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    Posted July 27, 2010

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Northampton, MA

New Century Summer Theatre Celebrates Twenty Years

By Donna Sorbello
New England Liaison Committee.

(L-R) Alika Hope and Lynnette R. Freeman
photos by Jon Crispin

New Century is celebrating 20 years as a summer theatre by remounting the top four "audience-favorites" from past seasons. The summer opened with Noises Off, their first production in the larger, state-of-the-art theatre space in Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Smith College, which they moved into ten years ago.

Sam Rush, Production Coordinator at Smith College (along with other university instructorships), and Jack Neary, playwright, founded New Century Summer Theatre in 1991. Mr. Neary departed after five years to become Artistic Director of Mount Holyoke Summer Theatre, leaving the job as Producing Director to his partner Sam Rush. Jack Neary returns each season to direct a play. In 2000, the theatre, always in residence at Mendenhall, moved from its original, smaller, Halle Flannigan Studio Theatre.

(L-R) : Brian Joseph Smith, Phil Kibourne, Sam Rush
photos by Jon Crispin

From the outset, students primarily from New England's Five-College Community, (Smith, Mt Holyoke, Hampshire, University of Massachusetts. and Amherst), have benefited through theatre training and experience as interns and assistants, and also, for the past seven years, as designers, stage managers and actors of the Paint Box Children's Theatre company, under the direction of Tom McCabe. Many have returned when hired as artists for New Century seasons and have gone on to other companies in the AEA theatre community.

One would have to attribute much of the success of this long-running theatre to the ever-boyish Sam Rush, who moves easily from producer, director to actor in any given season. Mr. Rush feels that by surrounding himself with talented artists, he guarantees the quality of the work. New Century, does, in fact, have a core of primarily, though not limited to, New England artists, who return often. Perhaps, this trust is why he seems remarkably relaxed while wearing so many hats and sharing family duties with his wife, Kate Damon, who also performs at the theatre.

"I always look for a diverse season with genuine quality in the writing. I look for what will excite us, what we're excited to work on," says Sam.

On couch (L-R): Buzz Roddy, Cate Damon, Phil Kilbourne, Sara Whitcomb; Behind couch (L-R): Steve Brady, Lisa Abend, Patrick Tango, James Emery, Molly Haas-Hooven
photos by Jon Crispin

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