On Sunday, May 19, Northeastern University’s Department of Theatre returned to the Boston Theatre Marathon (BTM), a ten-hour spectacular in which fifty ten-minute plays are performed in one day. With all proceeds benefiting the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund, the marathon fields hundreds of play submissions from local playwrights. From there, fifty are selected, from which directors pick on a first-come, first-serve basis, culminating in ten hours of new, local works. For the fourth year in a row, Northeastern University’s Department of Theatre participated in the Boston Theatre Marathon, alongside Boston theatre heavyweights such as the Huntington Theatre Company, American Repertory Theatre, SpeakEasy Stage Company, Underground Railway Theater and dozens more.
Associate Teaching Professor Jonathan Carr directed Northeastern’s production, Closing Doors by John Minigan, which follows two friends working in middle school, arguing over a surprise active shooter drill that took place the previous day. Carr notes that a reason he loves the theatre marathon is his excitement at joining the Northeastern community with the Boston theatre community. “The first year we did it, students were the performers. This year, for the first time, everyone involved except the playwright is a Northeastern alum or a faculty member.”
Sam Richert, part-time lecturer, and Gillian Mackay-Smith, alumna, played as Sandra and Valerie, who are, as Minigan says, “trying to find a way to protect kids and also preserve what has always kept their relationship strong, even though the culture around them has become irrational.” Recent 2019 graduate Kaley Bachelder completed the team as the Assistant Director.
Playing with a ten-minute script for the BTM allows for a different rehearsal room than a longer work. Much of rehearsal time is spent simply running the show many times over.
Though that could be draining, Richert says it is “incredibly helpful and insightful for getting to the root of this story and these characters. Letting it resonate and simmer over the week between rehearsals is also a huge help in letting the words continue to settle and the meaning behind them becoming ever stronger.” Mackay-Smith agrees, citing the many “discoveries” that can be found in a such a small window.
After three rehearsals at Northeastern, Richert and Mackay-Smith took to the Wimberly Theatre, the largest space in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, where they joined forty-nine other short plays. Closing Doors was Carr’s top pick in the play-bidding process, and he was pleasantly surprised to have snagged it. “In just ten minutes Closing Doors gets you to look hard at your own views. I despair for a good solution to our gun crisis, but it has to help to expose the very real, life-and-death crisis we are putting our teachers and kids in.”