Scene and Heard

Hello Friends,

I am writing this on the eve of Mother’s Day, so will start by wishing all mothers reading this a day of calm and appreciation—of your being appreciated, and also your appreciating the families you’ve helped build. Raising kids is never easy, and trying to balance life and work during a pandemic might just be the definition of "challenge".

It is a bittersweet weekend for me, as I had hoped we’d be together in previews for Ah, Wilderness!, O’Neill’s romantic ode to first love, to enduring relationships, and to family. It’s ironic that as the first woman (and mother) to be Artistic Director of Hartford Stage, I’m spending my first Mother’s Day in this role not directing a play for you. It would have been a very special Sunday for ​me and for Cynthia, our Managing Director and mom of two, to have greeted and celebrated caregivers and their families in our lobby before and after the preview. 

Regardless, ​I'm finding great strength and determination in leading this theatre at this challenging moment. Yes there are compromises ahead, but perhaps parenting is one great way to learn about adaptability...

As a young woman starting out I was haunted by a phrase I’d read in a director’s memoir that the “pram in the lobby is the death of art.” How naive of me to accept this was an either/or, instead of foreseeing the worthwhile struggle to have both. I might be the first parent to run Hartford Stage, but I'm certainly not the first theatre maker trying to integrate life and work. As a society we often forget our roots, lost in the fantasy of our present exceptionalism: there is nothing new in the struggle for mothers and fathers wrestling full time work and creativity, and hearing stories of those who've come before us can remind us of our resilience and possibility. This coming Wednesday on Scene and Heard: LIVE! join me in conversation with an extraordinary theatre maker—JoAnne Akalaitis. Her stories will not only give us the gift of understanding this craft better, but also help us imagine where the theatre can go next.

I first met JoAnne Akalaitis when I was a young director working for Joseph Papp at the Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival in NYC where JoAnne was a resident director. Trust me, you want to know more about JoAnne's career and history, as well as to hear her stories of balancing work and children, art and politics, food and theatre. You can find a few articles on JoAnne’s career in “Melia’s Picks” this week—as well as an archival tape released yesterday of her filmed version of Dead End Kids which premiered at The Public in 1980. 

In this moment of missing our ability to gather together in one room to hear a story, it's a consolation to spend an hour telling stories about the theatre. If you joined last week's program, you know we heard many great stories from our beloved volunteer ushers, and also by some special guests including David Alan Basche, Shona Tucker, Gordon Clapp, David Strathairn, Jennifer Van Dyck, McCaleb Burnett, Darko Tresnjak, Adrianne Krstansky and Dakota Shepherd. 

I promise this coming week will not disappoint, and will add to your appreciation and enjoyment of all that is Hartford Stage. 

Hope to see you on Zoom,


PS: Remember, this Wednesday, May 13th is Scene and Heard: LIVE!, our virtual happy hour via Zoom at 5 pm EST. 


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Photos, L-R: Hugo Carbajal and Emilio Delgado in Quixote Nuevo; Chandler Williams and Helen Sadler in Jane Eyre. Photos by T. Charles Erickson. • The cast of Breakdancing Shakespeare. Photo by Defining Studios.