By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Playwrights and actors of every type, style and skill level have a forever friend in Jan McArt.
A dramaturgical legend who has been to Broadway and back, and is renowned for bringing live performances to Boca Raton at her famed, former dinner theater, McArt continues to foster theatrical prowess through her New Play-Reading Series at Boca Raton’s Lynn University.
The series begins its sixth season Oct. 22 when McArt produces the first of four specially selected plays featuring familiar, talented local artists entertaining audiences with works written by playwrights with South Florida ties.
Named by two governors as Florida’s “First Lady of Theater,” McArt, now director of theatrical development at Lynn, has guided her award-winning series of play-readings to inestimable success.
“I love it,” she says, “because it’s creative, and I’m making things happen.”
Her mission with this play-recitation schedule? “To develop new, commercially entertaining plays by Florida playwrights.”
But there’s more to McArt’s presentations than just bringing actors to the stage to stand and read lines in front of microphones.
Each year, she chooses four new plays written by men and women who call the Sunshine State home. Each composition is rehearsed and rewritten, with writers and actors toiling together as the final performance evolves. Finally, the newly revised work is presented in the 750-seat Wold Center to what McArt calls an “ever-growing, enthusiastic audience.”
Tony Finstrom is associate producer and Wayne Rudisill is resident director for this series.
Opening night will reveal a play called The Diamond Girl. Written by Finstrom and directed by Rudisill, the 7:30 p.m. show offers a contemporary take on an old-fashioned story. McArt, who is also one of the players, describes the show as “an epic yet intimate tale of greed, lust and lies that’s part mystery, part comedy and part romance, played out against the colorful backdrop of Victorian London.”
McArt will be joined in this intriguing stage characterization by Jordan Armstrong, Leigh Bennett, Jeffrey Bruce, Ann Marie Olson, Leah Sessa and Mike Westrich, notable artisans in the local theater world.
Finstrom says McArt’s entry in the play-reading genre is far more motivating than other, similar presentations in which “the actors come in and read through it in the afternoon and present it to an audience that evening.”
“Often, the cast is simply seated in a semi-circle, or perhaps they’ll step up with their scripts to music stands when it’s their character’s turn to speak.”
“But the McArt play-reading brand is much more ambitious, giving playwrights the chance to bring in a new drama and work with a professional cast and a director for five days — rehearsing, re-writing, rehearsing, rewriting. Then, at the end of the five days, they present their new, polished, reworked play to the public.”
“These are staged readings in the true sense of the word,” Finstrom adds. “With actors up on their feet, playing on a minimal set, with lighting, some sound effects, wearing bits of costumes. Like a real performance of a new play, except the actors, of course, carry their scripts.”
McArt has scored well with some previous presentations, such as:
- Dan Clancy’s Proposition 8, which landed at the Desert Rose Playhouse in Rancho Mirage, Calif., under the title Poster Boys in the spring of 2014.
- Christopher Demos-Brown’s Child’s Play, presented at Miami’s Zoetic Stage to great acclaim under the title Stripped.
- Michael McKeever’s Daniel’s Husband, which wound up at Fort Lauderdale’s Island City Stage in the summer of 2015, winning several Carbonell Awards including Best New Work, before it was successfully produced at New York’s Primary Stages in the spring of 2017
- Stuart Meltzer’s The Goldberg Variations, which was produced in the winter of 2016 at Island City Stage, won the 2017 Carbonell Award for Best New Work.
- Dan Clancy’s A Home, which will be presented as At Home at Boca West Theatre in the fall of 2018.
The remaining shows in McArt’s New Play-Readings include Greg Burdick’s Agent of Change on Jan. 14, The Quintessence of Joy by Stuart Meltzer on Feb. 11 and Michael McKeever’s Farce and Away on March 4.
Series subscriptions are $36, and individual show tickets are $10. They can be purchased in person at the Lynn University box office in the Wold Center at 3601 N. Military Trail, online at events.lynn.edu or by phone at 561-237-9000.