Professional Nonprofit Theater on Martha's Vineyard
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Vineyard variety

by Gwyn McAllister, The MV Times

This year, in lieu of its annual summer gala, the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse is hosting a virtual benefit featuring many of the actors, writers, singers, and others who have performed at the theater throughout its long and storied existence. The live Zoom event, called “Waiting in the Wings,” will take place on Thursday evening, July 23.

The lineup for the event includes a reading of a humorous Chekhov short story by actor Tony Shalhoub, an excerpt from Shelagh Hackett’s solo show, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” soliloquies from “Hamlet” by Scott Barrow, who played the title role at the Playhouse’s 2018 amphitheater production of the play in 2018, and a couple of songs from the Playhouse’s popular Wicked Good Musical Revue. The event will last about an hour, with more entertainment treats and special guests to be announced.

Shalhoub’s reading will be the highlight of the evening. He and wife Brooke Adams have acted in a number of Playhouse productions throughout the years. The Chekhov short story “About Blini” is one that has been translated and adapted by Vineyard resident Carol Rocamora, who has published a number of books of translations and adaptations, teaches at NYU, and is considered a pre-eminent Chekhov scholar. For the gala she has chosen a great example of the humor of the renowned playwright and author.

“We wanted to celebrate our 20-plus year relationship with Carol,” says Playhouse artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo. “She’s an artistic associate for the Playhouse, and we’ve done readings of her work pretty much every other year for a long time now.”

Continuing in the humor vein, Shelagh Hackett will give a live performance of a snippet from her autobiographical one-woman show, which was part of the Playhouse’s 2019 season of original solo shows. “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” documents Hackett’s life — the highs, the lows, and her abiding love of theater — with humor and pathos.

The evening will move along quickly, with board president and humorist, poet, and playwright Arnie Reisman and his wife Paula Lyons (both former NPR regulars) hosting.

Munafo says that the event committee wanted to feature actors and writers who have established a lasting relationship with the Playhouse. “We’re really a family,” she says. “And we wanted to do something for our extended family of donors, sponsors, and supporters, as well as the new friends we’ve made throughout the country with our virtual programming. While we’re dark for the summer, we still want to stay connected.”

Reisman says, “It’s the new normal. Tony Shalhoub and a talented cast will entertain you to remind you of what life was like before COVID, and what we hope it will be after the virus vanishes. All in all, this event is a really good way to stay out of the heat, relax unmasked at home, and benefit an Island institution.”

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