MRT Debuts World Premiere Commission: The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge By Trista Baldwin

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Artistic Director Courtney Sale Directs the New Holiday Comedy

Cast Features Kristian Espiritu, Karen MacDonald,
Eliza Simpson, Milicent Wright

LOWELL, MA – For the first time in 21 months, Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) will return to The Nancy L. Donahue Theatre for indoor performances when it presents a world premiere holiday comedy, The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge by Trista Baldwin, from November 26 to December 12, according to Artistic Director Courtney Sale and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas. 

Sale will direct the MRT-commissioned play by Baldwin, author of more than 20 award-winning works, including Patty Red Pants and American Sexy. The cast features Kristian Espiritu, Karen MacDonald, Eliza Simpson, and Milicent Wright. 0Holly Fudge will be available as a video-on-demand selection from December 16-26. For tickets, contact the Enterprise Bank Box Office at 978-654-4678 or visit

“The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge animates the very recent history of Christmas 2020,” said Sale, the Nancy L. Donahue Artistic Director at MRT. “Trista has lovingly crafted a mother-daughter story that speaks to the wild uncertainty of one year ago and allows us big moments of laughter and release. This MRT commission and world premiere asks: how does our deep yearning for home impact our lives.”

MRT’s COVID-19 policy requires proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, as well as the wearing of a mask, until further notice. For full COVID-19 details, visit

In The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge, it is Christmas 2020, and Carol is a hard-working single mother who makes award-winning “Holly” fudge, named after her daughter. She serves it every holiday. She gifts it to her friends and co-workers. She’s determined that this year won’t be any different, even if she has to wear a mask while whipping up her famous dessert. But with her daughter Holly’s girlfriend crashing Christmas, her neighbor’s new-found love of confectionery, and the protests erupting on her front lawn, Carol is finding it tough to make this the most wonderful time of year.

Sale, who joined MRT as the Nancy L. Donahue Artistic Director in March 2020, just as the theatre was forced to shut down, directed the video-only production of A Woman of the World here last spring and the tour and video of Wild Horses last month. Sale served as Artistic Director of Seattle Children’s Theatre, the nation’s leading generator of new work for young audiences, and as Associate Artistic Director of Indiana Repertory Theatre. Directing credits include Tiny Beautiful Things at Seattle Rep, Support Group for Men at Contemporary American Theatre Festival, and Mr. Burns, A Post Electric Play at The Phoenix Theatre.

Baldwin, whose other plays include Sand and Chicks with Dicks: Bad Girls on Bikes Doing Bad Things!, has been produced at The Flea in NYC, The Guthrie Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and The Playwrights’ Center of Minneapolis. She is the co-founder of Workhaus Playwrights’ Collective, which has produced more than 25 productions over the past decade.

n addition to Sale, the creative team comprises Tramaine Berryhill, Scenic Designer (The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Connie Yun, Lighting Designer (numerous productions at Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, and Seattle Children’s Theatre); Yao Chen, Costume Designer (Until the Flood at MRT, Radio Golf at Trinity Repertory Theatre); and David Remedios, Sound Designer (Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Slow Food, A Woman of the World, and many more at MRT). Maegan A. Conroy (Wild Horses and Until the Flood at MRT) will serve as Stage Manager with Susan Hudspeth (A Woman of the World and Wild Horses at MRT) as Assistant Stage Manager. Steven Velasquez will serve as Assistant Scenic Designer and Emily Irene Peck as Assistant Costume Designer.

The cast and their credits include Kristian Espiritu (first national tour of Broadway’s School of Rock, Here Lies Love at The Public Theatre); Karen MacDonald (The Children at SpeakEasy Stage Company, Home of the Brave at MRT); Eliza Simpson (The Woodsman at New World Stages, The Mysteries at The Flea Theatre); and Milicent Wright (The Watsons Go to Birmingham and A Christmas Carol at Indiana Repertory Theatre).

After the holidays, the season will continue with the previously postponed Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End by Allison Engel and Margaret Engel, January 19-February 6, 2022, featuring Karen MacDonald; the concert Back Together Again: The Music of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, March 30-April 17, 2022, featuring Christina Acosta Robinson and Ken Robinson; and the East Coast premiere of Best Summer Ever, written and performed by Kevin Kling, May 4-22, 2022. In addition, MRT will present a special, non-subscription musical event: Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie, February 23-March 13, 2022.

For tickets, contact the Enterprise Bank Box Office at 978-654-4678 or visit Live performance tickets for The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge start at $21; four-show subscriptions start at $71. Video on Demand tickets will be $21.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) celebrates 42 years this season as the Merrimack Valley’s professional theatre. With a steadfast commitment to new plays, MRT normally produces seven works, including several premieres, in the 279-seat Nancy L. Donahue Theatre at Liberty Hall.

Under the leadership of the Nancy L. Donahue Artistic Director Courtney Sale and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas, MRT strives to fulfill its mission to “create remarkable new and contemporary plays that bring joy to our art form while engaging, entertaining and enriching our community.” The non-profit company guarantees that shows are accessible to audiences of all incomes; partners with businesses and other non-profits to fully engage the community; and contributes to the economic vitality of Lowell by attracting diverse audiences from throughout the region.

Recent acclaimed productions include The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley and Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, the two bestselling productions in MRT’s history; former Artistic Director Sean Daniels’ autobiographical play, The White Chip, which played Off-Broadway this past October; I and You (Off-Broadway transfer) and Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, the most produced playwright in America; Women in Jeopardy! and the world premiere of Slow Food by Wendy MacLeod; KNYUM by Cambodian playwright and actor Vichet Chum; and The Lion, singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer’s award-winning musical memoir, which launched its national tour from MRT in August 2015, following critically acclaimed runs in New York and London.

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