MRT’s 40th Anniversary Season Opens With Native Gardens by Karen Zacarías Season Features Three World Premieres And Five Plays by Women

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LOWELL, MA – On September 12, Karen Zacarías’ topical comedy Native Gardens will kick off a season of cutting-edge contemporary voices, including three world premieres and five plays by women, in celebration of Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s 40th Anniversary, according to Artistic Director Sean Daniels and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas.

The Haunted Life by Lowell native Jack Kerouac, adapted by Daniels; The Heath by Lauren Gunderson; and Slow Food by Wendy MacLeod are the world premieres. The musical-comedy Murder for Two by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair; the Jane Austen-inspired Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley by Gunderson and Margot Melcon; and Cry It Out by Molly Smith Metzler round out the anniversary season. For tickets and information, visit

Daniels said, “MRT is a real testament to the enduring dedication of this community, the real belief that the Merrimack Valley deserves world class theatre. That we can be a place that art travels from – from Lowell to the rest of the world.”

In 1978 Lowell resident Barbara Abrahamian befriended director Mark Kaufman and actor John Briggs at a summer stock theatre in Salem, NH. She convinced the young men to return with her to Lowell to start a theatre company. The three formed the “Committee for Legitimate Theatre in Lowell” and persuaded community leader Nancy L. Donahue to form a fundraising board and serve as its president. With the support of UMass Lowell, area businesses, and hundreds of volunteer theatre enthusiasts, Merrimack Regional Theatre opened on October 23, 1979, with a production of The Passion of Dracula by Bob Hall and David Richmond.

“We rode trains into Boston, so we could hand-out brochures. We had a booth downtown where we stopped people on the street. It was all very amateurish, and I knew nothing about the theatre. I don’t think anyone else did particularly,” Donahue remembers, laughing. “We just kind of dove in and did it, and it came to life.”

Donahue, chairperson of MRT this year, has continued to serve on the Board of Trustees for the entire 40 years. The company changed its name to Merrimack Repertory Theatre in 1983, the same year it relocated to its current home at Liberty Hall at 50 Merrimack Street in downtown Lowell.

Native Gardens will be the 263rd play produced by MRT. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli, the comedy, which questions whether good fences really do make good neighbors, will play September 12 through October 7. In Zacarías’ tale, a millennial, Latinx couple moves in next door to a white, baby boomer couple. After some good-natured ribbing over gardening styles––traditional designs versus the eco-friendlier native plants––the couples find themselves at odds over an unexpected property line dispute; a dispute that explodes into a host of verbal jabs and blows over race, culture, privilege, and the meaning of neighborly behavior.

The cast features Joel Colodner (MRT’s A Christmas Carol, Going to See the Kid); Vivia Font (Richard III at The Old Globe, The Tall Girls at La Jolla Playhouse); Gabriel Marin (Between Riverside and Crazy at American Conservatory Theatre, Finks at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley); and Navida Stein (Carbondale Dreams Off-Broadway, My Fair Lady at Cleveland Playhouse).

In addition to Sardelli, the creative team includes Alexis Distler, Scenic Designer; Miranda Kau, Costumer Designer; Karen Perlow, Lighting Designer; and Danny Erdberg, Sound Designer. The Production Stage Manager will be Maegan Alyse Passafume.

Circle Health serves as the 2018/19 Season Sponsor; WBUR, Media Sponsor.


For tickets to Native Gardens, Sep. 12-Oct. 7, 2018, or subscriptions, visit or contact the MRT Box Office at 978-654-4678. Subscriptions for any three shows start at only $73; for all seven shows, $147 (Previews, Zone C seating).

2 for $40

In celebration of the 40th Anniversary Season, MRT will offer a limited number of seats at “2 for $40” for all performances throughout the season with Promo Code Happy40th. 


OPENING/PRESS NIGHT: 8 p.m. Saturday, September 15

For press reservations, please RSVP at 

Alternative press dates:

2 p.m. Sunday, Sep. 16

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sep. 19

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sep. 20


Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) celebrates 40 years this season as the Merrimack Valley’s professional theatre. With a steadfast commitment to contemporary voices and new plays, MRT produces seven works, including several world premieres, each season.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Sean Daniels and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas, MRT strives to fulfill its mission “to share theatrical stories of human understanding that reflect and engage our community.” The company guarantees that shows are accessible to audiences of all incomes; partners with businesses and non-profit groups 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 Daniels’ own autobiographical play, The White Chip; I and You (Off-Broadway transfer) and Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, the most produced playwright in America; Women in Jeopardy by Wendy MacLeod (directed by Daniels); KNYUM by Cambodian playwright and actor Vichet Chum; and The Lion, singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer’s award-winning musical memoir (also directed by Daniels), which launched its national tour from MRT in August 2015, following critically acclaimed runs in New York and London.

 Read about MRT’s upcoming 2018-19 Season:

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