Summertime acts up, live on stage

By Paul E. Kandarian
Globe Correspondent / June 20, 2010

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It’s summertime, and the living is theatrical in Rhode Island, where productions are going all season long.

“There’s a lot of theater happening,’’ said Curt Columbus, artistic director at the state’s big daddy, Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, which through July 18 is hosting a return engagement of “Menopause: The Musical’’ (201 Washington St., 401-351-4242,, tickets $45).

Mixed Magic Theatre (171 Main St., Pawtucket, 401-305-7333,, free admission, donations accepted) presents “A Midsummer Night’s Dream’’ Aug. 5-15 and “The Greatness of Gospel’’ to top off the summer offerings from Sept. 3-4, featuring the Mixed Magic Theatre Exult Choir.

At Theatre by the Sea in South Kingstown John Houseman, future Academy Award winner, then young volunteer, slapped stain on the walls. Marlon Brando parked his motorcycle in a shack out back. Oscar winner Art Carney trod the boards inside.

They performed ages ago but Theatre by the Sea is a renewed giant of summer theater in the state (364 Cards Pond Road, 401-782-8587,, tickets start at $35). Four years ago it was bought by Bill Hanney, who owns the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly. It is a classic barn theater begun in 1933 and it is experiencing a resurgence. It was shut from 2003-07 and when it reopened for one show, a 3 1/2-hour queue formed to buy tickets.

The season runs through Aug. 29 with “A Chorus Line,’’ “Hello Dolly,’’ “Little Shop of Horrors,’’ and “The Full Monty.’’

Another great old barn venue is at Roger Williams University (1 Old Ferry Road, Bristol, 401-254-3666,, tickets $10) where they’ve been doing summer theater “forever, I’ve been here 22 years and it was going on before that,’’ said Dorisa Boggs, chair of performing arts at the university.

The original barn was built in 1890 for horses at a farm in Glocester. It was moved to the university in 1984 and renovated by historic preservation majors and faculty, and now houses a state-of-the-art theater. This summer’s shows are “Other People’s Money’’ through June 26, and “The Play About the Baby,’’ July 9-17.

The Granite Theatre (1 Granite St., Westerly, 401-596-2341,, tickets $18) is housed in a restored Greek Revival church. This season’s summer run starts with “The Perfect Wedding’’ July 1 and ends with “No Sex Please, We’re British’’ Aug. 6-Sept. 5.

Nearby, they’re doing Shakespeare in the park through The Colonial Theatre (3 Granite St., 401-596-7909, free) at Wilcox Park on Broad Street, which it’s been doing since 1991. The theater, a founding member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, this year presents “The Tempest,’’ which opens July 15 and closes Aug. 8.

The Gamm Theatre (172 Exchange St., Pawtucket, 401-723-4266, is an Actors Equity entity and does edgy theater; the 2010-2011 season kicks off this fall with “Glengarry Glen Ross,’’ by David Mamet. In summer, the Gamm hosts the Gamm Summer Intensive, a three-week theater training program that culminates in three full theatre productions in July.

Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Centre (28 Monument Square, Woonsocket, 401-762-4545,, ticket prices vary) has a wide range of offerings, from summer camp for children to cabaret dinner shows to comedy to full-out musical productions to the ever-popular concerts on the theater’s original Wurlitzer organ, all in a 1,200-seat theater.

Court House Center for the Arts (3481 Kingstown Road, South Kingstown, 401-782-1810,, tickets $27), the former Washington County courthouse, offers “La Cage Aux Folles’’ July 8-25, “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,’’ a Rhode Island premier Aug. 5-21, and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’’ Sept. 10-25.

An exceptionally popular place is 2nd Story Theatre (28 Market St., Warren, 401-247-4200,, tickets $25), which offers “The Late Christopher Bean’’ July 7-Aug. 1 and “The Foreigner’’ Aug. 11-Sept. 5.

If you like improv, you’ll love Perishable Theatre (95 Empire St., 401-331-2695,, tickets $5), where since 1992, Improv Jones has been doing comedy. From June 23-27, they host the annual Providence Improv Fest ( Perishable also does a “Live Bait’’ series, true stories from real people.

Brown/Trinity Playwrights Repertory Theatre (Leeds Theatre, 77 Waterman St., Providence, 401-863-2838,, tickets $12) is an incubator of young actors. This July they have “Dog Park,’’ “This Is My Office,’’ and “Baz & Me.’’

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at