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    Posted October 22, 2009

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Huntington Theatre's Peter Dubois Is Guest Speaker at Annual AEA Boston Membership Meeting

By Donna Sorbello

Peter DuBois (seated on stage), A.D. Huntington Theatre

Peter Dubois, the new Norma Jean Calderwood Artistic Director at the Huntington Theatre, graciously, and also with a good deal of joy, shared his visions and challenges regarding his co-leadership of the Huntington (in tandem with Managing Director Michael Maso), at the annual Equity New England membership meeting, which was chaired by Michael Dell'Orto, with the rest of the New England liaison committee in attendance. A lauded Boston institution, the Huntington Theatre was started in 1982 under the respected leadership of Michael Maso, Managing Director, and Artistic Director, Peter Altman who, after 18 years, turned the artistic reins of the theatre over to Nicholas Martin for an eight year stint.

On a recent fall evening, addressing New England AEA members, Peter Dubois seemed both in awe of what has already been established by the theatre-a secondary stage at the relatively new Calderwood Pavilion, a developing works program nurturing recent playwrights from the Boston University Playwriting Masters program, and a consistent subscription audience-as well as excited at the potential before him. The Huntington is known for its introduction of many of August Wilson's plays, as well as for performing Shakespeare to Stoppard. With his first season under his belt, Dubois was pleased to report that subscription renewals, despite a controversial play or two, are over 75%. This is above the national average and was certainly an impressive bit of news in the midst of a declining economy. It was especially encouraging to the local AEA membership in the light of established AEA theatres, such as Worcester Foothills, closing their doors.

Boston Area AEA Members with the Area Liaison Committee
click to enlarge

Wearing jeans and opting to sit on the stage floor at the Boston University Boston Playwrights theatre, legs folded under him much of the time, Peter Dubois discussed his commitment to developing new works and seeking to produce works that are theatrical, a little edgy, and current in language and honesty, rather than predictable. He is sensitive to gender equality and is already including more female directors and playwrights in his new season. When asked about gender equality in casting, he admitted it was not something he'd consciously contemplated but would examine the ratio of female to male roles in his play selections. He also voiced his high regard for the caliber of skill and talent in local AEA actors he saw recently at the seasonal Huntington auditions. His statement that "actors are not a zip code" was music to the ears of local actors who sometimes feel shut out of local theatres when casting directors opt to look to New York, or other regional venues for actors, before considering those in their own hometown.

Carol Waaser, AEA Eastern Regional Director, and Melissa Colgan, Business Manager for Developing and Mid-Sized Theatres, were also present at the meeting to offer their insights on recent AEA endeavors, such as the national phone line, as well as to respond to questions from the membership about AEA Stage Manager issues and contract clarifications.

New England members would like to thank Carol Waaser who will be retiring in February 2010, for her years of thoughtful, dedicated service to AEA members, and to Melissa Colgan for attending our meetings and continuing to take New England actors under her knowledgeable wing. And a thank you to Peter Dubois who, apart from sharing information, with his humorous slant on topics ranging from audiences, to the Hayes Code film-rating system established in the 1930s, also managed, on a "dark" night in his own theatres, to "entertain" New England AEA members.

Donna Sorbello, a member of the New England Equity Liaison Committee, has acted at many of New England's AEA theatres, including the Huntington, since relocating from New York. She recently appeared in CLEAN HOUSE at New Century Theatre and can be seen as Jennifer Garner's mom in the film, "Invention of Lying."

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