Monday, February 02, 2015

Theatre@ First: A Nurturing Arts Organization in the heart of Somerville

( Left to Right: Andrea Humez and Elizabeth Hunter)  photo by Jason Merilll)

There is something to be said about sitting at your favorite table, beside a fireplace, having a bagel, with the requisite smoked fish--tomatoes and onions, and a dark roast. Of course I am talking about my favorite haunt Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square, Somerville. My guest on this cold winter's morning was the founder of Somerville's Theatre@First, Elizabeth Hunter, and playwright Andrea Humez.

 Hunter, a gregarious woman somewhere in her 40s, moved with her husband from the hinterlands of Arlington to the Paris of New England a couple of years ago. She lives behind Davis Square, and finds Somerville " An intense city, interactive, with a strong sense of community." Hunter started Theatre@First in 2003, and their first production was " Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," by Tom Stoppard.

Besides producing plays, Hunter and director Andrea Humez have started a new program FirstWorks that provides workshopping opportunities for playwrights to receive feedback on their new scripts from experienced directors and actors, and from the audience itself. Their first staged reading is titled:  That Night in the Field, by Christopher Lockheardt , that is described on the website as a play that involves: A black envelope, a visit from a summer fling,... recriminations at a family gathering, etc..."

According to Humez  First Works has a reading committee of theater professionals who review and vote on the most important manuscripts. The program provides the playwrights with help with drafting, the play, rehearsals, etc...

Hunter told me that the organization is a non-profit, but the get most of their their funding through ticket sales. They perform at a number of venues in Somerville, like the: Elizabeth Peabody House, the Unity (church), the Somerville Theater, and elsewhere. They have extensive experience performing Shakespeare ( As You Like It, Winter's Tale, etc...), and have received press coverage in The Boston Globe and other media outlets.

Hunter is a graduate of Wellesley College, and has acting and directing experience in college and community theater settings. She had an acting role as the psychiatrist in Equus-- a role traditionally played by a male. Hunter reflected:" Being a woman changed the relationship with the protagonist. It brought in a maternal element-- a relationship with a sympathetic woman."

Humez is an educational researcher, and is finishing up her PhD. She had her first directing experience at MIT in 1997, and has been involved in theatre ever since.

Hunter is excited about doing theater in Somerville. She said " There is a huge explosion of play-- writing--conversation--engagement, and audiences that are willing to pay attention to all of this."

On Feb. 27, 2015 Hunter and Humez will be presenting the play  Mousetrap at the Unity ( church).

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