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Playhouse Heads Outdoors for Summer Season

by Louisa Hufstader, Vineyard Gazette

Earlier this year the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse board considered making the summer season a traveling one, with the playhouse still closed due to Covid and the Tisbury Amphitheatre needing renovations.

But then word came down of voter-approved improvements to the Tisbury Amphitheatre, funded through the Community Preservation Act.

“When we realized the amphitheatre was being completely redone, [the decision was made] that would be home base,” said executive director, MJ Bruder Munafo.

Home base will get its closeup this week as Every Brilliant Thing, the acclaimed solo play by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, opens July 8. Scott Barrow stars and Brooke Hardman Ditchfield directs the show, which runs weekends through July 18.Director Brooke Hardman Ditchfield looks on at a recent rehearsal. — Jeanna Shepard

“It’s a heartbreaking, hilarious, interactive theatrical experience,” Ms. Bruder Munafo said.

The Tisbury amphitheatre renovations included new benches, new steps and railings and improvements to the accessible path, which was regraded, Ms. Bruder Munafo said.

Plans for this summer’s season began percolating in Ms. Bruder Munafo’s head in January, she said, and started coming together in March, amid remaining uncertainty about what pandemic regulations would be in effect by show time. “We decided to keep it really simple and not go with a full season. It’s an abridged season,” she said.

In addition to Every Brilliant Thing, the summer includes free performances on Tuesdays of Shakespeare for the Masses., in which Island dramaturges Chelsea McCarthy and Nicole Galland mine laughter from tragedy with condensed versions of Shakespeare plays — Macbeth in July, Measure for Measure in August.

“We just felt like we wanted to do a lot of free theatre,” Ms. Bruder Munafo said.Scott Barrow, Brooke Ditchfield, Tim Toothman. — Jeanna Shepard

On Thursdays, Shakespeare for the Masses becomes a road company, with performances of Macbeth scheduled for July 15 at the Martha’s Vineyard Drive-In, July 22 at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and July 29 at Featherstone Center for the Arts.

Saturday mornings at the amphitheatre belong, as usual, to the Fabulists, the playhouse’s long-running series of family performances. Ms. Bruder Munafo said a grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council is helping to provide free admission for the Saturday morning shows, which start at 10 a.m. weekly in July and August.

Further bookings are still being scheduled as the summer continues to unfold. “We’re rolling out the season as we go along,” she said.

The Summer Stars theatre camp will also be back this year. “There were a lot of details we had to put in place to reopen camp, especially as Covid protocols kept changing,” Ms. Bruder Munafo said.

The first cohort of about a dozen kids — there’s room for up to 18 in a session — started this week under the leadership of Katherine Reid, a luminous actor who played Emily in the playhouse production of Our Town in 2019.

Camp staff also includes Madeline Fields and Laura Delany, both of whom hold college degrees in musical theatre — Ms. Fields’ from Fairleigh Dickenson University and Ms. Delany’s from the Royal Academy of Music in London.

As the season blossoms outdoors this summer, the historic former meeting house on Church street remains a colorful scene of its own, with art shows in the lobby during box office hours. The current exhibition, Marston Clough — At Large, features recent paintings on canvas and wood by the Island artist, on display through July 17.

Theatre operations will move back inside this fall, Ms. Bruder Munafo said.

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