The curtain is about to open on a new reality for Theater in the Open: The company, which has been performing at Maudslay State Park for most of its three-decade-plus existence, will be launching its first-ever free season, when the temperatures get up just a little higher. The season will include a little something for everybody: one of those pantos, a free-form, improvisational production with a little song, a little dance and maybe a little seltzer down your pants; a Steven Haley take on old Jean-Paul Sartre's “The Flies,” and an original adaptation of Grimm Brothers stories written by Gregory S. Moss. And, of course, free seasons don't come cheap. So, before the season officially gets under way, there's Spring Thaw, a fundraiser that will serve as a launching pad for what TITO artistic director Edward Speck hopes will be "the first of many, many years of community-supported, open theater." The show, which takes place April 28 at the Firehouse Center, will include Kristen Miller's soundtrack to a short movie by avant garde filmmaker Maya Deren; Exit Dance Theatre's "Famished," a Bugs Bunny-esque mix of slapstick and ballet centering around three people's lust for a doughnut (ummmmmm, doughnuts ...); and Haley's production of a Samuel Beckett play called, well, "Play," a 20-minute piece that deals with themes of fidelity, mortality and, despite our constant, endless jabbering, the species' failure to communicate. The company will try to keep the evening light with two short David Ives pieces, "Sure Thing," directed by Beth Randall, and "Phillip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread," which Speck will direct.
According to Speck, Spring Thaw gives the company the chance to work on projects that might not fit into its traditional season structure. It also gives the company a chance to showcase its friends and spend more time in the wonderful Firehouse Center for the Arts, where it usually only does its Christmas show. But its most important function, the real down-and-dirty, is that this fundraiser, as well as the wildly popular Maudslay is Haunted Halloween show, will pay the bills for the free season — and there are plenty of bills, even for free seasons.
"We are testing a new model and are very anxious to see it succeed," says Speck. "We know that Theater in the Open is important to our community. We know that we have its support. We know from its initial reaction that our audience appreciates the move toward free programming. We know that the next step rests with us. We need to be successful in promoting our goals and telling our community how they can help. This is a very democratic hypothesis — the same model that supports so many museums, schools, libraries, public radio and other cultural institutions. When a community believes that something is important, and that everyone, regardless of their social, political, or economic circumstances, should have access to it, the community comes together to ensure its place. Such a privileged place in a community's heart is not easy to achieve, but we believe strongly in our mission and think that our public does as well."
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Theater in the Open will present The Spring Thaw, its spring fundraiser, at 8 p.m. April 28 at the Firehouse Center. Tickets are $25. For more information, log onto theaterintheopen.org or call 978.462.7336.