603-436-8123.

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