When I first came to Boston "the theatre district" was bubbling with continual Broadway try-outs, the Charles Playhouse and then the Theatre Company of Boston were sparring for attention, and a theater-hungry populace would eagerly rush in to see some new serious play, or rush out to sit under the stars to see some classic like Goethe's "Faust" or Shaw's "Man And Superman". Back then Boston had three daily newspapers that thought the opening of a new production was headline news keeping three critics busy all year round trying to cover it all --- and one of those critics was Elliot Norton.
When I first came to Boston (1957) there was Wellesley Theatre On The Green. Not too long ago there was the Nickerson Theatre. Now, on the Wellesley campus but decidedly independent of the college is the Wellesley Summer Theatre. Like the Theatre and Theatre Studies department of Wellesley College, the Wellesley Summer Theatre exists because of Nora Hussey. And that means their productions are excellent.
But apparently it takes more than mere excellence to attract notice these days, and even in their fourth summer the productions out at the end of the D-Line have apparently been dismissed as college-theater by people who should know better. Perhaps that's the result of Hussey's decision to pay her actors the money that might have gone into public relations. When the pie is small, some slices are more important than others.
In a sense, though, the professional summer repertory company --- some members of which are back for a third year this summer --- is a logical extension of Theatre Studies. Theatre may be a discipline, but the best way to learn it is to DO it. Ms. Hussey expects her students to seek practical hands-on work with experienced professionals if they are to know anything about the real world of theater, and the Summer Theatre is one way to do exactly that. "They don't always get treated well in stock theatres," she knows; she's paid her dues as eager slave-labor in summer stock in the past, and vowed to give her students education rather than exploitation for their summers of sweat.
Nor is the company dedicated to empty froth in the summer months. Along with a children's show ("Snow White") they tackled "The Philadelphia Story: head-on this year, in a carefully crafted production that felt like an entirely new play to me, and I'm going back tomorrow night to catch "The Baltimore Waltz". And the award-winning director of them both is, of course, Nora Hussey herself.
That's recommendation enough for me. Summer theatre out in Wellesley is alive and well, and well worth the trip.