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University of Hartford Takes Over Summer Stock Theater on Cape Cod, Giving More Students a Chance to Perform

Posted 06/17/2015
Posted by David Isgur

University of Hartford players Sarah Killough and Darren Brown star in the musical <i>Damn Yankees,</i> which opens June 23, kicking off the Monomoy Theatre’s summer series in Chatham, Mass.

The University of Hartford recently became the primary sponsor of the Monomoy Theatre on Cape Cod, a move that will give more of our acting students the chance to perform at a summer stock theater and build their portfolios.

The University has signed an agreement to run the charming, rose-covered theater in Chatham, Mass., taking over from Ohio University, which had managed it for 57 years. University of Hartford President Walter Harrison said the arrangement will give students in the University’s Hartt School the unmatched educational experience of seeing what it’s like to perform in a busy theater company.

“Summer stock theater is what theater students want to do above all else as a way of getting a leg up on their careers,” he said.

“They also get a chance to work in an intense repertory theater environment where they’re playing one role in a current production and they’re rehearsing a totally different play in an entirely different theater production. And they are getting a chance to see all aspects of running a theater company,” he said.

Dawniella Sinder ’18, who is majoring in actor training, is excited the opportunity to act as well as work in the box office at Monomoy this summer.

“As actors, our craft is ever evolving,” she said. “We're taught by our professors to never stop seeking opportunities for growth and discovery. Our work at Monomoy Theatre allows for many of these new opportunities in a supportive and focused environment.”

University students pose in front of the newly repainted sign at the Monomy Theatre

The 250-seat theater is one of the most picturesque in New England. Set in scenic Chatham, the grey-shingled theater is covered with roses and surrounded by gardens. Sets are built in an adjacent barn and costumes are sewn in a carriage house. Rehearsals take place in a large tent set up on a wooden platform in the woods.

The University of Hartford has been involved with Monomoy for years, serving as a secondary sponsor in recent years, working together with the University of Ohio. Each year, the University has sent a small group of acting students and faculty members to perform there and Alan Rust, Hartt’s theatre division director, has been Monomoy’s artistic director for 36 years. So when Ohio University decided to end its lead sponsorship, the property owner naturally asked whether the University of Hartford would like to take over as primary sponsor.

The University hopes to eventually partner with another college or two in New England, but for now is running the theater alone, Harrison said. Between box office sales and an anonymous donation, the University expects to run Monomoy on a break-even basis, he said. The 38-member theater company includes 12 actors and actresses along with stage managers, and assistant directors from the University. Students and faculty members from other colleges with expertise in costumes, makeup, set design, and other areas round out the company and give University of Hartford students broad exposure to other theatrical fields.

“The goal is to give them experience with other students as well,” Harrison explained. “We have to get people now that do some of the things that we don’t do like makeup, lighting, and sound.” Adding a summer stock theater to The Hartt School’s offerings will help with recruitment, Rust said. The Hartt School also has partnerships with Hartford Stage in Hartford, Conn., and the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn.

Each summer, the Monomoy produces a variety of shows, from musicals, mysteries, and romantic comedies to Shakespeare, and will kick off this season June 23 with the musical Damn Yankees.