Mint Theater Company To Stream World Premiere of BECOMES A WOMAN

Stream the production from February 19th through March 17th.

By: Feb. 08, 2024
Mint Theater Company To Stream World Premiere of BECOMES A WOMAN

Mint Theater Company will continue its hybrid programming of live performances along with the free on-demand streaming of acclaimed previous productions. Beginning Monday February 19th (from 7pm) Mint will be streaming the three-camera archival recording (filmed in HD) of the World Premiere of one of its most exciting discoveries: Becomes a Woman, an unpublished and never produced play by Betty Smith (author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), Smith’s 1930 never-before-seen drama. Streaming will continue to be available through March 17th only.  The price of admission is FREE. Available at Mint’s virtual theater, MintTheater.org.

Since the shutdown of theaters in 2020 thousands of people around the world were introduced to Mint’s mission and programming through free streaming of nine past productions. Theater lovers from all 50 states and 50 countries around the world streamed Mint productions for 48,624 hours, more than five and a half years of round-the-clock viewing. And that’s not counting the post-show EnrichMint talks or rehearsal videos. Streaming has provided a source of new fans, new support, and new enthusiasm, but it was not a short-term survival strategy born out of necessity—it was a long-held dream.

Mint made its first video in 2008: the premiere of The Fifth Column by Ernest Hemingway as it was originally written. Union rules forbade sharing the recording with a general audience, but the cast was put on a special contract that allowed the video to be used for academic purposes.  The first showing was at the Biannual Hemingway Conference in Kansas City.

In 2013, Mint committed to recording all its productions, investing in creating professionally shot and edited full length archival videos. These videos are shot during live performances with three high-definition cameras,  and edited to create a broadcast quality, intimate and enjoyable experience of Mint programming. "After all, each of our productions runs the risk of being the only time the play will ever be done. I believed that one day the recordings might be shared with the public and I established the Preservation Fund to pay for taping, and eventually salaries for the artists," said Jonathan Bank, Mint’s Producing Artistic Director.

When the pandemic hit the theaters in 2020, Mint finally had the opportunity to discover if there was a national audience for our discoveries. Unions representing the performers, directors and designers were eager to cooperate and PPP loans helped to pay those salaries.

“Most of our streaming audience have never seen any of our productions live and never will. Some attended in the past but relocated, others attended as tourists but don’t come to New York regularly. Of course, part of the appeal is the price. What could be better than free? Many of our viewers have said that they would be happy to pay, but I discovered that offering free streaming to an appreciative audience is unbelievably gratifying. Yes, I know the work is worth paying for, but I’m a bit of an idealist and reading grateful comments from so many viewers was a happier experience for me than worrying about sales. And streaming is a much more affordable way for us to extend a run,” said Mr. Bank.

Becomes a Woman is the story of Francie, a 19-year-old living with her family in Brooklyn and working at a five and dime store as a singer at the sheet music counter. Her co-workers describe her as “afraid of her family, afraid of the boss, afraid to make a date.” But as Francie becomes a woman, she discovers a hidden reserve of courage that surprises everyone, even herself.

Featured in the cast, directed by Britt Berke, are Duane Boutté (Broadway: Parade, Carousel; Off-Broadway: The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, The Heliotrope Bouquet by Scott Joplin & Louis Chauvin - Playwrights Horizons);  Christopher Reed Brown (Off-Broadway debut!); Jeb Brown (Broadway: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, Elton John & Tim Rice's Aida;  Off-Broadway: Scotland, PA - Roundabout; Romantic Poetry - Manhattan Theatre Club); Gina Daniels (Broadway: Network; Off-Broadway: Judgment Day - Park Avenue Armory); Antoinette  LaVecchia (Broadway: Torch Song - Second Stage Theatre. A View from the Bridge; Off-Broadway: String of Pearls - Primary Stages); Jillian Louis (Broadway: It Shoulda Been You; Off-Broadway: Tenderloin - York Theatre; Chick Flick the Musical; Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol); Jack Mastrianni (Broadway: A Christmas Story The Musical!); Jason O'Connell (Off-Broadway: Judgment Day - Park Avenue Armory; Pride and Prejudice - Primary Stages; Sense and Sensibility, The Seagull - Bedlam); Emma Pfitzer Price (for this, her Off-Broadway debut, Emma received the Theatre World Award and was nominated for Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Lead Performer in an Off-Broadway Play); Scott Redmond(Oklahoma! National Tour); Pearl Rhein (Broadway: Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812;  Off-Broadway: The Taming of the Shrew  - Public Theater,  Volpone - Red Bull Theater, The Lucky Ones - Ars Nova); Madeline Seidman (Off-Broadway debut!); Phillip Taratula (Broadway: The Skin of Our Teeth - Lincoln Center Theater, Off-Broadway: Riddle of the Trilobites - New Victory); Peterson Townsend (Chains - Mint Theater); and Tim Webb (A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage - National Tour). The creative team includes Vicki R. Davis (scenic), Emilee McVey-Lee(costumes), Mary Louise Geiger (lighting), M. Florian Staab (sound), Amy Stoller (dialects and dramaturgy), and Stephanie Klapper, CSA (casting).

“I write plays because I’d rather do that than anything else in the world” - Betty Smith, 1937.

Betty Smith 

(December 15th 1896 – January 17th 1972) was best known for her 1943 bestselling novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Published to instant critical and popular acclaim, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, along with her other novels, possessed the same strong autobiographical overtones of a brightness amid poverty and enduring optimism amid oppression. Though acclaimed as a novelist, Betty Smith’s first love was always the theater. From a young age, Smith had a deep and abiding interest in the theater; she regularly attended Saturday matinees at Brooklyn theaters for ten cents each, which allowed her to stand in the gallery. Although she never graduated from high school, Betty ended up pursuing an education at the University of Michigan where her life reached a turning point when she won the University's Avery Hopwood Award which came with a cash prize enabling Smith to invest in herself and accept an invitation to study drama at Yale with the legendary George Pierce Baker. Other Baker students over the years have included Eugene O’Neill, Philip Barry, Thomas Wolfe, and George Abbott, among others.  Smith died of pneumonia in Shelton Connecticut at the age of 75.

"Of all the countless Off-Broadway troupes with which the side streets of Manhattan are dotted, none has a more distinctive mission—or a higher artistic batting average—than the Mint Theater Company, which 'finds and produces worthwhile plays from the past that have been lost or forgotten.' If that sounds dull to you, don’t be fooled: I’ve never seen a production there that was a sliver less than superb. Rachel Crothers’s Susan and God, John Galsworthy’s The Skin Game, Harley Granville-Barker’s The Madras House, N.C. Hunter’s A Day by the Sea, Dawn Powell’s Walking Down Broadway, Jules Romains’s Doctor Knock, John Van Druten’s London Wall: All these fine plays and others just as good have been exhumed by the Mint to memorable effect in the 13 years that I’ve been reviewing the company, a tribute to the uncanny taste and unfailing resourcefulness of Jonathan Bank, the artistic director," said the late Terry Teachout in the Wall Street Journal. Mint was awarded an OBIE Award for “combining the excitement of discovery with the richness of tradition” and a special Drama Desk Award for “unearthing, presenting and preserving forgotten plays of merit.”
 

Photo credit: Todd Cerveris 




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