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    Posted October 3, 2006

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Boston's SpeakEasy Stage Sees RED!

by Donna Sorbello
Photo Credit: Tracy Powell


"Jungle Red!" An offhand quip sparked more than just the nail polish color from the 1936 classic play THE WOMEN, in the mind of Paul Daigneault, Artistic Director of the SpeakEasy Stage Company in Boston, Massachussetts. Daigneault had been contemplating his upcoming season and the reference set the wheels in motion for the 2006 opening production at SpeakEasy Stage. The controversial play by Clare Booth Luce would prove to provide the most AEA Contracts to female actresses in the theatre's fourteen-year history. With other local theatres offering l776 (Lyric Stage), THE PILLOWMAN (New Rep) and RADIO GOLF (Huntington Theatre), THE WOMAN would provide a kind of symmetry in the local theatre scene as well as offer Daigneault an opportunity to take advantage of the availability of the many talented AEA female members during the other male-dominated productions. Speakeasy Stage has turned out to be more than a "dream-come true" for Daigneault. A theatre grad from Boston College, he kicked around New York for a few years, landing various small-theatre directing gigs as well as a stint as the assistant to the Artistic Director of New York's Second Stage. That last experience, especially, inspired him to figure out how to start his own theatre, rather than waiting for others to hire him. New York already had a plethora of small, innovative theatres but the theatre scene in his home-town, Boston, seemed to still have room for his ideas. Starting with no real expectation that the theatre would grow to what it is today, he rented a small space for his non-union company in the Boston Center for the Arts. That was in l982. His fledging group was subsidized financially and through hands-on volunteerism by family and friends. Daigneault, as Artistic Director, didn't even take a salary for the first eight years. With use, initially, of the Equity Special Appearance contract, Speakeasy Stage had, within a few years, managed to move up to Boston's local New England Area Theatres (NEAT) agreement with Equity. Today, the theatre, at a Tier Five NEAT category, is in a 209-seat space in the prestigious, new Calderwood Pavilion, which houses three theatres. Daigneault has won critical acclaim for productions such as OUR LADY OF 121ST STREET and A NEW BRAIN. SpeakEasy, along with other small and mid-sized theatres such as Boston Theatre Works, Lyric Stage, and the Huntington's Second Stage, have led the way in creating a vital, diverse, theatre scene in the heart of Boston.

THE WOMEN, with set by Brynna Bloomfield, lighting by Scott Clyve and costumes and wigs by Gail Buckley, will require the largest budget for a production's design than in any prior SpeakEasy offering. Paul Daigneault intends, however, to continue growing in other ways as well. His company has produced many lesser known, contemporary musicals and dramas, but he wants to take more risks. Today it's more Equity contracts and broader production values and tomorrow he hopes his theatre will gain recognition for developing more original work. SpeakEasy continues, however to "pay off" both artistically and practically by providing salaries-both Daigneault's, and this time around, those of nine fabulous AEA women.

From Left to right: Front row
Elisa MacDonald (blond, seated, short dress, smiling), Amanda Good Hennessey (face in shadow, talking to Elisa, dark curly hair), Sonya Raye* (African American, red dress, lounging on floor), Sophie Rich (young girl, talking to Sonya)

Middle Row - from Left to right
Kerry A. Dowling* - (long black dress, brown hair swept up), Courtney Branigan (blond, hand to mouth, short dress, black hose), Nancy E. Carroll* (center, exasperated look on her face, hair pulled back tight), Elizabeth Hayes (center of photo, leaning into to Nancy Carroll, talking behind hand), Aimee Doherty (looking up at woman in red dress, shoulder exposed), Maureen Keiller*I (seated, leaning in toward older blond woman, long legs crossed), Mary Klug* ( older blond woman, hand to mouth, looking shocked)

Back Row
Anne Gottlieb* (Standing, blue dress & pearls - pointing at woman in red dress), Carly Sakolove (dark blond hair behind Nancy Carroll, hand obscuring mouth), Kerrie Kitto (tan, dark-haired woman, behind Liz Hayes, spaghetti-strap dress), Georgia Lyman (Standing, red dress)

Not seen in the photo but in the cast: Shelley Brown, Ellen Colton*, Alice Duffy*, Sheryl Faye, Sandra Heffley

Other AEA members involved with the production:
Dawn Schall DesLauriers*I - Production Stage Manager, Kevin Robert Fitzpatrick* - Assistant Stage Manager

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