By Jordyn Haime
“All the world’s a stage.”
The Shakespearean quote forever immortalized by thespians around the world is one that Lowell theater company Studio 506 takes quite seriously. Their productions have sprung up all over the city—at a community garden, a downtown art gallery, and even a backyard in the ‘burbs.
“That’s just how Studio 506 began,” says founder and director Kaitlyn Crockett. “There were no ticket prices, just a gathering of the participants’ loved ones to share a story in someone’s backyard. The operation grew from there.”
Now their fourth and most ambitious season to date will showcase The Trojan Women, premiering at The Luna Theater August 17-19. Studio 506’s modern spin on Euripides’ Greek tragedy is an adaptation by Ellen McLaughlin, written in response to the Bosnian war.
The play “focuses largely on the experiences of folks who are displaced because of war,” explains Charlette Augusta, a founding member and co-producer of Studio 506. The company felt the story was an appropriate choice in today’s world and especially in Lowell, a city that was built on immigrants and hosts a heavy population of refugees.
Studio 506 will partner with the International Institute of Lowell to host audience discussions about the play’s subject matter following the Aug. 19 2pm performance.
Excited to be collaborating with an organization that shares similar goals to theirs, Studio 506 hopes their show’s message will create a lasting impact among audiences that goes beyond the theater-viewing experience.
“People are here, not by choice, but they’re here, and this is home now,” Augusta says.
The question to further explore is, “how can we create a real nest for folks that they feel safe in, they feel welcome in and feel excited to be a part of somehow, despite the circumstances that have brought them there,” Augusta adds.
Community-based theater that is accessible to all is at the heart of Studio 506’s mission. And an integral part of making that work in Lowell means delivering performances steeped in equity, diversity, and inclusion.
In 2016’s performance of Into The Woods, Crockett opened up auditions with the idea that character roles would be given to the best performers for the role, despite traditional perceptions of gender, race, or sexual orientation.
“We had a lot of interesting takes on gender presentation which a lot of audience members really reacted to,” Crockett explains. “We had Kelly Maglio (a woman) play the baker, which is traditionally played by a man. A lot of audience members came up to her after and were like, ‘you completely changed the way I viewed it.’”
Aside from partial grant funding, the theater company is entirely community-funded. In the past, Studio 506 has hosted open play-readings and fundraising parties, in addition to GoFundME crowd sourcing campaigns.
Augusta calls Studio 506 the “take-a-penny, leave-a-penny” cup of Lowell. Anyone is welcome to join and contribute their talent—whether they are an actor, designer, or makeup artist—to help make this diverse, grassroots community theater part of the city’s permanent landscape.
“There’s magic here,” Augusta says. “Lowell is a true community where folks are working hard to braid their lives and their missions together.”