Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) launches its 39th season with The Royale, the new power-packed drama inspired by the life of Jack Johnson, the first black man to fight for the title of World Heavyweight Champion. The 2013 play by Marco Ramirez has received acclaimed productions nationwide, including the Off-Broadway run at Lincoln Center that landed Obie, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards. It makes its New England premiere at MRT, helmed by the company’s director in residence Megan Sandberg-Zakian.
The 90-minute show will be performed without an intermission. Performances are September 13 – October 8. Press performances are at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 16 (Opening Night) and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 17. All performances will be held at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre located at 50 East Merrimack Street in historic downtown Lowell. Tickets range from $26 – $73 and are on sale now at mrt.org or by calling 978-654-4678.
More Relevant than Ever
“It’s impossible to think of a better time and place to do this play than right now in Lowell” says MRT artistic director Sean Daniels. “Lowell is truly a boxing town, and this is the best boxing play of our generation. Its love for boxing feels true and authentic, so boxing fans will love it – and yet, it’s wildly smart and theatrical, so you don’t have to know anything about boxing to fall in love with the piece.
Marco is an incredibly gifted and prolific writer, the type of artist MRT is committed to, truly the best in our business (and TV) who wants to work with us locally to make great theatre in Lowell.”
“I love Marco’s sparse, intense script, which has the guts and the heart of the sport of boxing,” says director Megan Sandberg-Zakian. “Like all great sports stories, the stakes are much bigger than the fight itself. ‘The Royale’ jabs at some of our nation’s most profound social and political questions, ultimately asking ‘Can we accept the painful cost of progress? Are we willing to choose to move forward towards justice, equity, and excellence, even when it means weathering profound losses?’”
More About the Play
The play includes onstage boxing matches choreographed with a theatrical technique that has the actors fight out towards the audience rather than landing fake punches on each other. The soundscape is shaped by the rhythms of a boxing match: the syncopation of punches getting thrown, cheers, boos, and gasps from the crowd. (Playwright Ramirez is also an accomplished drummer, and provides a notated rhythmic score on which the actors build their performance.)
The 2016 Lincoln Center production won an Obie Award for Best Direction and Performance, as well as the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Playwriting Award, and a special Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble.
Creative Team and Cast
Marco Ramirez is an acclaimed playwright and screenwriter whose TV credits include the new hit Marvel series The Defenders and Daredevil (as executive producer) as well as writing credits on Fear the Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, and Orange is the New Black.
MRT’s director in residence Megan Sandberg-Zakian returns, following up on her acclaimed productions of Eleanor Burgess’ Chill and Joe Landry’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Her production of The Convert at the Underground Railway Theatre won a 2016 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Production as well as the IRNE for Best Production and Best Director, and she is a recipient of the 2015 Princess Grace Theater Award.
The five-person cast includes local actors Ramona Lisa Alexander (Nina) and Mark W. Soucy (Max), as well as Thomas Silcott (Jay), Jeorge Bennett Watson (Wynton), and Toran White (Fish).
Ramona Lisa Alexander (Nina)
The creative team includes Lawrence Moten (Sets), Miranda Kau Giurleo (Costumes), Karen Perlow (Lighting), David Remedios (Sound), and Kyle Vincent Terry (Fight Choreographer).
Tickets range from $26 – $73 and are available at www.mrt.org or by calling 978-654-4678. A senior discount is offered for 10 percent off adult ticket prices. Student tickets are $15. Group discounts are available for groups of six or more by calling 978-654-7561. $5 Night: Wednesday, September 13 at 7:30 pm. Patrons may purchase tickets for $5, cash only, at the Box Office between 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Limit 2 tickets per person.?Lowell Night: Wednesday, September 20 at 7:30 p.m. Lowell residents may purchase tickets for $10 at the box office from 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Proper ID required, limit 2 per person. A Military Discount of $10 off per ticket (up to four tickets per production) applies to any performance for active duty, retired, veteran, and reservist members of the military.
On Wine Down Friday (September 15), the audience will be invited to enjoy a complimentary glass of wine in the lobby following the 8:00 p.m. performance with the cast and crew, as well as with the Western Avenue Studios Artists Association members whose work is currently on exhibit in the lobby. On Thursdays September 14 and 28, Ask the Artists Post-Show Discussions will provide an opportunity for the audience to hear directly from the actors and other artists who created the show. MRT will offer Free Child Care from licensed professionals at Acre Family Child Care at the 4:00 p.m. performance on September 23. MRT will also offer Educator and Military Discounts of 50% off tickets to the September 23 4:00 p.m. performance, using the discount codes ED50 and MIL50. (Please show ID when picking up tickets.)
“The Royale” has received support from production sponsor Enterprise Bank and media sponsor Merrimack Valley Magazine. Circle Health is the 2016-17 Season Sponsor. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.
Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) has been Merrimack Valley’s professional theatre company since 1979 and is an integral part of Lowell’s identity as the cultural heart of the region. MRT produces vibrant, contemporary plays that explore what it means to be alive today. A seven-show season runs from September through May in the intimate 279-seat Nancy L. Donahue Theatre. The company is known as a leader in producing new plays, especially world and regional premieres. MRT is one of 72 theatres nationwide (one of three in Massachusetts) with membership in LORT (the League of Resident Theatres).
MRT 2017-18 SEASON
The Royale by Marco Ramirez, Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
September 13 – October 8, 2017
Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, Directed by Sean Daniels
October 18 – November 12, 2017
A Christmas Carol Adapted by Tony Brown, Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
November 29 – December 24, 2017
KNYUM, Created and performed by Vichet Chum, Directed by KJ Sanchez
January 10 – February 4, 2018
Lost Laughs: The Slapstick Tragedy of Fatty Arbuckle by Andy Bayiates and Aaron Muñoz, Directed by Nathan Keepers
February 14 – March 11, 2018
Little Orphan Danny Originally Conceived by Dan Finnerty; Created by Sean Daniels and Dan Finnerty; Book, Music, and Lyrics by Dan Finnerty; Additional Music by Dan Lipton; Directed by Sean Daniels
March 21 – April 15, 2018
The Villains’ Supper Club by Lila Rose Kaplan, Directed by Sean Daniels
April 25 – May 20, 2018