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Summer Stages: Rhode Island Summer Events

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Co-Written by Rhode Island Contributing Editors Veronica Bruscini and Robert Barossi

Warm, dazzling sunshine and refreshing sea breezes signal the start of the summer arts season in Rhode Island. Once again, Ocean State performers have a busy season planned, as venues from Downcity to South County prepare to welcome stories and songs to their stages.

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Warren's 2nd Story Theatre plans for an engaging summer season. 2nd Story will stage David Ives' intense Venus in Fur twice on the DownStage boards. Venus first plays June 5-28 with an encore performance July 23-August 2. Meanwhile, comedy takes the spotlight UpStage as the company presents Paul Rudnick's I Hate Hamlet in repertory with Die, Mommie, Die! by Charles Busch. Ticket information and further details are available by visiting www.2ndstorytheatre.com or contacting the box office at (401) 247-4200.

Artists' Exchange celebrates the one-act play format all summer long. First up in June, the SantRiana Theatre Group arrives with An Evening of One Act Plays, and then in July and August, AE celebrates the 10th anniversary of its popular One Act Play Festival. Artists' Exchange will also host its second Vernal Arts Festival, an event full of family-friendly entertainment, art, music, and great food. Craft Bashes are planned on the last Saturday of every month. Epic Theatre plans several performances at AE's Black Box during the summer as well (see listing, below). Visit www.artists-exchange.org to view the complete season calendar and to purchase tickets.

The Contemporary Theater Company's summer schedule promises lots of laughter. CTC's One-Hour Theater Challenge runs all season long with performances in June, July, August, and September. The Challenge provides a unique experience for performers and audience members alike. In only one hour, nine actors must perform twenty-five plays, all of which are written by CTC company members. Each night features a different group of plays and performers, and there are hilarious consequences for the actors if they run even a tick over 60 minutes. In addition, Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy takes the CTC stage in July and August - a power outage at an apartment building causes havoc and hilarity among its residents in this witty play - while Micetro Improv troupe performs a variety of scenes and songs each Friday evening. Main Street Kids brings family-friendly fun and pint-sized adventures to CTC every Saturday morning. For tickets, visit www.contemporarytheatercompany.com.

The Community College of Rhode Island hosts Hello, Broadway! a fully endowed, five-week workshop/performance intensive open to all college students. The program culminates in a musical revue that celebrates the best of Broadway show tunes past and present. Showcase performances run June 12-14 in the Bobby Hackett Theater at CCRI's Knight Campus in Warwick. Contact the box office for tickets at (401) 825-1135 and visit www.ccri.edu/hellobroadway for full details on the Hello, Broadway! program.

The College's arts program can also claim bragging rights as Alex Rotella and Laura Minadeo, CCRI alumni and past presidents of the Players Club, prepare to perform at the New York Fringe Festival in August. Rotella and Minadeo's super-hero story, Pickles: the Play, has the distinction of being the only show from Rhode Island to earn a place in this year's Fringe schedule. For more on Pickles, visit www.facebook.com/picklestheplay.

Kingston's Courthouse Center for the Arts celebrates the summer with a robust lineup of talented musicians, visual artists, and theatrical performers. June is especially busy for Courthouse with a number of concerts on the calendar. Don Campbell starts things off with Celebrating the Music of Dan Fogelberg, then Kerry Powers performs in concert with Dynamite Shack, blues legend James Montgomery partners with violin virtuoso Marisa Licata, and legendary singer/songwriter Livingston Taylor takes to the stage. Also in June, Courthouse hosts a night of laughter with comedian Paul Nardizzi and friends, as well as a formal reception for the Center's featured visual artists. July heralds the return of Shakespeare Under the Stars with performances of the Bard's celebrated comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Then in August, jazz pianist and vocalist Debra Mann brings her tribute to Joni Mitchell to South County. Visit www.courthousecenterstage.org for tickets.

Epic Theatre won't be slowing down the pace much this summer, with two shows at the Artists' Exchange. In July, they will be featuring the world premiere of Kevin Broccoli's We Might Be Heroes. The play, which will feature Epic's largest cast to date, poses a number of questions about what happens to ordinary citizens after the superheroes are done fighting enormous battles all around them. In August, Epic will take things back to the classics with The Boys of St. Matthews Present Tartuffe. This new take on the Moliere comedy promises to put a new spin on the classic tale and tell the story in a new and exciting way. Information and tickets for both can be found at the Artists' Exchange website at www.artists-exchange.org/events.html.

On June 6, Festival Ballet Providence hosts "Beers for the Ballet," a fundraising event that is part of the annual Hope Street Spring Block Party, featuring live bands and some of Providence's best food trucks. Later in the summer, FBP's Summer Dance Intensive students will perform excerpts from Swan Lake during the August 1st Waterfire. Visit www.festivalballet.com for details and for a preview of the company's 2015-16 season.

The Gamm's 30th season, another extremely successful year for the company, has come to an end, but there will be some opportunities for young theater fans to get involved this summer. There will be two shows produced through the company's teen theater camp, which focuses on theater training for young performers through Shakespeare. This summer, they will be producing The Winter's Tale and The Taming of the Shrew. Even more exciting is the news that the Gamm has added a second summer intensive for middle schoolers. For more information, check out the programs website at http://www.gammtheatre.org/#!teen-theater-camp/celt.

Mixed Magic Theatre kicks of its summer season in song. The troupe performs The Best of the Magic in Music, a benefit concert for MMT at Lorraine Mills on Saturday, June 27th. This family-friendly evening under the stars features songs from some the most popular shows in Mixed Magic's repertoire, including When Mahalia Sings, The Spirit Warrior, Shakespeare in the Spirit, A Kwanzaa Song, Moon Chasin', and more. The rain date for this event is Sunday, June 28th. In July and August, MMT hosts the Festival51 Women's Playwriting Festival; MMT is currently seeking submissions for this event and full details can be found on the company's website, www.mmtri.com.

(Edit - June 10): The Best of the Magic in Music has been postponed until late August. Visit mmtri.com for updated information on this event.

Summer is also the time for lighter fare and big, flashy musical productions. Ocean State Theatre Company is presenting both with two shows featuring exciting performers in the lead roles. First up is Rounding Third, "the big league comedy about little league coaches." The two coaches in question will be played by two local theater favorites, Trinity Rep's Fred Sullivan, Jr. and Ocean State's own Joel Kipper. In July, Ocean State will bring the beloved musical Gypsy to its stage, with Ocean State's own Amiee Turner in the role of Mama Rose and Christopher Swan, who won rave reviews in Ocean State's production of The King and I, as Herbie. Ocean State also has special events lined up, including comedians Rob Bartlett and Tony Powell appearing at the end of June as well as Camp OSTC, a "summer camp for musical theater kids." For information on all of these events and to purchase tickets, visit the company's website at www.oceanstatetheatre.org.

Another classic and beloved tale will be getting a new and exciting adaptation this summer. In August, OUT LOUD Theatre will be presenting Jane Eyre, which will be the New England premiere of this unique vision of the Charlotte Brontë novel. "Based in visceral and explorative storytelling," this production sounds likely to continue OUT LOUD's streak of bringing exciting and unique theatrical experiences to our area. See the company's website at www.outloudtheatre.org/plays--events.html for more information.

Before that, though, OUT LOUD will be tackling the Bard himself with "Bending the Bard: OUT LOUD Ladies Take on Shakespeare's Lads." Actresses from OUT LOUD's resident acting company will be performing scenes and monologues form some of Shakespeare's classic leading men. Performances are on June 19th and 20th at 7:30pm, with tickets that are $15.00 at the door. For a reservation, e-mail outloudtheatre@gmail.com with your name, number of tickets, and performance date.

June is a month of music and laugher at the Providence Performing Arts Center. The national tour of Kinky Boots - a six-time Tony winner - stages performances in Rhode Island June 9-14; later in the month, comedian Daniel Tosh brings his Great Nor'easter Tour of 2015 to PPAC for two shows only. In August, PPAC welcomes Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion: The America the Beautiful Tour for an evening of "jump jazz, sweet harmony, poetry declamation, Guy Noir" and other favorite skits from 40 years of radio. Visit www.ppacri.org for ticket information or call the box office at (401) 421-ARTS (2787).

Performances at Theatre by the Sea are a summer staple for Rhode Island audiences. The 2015 season opens with Smokey Joe's Café, the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history. My Fair Lady graces Matunuck's stage later in June with Emmy Award-winning actor Charles Shaughnessy appearing as Professor Henry Higgins. The Little Mermaid follows in July, featuring Alan Menken's much-loved score and plenty of Disney magic. Mel Brooks' sidesplitting comedy Young Frankenstein rounds out the musical season with an impish retelling of Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature. Several Children's Festival productions are also scheduled, including Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Legally Blonde, Jr., The Airborne Comedians, and Keith Michael Johnson's popular Bubbleology. TBTS also offers its annual Camp Theatre by the Sea program for children ages 9-14. For show times and ticket prices, log on to www.theatrebythesea.com or call the box office at (401) 782-TKTS (8587).

Trinity Repertory Company's world-premiere production of Melancholy Play: a chamber musical continues now through June 28. Melancholy Play is from the pen of Tony Award-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl and features the artistic vision of prolific composer Todd Almond and Obie Award-winner Liesl Tommy. The Providence International Arts Festival - coming on Saturday, June 13th - will highlight the cast of Melancholy Play in Adrian Hall Way. This event is open to the public and admission is free.

Trinity also plays host to the Young Actors Summer Institute (YASI), a month-long arts intensive for students. YASI kicks off in June and will hold showcase performances July 31 and August 1. These showcase events are free and open to the public. On August 22, the 2015-16 Season Kick-Off Party will feature performances by 20+ local theater companies, prop and costume shop sales, and delicious eats from some of Providence's favorite food trucks. Special guest Tape Art will be installing a mural on Adrian Hall Way. All are welcome to attend this free event. For further details on any of these summer happenings, call (401) 351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com.

Veterans Memorial Auditorium welcomes family-friendly The Wild Kratts Live! in June. The popular animated characters come to life on stage as the Kratt brothers don their Creature Power Suits to defeat a comic villain. Later in the summer, the American Idols Live! tour brings the top five finalists from Season 14 to the VMA stage. The artists will perform some of their favorite tunes accompanied by a talented band of live musicians. VIP and "Meet & Greet" packages are available for this performance. Comedian Eddie Izzard closes the VMA's summer season with his force majeure tour. Izzard's witty narratives and offbeat aesthetic have won him international acclaim. Tickets are available by visiting www.thevetsri.com, by calling (401) 421-2787, or by contacting the PPAC box office.

After ending their season with the critically acclaimed Next to Normal, The Wilbury Group will have a mostly quiet summer except for one major event definitely worth checking out. For the second year, Wilbury will be presenting the Providence Fringe Festival, July 21st through the 25th. There will be more than 50 artists from across the country performing at seven venues across the city, including Wilbury's own theater space and some "surprise pop-up venues," according to Wilbury Artistic Director Josh Short. Fringe Festivals, which have been happening for some time in a number of cities across the U.S., are always thrilling events, featuring a wide variety of artists producing their own work, from theater and dance to performance art. Providence finally having a festival is a credit to Wilbury's efforts and a great opportunity for audiences in our area to see what all the Fringe excitement is about. Check out www.fringepvd.org for more information.

Image courtesy Contemporary Theater Company
Photo by KUMPhotography


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