Small but Mighty Local Theaters

Salem Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’
Salem Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’

By Sheila Barth

Published July 10, 2015, issue of July 09, 2015.

While most theatergoers save their shekels to see big shows in Boston and New York, avid patrons flock to small, fringe theaters to enjoy intimate, edgier productions at affordable ticket prices.

A plethora of theater companies have sprung up in the Boston and North Shore area, and are thriving, offering superb productions without compromising their artistic integrity.

Here’s a sampling of outstanding, award-winning fringe and small theaters:

Salem Theatre Company

Ever wonder what’s behind the small storefront at 90 Lafayette Street, Salem? A few years ago, it was Dracula’s Castle, a seasonal attraction, until Salem Theatre Company decided to move in and present exciting live theater in the 50-seat space.

Managing Director Catherine Bertrand says the company offers human stories, depicting a slice of life. Not all stories are nice. Some are a little more edgy, like the play recently appearing there, Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart.”

“The Normal Heart” was a huge, important part of our history, about rising above a massive struggle. It’s an historic piece. It’s about a group of people struggling for rights and the people around them who are or aren’t supporting them.

Salem Theater is planning its next season, which starts late August-early September. Visit salemtheatre.com.

Company One

From its inception in 1998, the goal of Company One Theater Company has been to help diversify Boston’s theater and change the face of it now, says manager Summer Williams, who teaches theater arts at Brookline High School. “We’re interested in what’s next, not only for Boston, but for American theater.”

The company generally is in residence at BCA, performing four to six shows per season for audiences ranging from 90 to 200, but they also like to “hop around the city,” and have collaborated with other companies, such as Suffolk University, Emerson College, and currently the Huntington Theatre. “Our goal is to expose us to new people and neighborhoods, and work together,” she says.

“We want people to walk away feeling activated, wanting to be a part of something. [Our shows are] fun and provocative, and should be.”

Company One’s collaborative effort with Huntington, A. Rey Pamatmat’s“Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them,” closed June 27. The next show is “Colossal,” a big football-dance play, appearing at BCA’s Roberts Theatre, July 17-August 15.

The next season starts in September.

Company One’s goal is to keep tickets affordable, with highest cost at $38. Students pay $15; first two weeks of the show, tickets are $25, and there are two pay-what-you-want discounts, minimum $6, the first two Sunday matinees. For more information, visitcompany.one.org, or call the box office at 617-933-8600.

Boston Public Works

“We’re not the company who takes out your trash, but we want to try and support and help the public,” says Cassie Seinuk, playwright-associate producer-stage manager of Boston Public Works, a small professional company. “We’re seven playwrights who, over three years, will do one new play from each writer, then we’ll close.”

The group will present Jess Foster’s “The Hard and Fast” sometime in October, at BCA’s Black Box Theater.

Their largest audience is 55, which usually sells out. Their production of “From the Deep” last March was a smash hit.

Boston Public Works stresses affordability. “We have no ticket higher than $30, have ticket discounts, and pay-what-you-can nights.

Happy Medium Theatre

Mikey DiLoreto of East Boston, Happy Medium Theatre’s founder-advisory board member, has kept his day job. He works at Suffolk University as the Communications and Journalism Department’s administrative assistant, but has spent copious hours at Happy Medium Theatre, since its formation in 2008. The multi-award winning small company formerly performed most of its productions at the Factory Theatre but, when the venue closed this year, the company went nomadic, he says. Next summer, they’ll perform at BCA, where they’ve previously appeared.

DiLoreto says they do a variety of plays, from black comedy to drama, farce, new work — shows that speak to them, that haven’t been done often, and are written by well-known writers. They also perform ensemble-driven shows.

They keep ticket prices as low as possible, offering discounts for seniors and students, Gold Star.com, a half-price website, pay-what-you-can, etc.

Their next season includes two shows, one in winter 2016, and another during the summer. Venues will be announced.

Flat Earth Theatre

This little gem of a professional theater company is celebrating its 10th season next year. “It’s an egalitarian company, no hierarchy. We work with each other and with collaborators to make theater that everyone is equally invested in,” says member Lindsay Eagle, who works at Boston University’s Hillel House. “We try to make theater that’s challenging, intimate and intelligent, with a wide range of material, all geared to making people think, and think hard. You won’t get fluffy musicals with us.”

She’s not kidding. Based at Arsenal Center for the Arts Black Box Theater in Watertown, the group produces three shows annually. They recently featured Aaron Sorkin’s “The Farnsworth Invention.” Sorkin is best-known for his TV drama, “West Wing.”

“We sold out for every performance. It’s unprecedented. We do pretty well, but this is our first three-week run… Part of it is probably Sorkin. And we have an exceptional cast,” she adds.



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