What’s happening at Woodbury’s hub for local theater, the Merrill Community Arts Center.
“To be, or not to be.” That is the question on the minds of the Merrill Community Arts Center’s (MAC) staff as they select plays for seasons to come. “There is a formula that we work with,” says managing director Kajsa Jones, “and the goal is trying to provide productions for all the different facets of the community.” Regarding Woodbury Community Theatre (WCT) selections, MAC focuses on several categories: kids, family, after-dark and a wild card to provide something different. This past spring, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised] filled that wild card slot, featuring comedic parodies of the Bard’s work.
If you missed it, never fear—Shakespeare will again appear on the stage at WCT. This time, the theater returns to the original script with A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of the summer program. Despite the play’s incredible fame, running a Shakespearean production is a lot like any other work, says Jones. “They run very similarly to other plays… but there is a level of name recognition that makes some people really excited and some people really scared,” she adds with a smile. MAC is currently exploring more ways to make these famous works interesting and accessible to everyone in the community.
The emphasis on the local community at MAC is tangible, as Woodbury neighbors are given many opportunities to get involved. From the selection of plays and auditioning their talents to volunteering or just enjoying a show, people of all age groups are able to participate in the arts. “It is an entry point for so many people,” explains Jones. “Local theater provides access for the community no matter your experience level.” She adds that it’s also a great way to socialize and meet neighbors.
Outside of summer camps, WCT will mount Disney’s Freaky Friday starting in July. The musical is based on the popular movie and Mary Rodgers’ novel of the same name, and comedically chronicles the experiences of a mother and daughter who switch bodies. Though premiering this year, Freaky Friday has been in the works for quite a while. Theater seasons are planned about two years ahead of time, with discussions for 2021-2022 having already begun. “Once a piece is selected, the rights have to be applied for from the licensing company,” says Jones. “If they approve a license, fundraising starts … the staff starts planning and designing.” Auditions typically begin 12 weeks ahead of the performance, with rehearsals starting around six to eight weeks ahead.
The 2019-2020 season is a time of change for MAC. In addition to its usual programs, the center will kick off new educational offerings for adults, and begin a visioning year for the board and staff. Watch for meetings seeking community input for strategic planning, and more exciting productions coming soon. Those interested in getting involved can sign up for a newsletter on the MAC website, Jones says. “Do you sew, build, organize, like to have fun? You’re welcome here!”