Mark Rhea was rehearsing an emotional moment in Rabbit Hole – a difficult, heartbreaking play and next on the Keegan agenda – with his real-life wife, Susan. “It was this high-tension scene,” Rhea explained later. “I was in it with my wonderful wife, and suddenly I thought – we own this building!”
Indeed you do, Keegan Theatre, because at noon on Saturday, June 22 – Mark Rhea’s birthday and the birthday of the new Andrew Keegan Theatre building – the company officially closed on the 120-year-old building and the Church Street Theatre was theirs.
And so if Rhea was a little verklempt at the evening’s celebration to mark the launch of the new ownership, who could blame him? Earlier, he had taken a couple of whacks against the side of the building with a bottle of champagne (the bottle, showing surprising resiliency, merely shrugged off Rhea’s first effort), christening it like the prow of a ship. And, in a sense, the metaphor is absolutely perfect; the onetime high school gymnasium will carry its ambitious owners into the indefinite future.
Purchasing the building is only the first part of Keegan’s plan to remake itself. In May of next year, the construction work will begin: digging out a basement, adding an atrium, building rehearsal and community space, expanding the green room and adding showers and a laundry, adding a second-story entrance, expanding the lobby and – the improvement which compelled an as-yet-unidentified donor to begin this project – expanding and modernizing the comfort facilities.
Between now and then, Keegan has scheduled a full 2013-2014 season, after which it intends to go dark for the six months it expects the modernization to take. ““We may have to cancel or add shows, depending on how the permitting process goes for the renovations – hopefully, our audiences will celebrate with us and understand that these are terrific problems to have,” Rhea says.
Keegan will open the new season on September 28, 2013 with The Sunshine Boys, Neil Simon’s play about two cantankerous vaudeville players in their dessert years. Although they have grown to despise each other, they are tempted to get together once more to take part in a television special on the history of comedy. Michael Innocenti, who co-directed Keegan’s well-received Cabaret, will direct this play, which will run until October 19.
Beginning on Halloween, Keegan will present the suitably spooky The Woman in Black, Steven Mallatrat’s adaptation of the Susan Hill novella about a spectral black-clad woman whose appearance invariably presages the death of a child. Colin Smith and Mark Rhea will co-direct this production, which will run until November 30 of this year.
For the third consecutive year, Keegan will feature Matthew Keenan’s An Irish Carol, the story of a hard man having a hard time of it at Christmas. Based loosely on Dickens’ Christmas Carol, An Irish Carol transports the spirit of Scrooge to an Irish pub, where it receive scrutiny from unexpected sources. Incidentally, Keegan has some of Keenan’s artwork for sale at its theater; proceeds will go in part to pay for the theater’s improvements. Mark Rhea will direct this production, which will run December 13-29, 2013.
Keegan kicks off the 2014 portion of the season with Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, a scathing look at Presidential politics. A well-born, womanizing idealist takes on an ambitious working-class man in a heated contest for the presidency. (If you’re thinking Kennedy v. Nixon, keep in mind that this play hit Broadway in 1960 – the year of that election.) This play will run from January 22 to February 25; Tim Lynch and Christina A. Coakley co-direct.
The company moves to the second half of the season with its production of the anthemic rock musical Hair, running between March 15 and April 12 of 2014. Mark and Susan Rhea will direct Keegan’s production of this groundbreaking musical, which examined a young man’s effort to decide whether he will comply with his draft notice or take off for Canada.
Keegan closes its season with the contemporary sex comedy, Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight, and a world premiere of Rosemary Jenkinson’s A Midsummer Night’s Riot. Midnight asks the question, “in sex, is everything legal?” and the answer, judging by Peter Atkinson’s plot, is clearly no, as characters say things which require the intervention of their therapists throughout the play. Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight will run from May 3 to 24; Colin Smith directs.
No information is available as of press time about A Midsummer Night’s Riot, other than that it will run during the same time period as Midnight and will be directed by Abbie Isaac.
After that: the great change begins.