Recently, I was invited to be a member of the Cohort Club for the Merrimack Repertory Theatre. I didn’t really know what that meant, but as a season ticket holder for the last 4 years, as well as a downtown resident with an interest in seeing our neighborhood thrive, I thought I’d give it a shot. All I have to do is attend the rehearsals for the productions of four of this season’s plays prior to the opening night, and then tell people about my experience. That definitely sounds like something I can do.

MRT’s 2016-17 Season


Last week, I got my first email from Sean Daniels, the Artistic Director at MRT, and I realized that this cohort thing is SO. MUCH. MORE. As cohort members, we get advance information about the cast, the screenplay, the sets, and a sneak peek at the inner workings of how the play goes from the page to the stage – all prior to the first rehearsal.

Rather than give all their secrets away before the first rehearsal, allow me to change the subject and share a similar opportunity I recently had, helping another kind of artist during their creative process.

Just after I received my initial packet from Sean, my husband Charles Arnold and I drove to Rochester, NY to attend the 2016 National Seminar for the Handbell Musicians of America. One of the most popular classes they offer is the “Unpublished Music Reading Session.” Handbell ringing is a new enough art that much of our music is composed or arranged by people who are alive today, and often times, ringing right along side us in a class, performance, or reading session. During the unpublished reading session, these composers hand out copies of their unfinished works and we as musicians play through the pieces. We might be asked to play a section slow vs. fast, staccato vs. legato, or perhaps play two alternate bridges. The objective being to provide feedback to the composers before their works are published, often giving them a first opportunity to hear their work on the instrument it is intended for. As a ringer, it gives us the opportunity to “watch the sauce get made” and to see the creative process from the insiders point of view, and it is the session I most look forward to each year.

I see the Cohort Club as an extension of that experience: A year long opportunity to participate in the creative process, to cheer on the artists as they work out their challenges, find their characters, and make the play come to life. This is gonna be a great year!

-Lisa Arnold, Cohort

Image: Charissa Bertels, bottom right.


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