Molly McGuire ‘18
Smith has recently informed the New Century Theatre company that it can no longer host performances and workshops in the Mendenhall Center for Performing Arts on campus. The company has been using the venue for performances and other programs that occur over the summer since 1991.
In a statement on this separation, Smith said, “In light of undisputed policy and contract violations, Smith College opted to discontinue its relationship with New Century Theatre, an independent organization that has contracted with the college for summer theater performance space, acting classes and related events. The college will continue to host a range of educational, cultural, youth-focused and arts-related programs throughout the academic year and in the summer.”
On its website, New Century Theatre says that, “NCT is a training ground for many students and emerging professionals who gain valuable experience by working on our productions.” The theater company was started by its producing director Sam Rush, and the playwright Jack Neary.
According to MassLive, Rush has expressed that he is unsure as to why Smith decided to end its long relationship with NCT. However, he also said, “New Century Theatre has always been a square peg in a round hole for them.”
Rush further elaborated on why he believes Smith has discontinued their relationship with NCT in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “We’d been pushing up against the boundaries for a while,” he said.
Rush believes that the tensions between Smith and NCT have been forming for some time now, and that there were many limitations in using the Mendenhall Center for Performing Arts to put on four plays per summer. “Our ten-week residency at Smith College in the summer has become a difficult model to sustain for the company in part because of limited rehearsal and build times,” said Rush, in a statement on the NCT Facebook page announcing the separation on Sept. 30.
NCT is now looking for a new location for their business. Rush has informed the press that he is attempting to resume their productions and regular programs by next summer. They are hoping to stay in Northampton and have even committed to a 2017 production called “Life in the (413)” at the Academy of Music. This should be performed in the late spring.
While this dissociation has brought about many challenges to the theater company, it has also provided them with an opportunity to find a more permanent location. This would enable them to create productions throughout the entire year, rather than limiting them to summers. “We have to have the courage to take these steps if we want to create our own space within our community – one that allows us to grow and offer more productions, classes and workshops throughout the year,” said Rush in another Facebook post on Oct. 3.
Many fans and more than a dozen sponsors of the theater company are eagerly waiting for the day when NCT finds a new, permanent home. Several members of the community have reached out to NCT through social media to express their support during this transition. “So sorry to hear. New Century was such a big part of the Smith Theatre community, and I can't imagine losing such a wonderful group of artists and people. But I hope they move on to bigger and better things,” said one follower, who commented on the post from Sept. 30.