• What: "Beat Generation"
  • When: Oct. 10-14
  • Where: Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 East Merrimack St., Lowell
  • Presented by: MRT and UMass Lowell in conjunction with 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival.
  • Tickets: Start at $40 at 978-654-4678 or www.MRT.org

 

LOWELL -- In 1955, Jack Kerouac had already written his iconic On the Road and was on the verge of becoming of a household name as the leading writer of the "Beat Generation."

That year, he sat at his typewriter and wrote his only play, which he aptly titled Beat Generation.

Until now, the play has never been performed. That changes next week when Merrimack Repertory Theatre, in conjunction with University of Massachusetts Lowell, presents the world premiere staged reading of Beat Generation for eight performances, Oct. 10-14, in the refurbished MRT.

Beat Generation is the story of friendship and karma in the 1950s and its characters and dialogue capture the Beat mentality at the roots of American counterculture as only Kerouac could.

It is written in the author's trademark autobiographical style and follows a groups of friends based on Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg and others over the course of a day in 1955.

It's an exciting prospect to direct the work, says MRT artistic director Charles Towers.

"We've assembled an amazing cast to speak Kerouac's words aloud for the first time and bring them to life," said Towers. "Some are MRT returnees along with a lot of new faces, or I should say 'voices,' since speaking the words is the primary focus of a staged reading. We have actors coming from New York, L.A. and Boston, who all reflect MRT's usual caliber of acting talent.

Cast members include Tony Crane as Buck, based on Kerouac, and Joey Collins as Milo, based on Neal Cassady.

The supporting cast and their roles include: Che Ayende as Jule/Julius Chauncey; Larry Bull as Slim Summerville; Armin Shimerman as Tommy; Brian Quijada as Manuel; Ari Butler as Irwin; William Connell as Paul; Christopher James Webb as Mezz McGillicuddy; Seamus F. Sargent as The Bishop; Elise Arsenault as Vicki; Tamara Hickey as Cora; Kitty Swink as Woman at the Tracks/Mrs. Bishop and Stephanie Bates as A Blonde.

The play's premiere is presented in Lowell with the support and collaboration of Kerouac Literary Estate representative John Sampas.

"It's apt that the premiere production of Jack Kerouac's play Beat Generation takes place in his hometown of Lowell at the MRT under the guidance of the inimitable director Charles Towers," said Sampas.

Noted Towers: "There's no question that these eight performances are going to be a gas."

 

Special events at various performances:

  • Thursday, Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m., pre-show book signing with Anne Waldman
  • Saturday, Oct. 13, 4 p.m., pre-show signing and post-show discussion with David Amram
  • Saturday, Oct. 13, 8 p.m., pre-show signing and post-show discussion with Joyce Johnson
  • Sunday, Oct. 14, 2 p.m., pre-show signing with Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell
  • Sunday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m., post-show discussion with UML faculty members Mike Millner and Todd Tietchen.

Nancye Tuttle's email address is nancyedt@verizon.net.