DATE: May 14, 2018
PR CONTACT: Jeanne Williams,
PR CONTACT PHONE: 978-654-7561
BOX OFFICE: 978-654-4678


$20,000 from NEA for MRT’s world premiere play, “Little Women, Retold”

$35,000 from MCC to enhance the lighting and sound experience for patrons

Lowell, MA—Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) is proud to announce that it has received two major grants this month, totaling $55,000. The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded MRT an Art Works grant of $20,000 for the development of a new play, Little Women, Retold. And the board of MassDevelopment, the Mass Cultural Council’s partner in the administration of the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF), has approved a Capital grant to MRT in the amount of $35,000 for sound and lighting upgrades.

“These two grants celebrate two of our major goals as a cultural institution,” said Bonnie Butkas, MRT’s Executive Director. “The National Endowment for the Arts grant will help us bring to the stage a new twist on a classic work by Louisa May Alcott. While the Mass Cultural Council grant will help us make our plays even more accessible, in this case for hearing-impaired members of our audience. We’re so grateful for the partnerships MRT has with these vital funding organizations.”

About the National Endowment for the Arts grant

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018. Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $20,000 to Merrimack Repertory Theatre for Little Women, Retold. The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”

“We are so pleased that the NEA has recognized the unique story this play has to share with our audiences,” said Sean Daniels, MRT’s Artistic Director. “We hope to inspire audiences to connect to this classic work in a way that resonates in the present, as much as it has in the past. And we’re excited for many young people to experience this work through our Student Matinee program. MRT is committed to being a hub of diversity, discussion, and outreach in the community—and to celebrate the rich diversity that we are so fortunate to have here in the Merrimack Valley region.”

The world premiere play Little Women, Retold, which will be presented at MRT during a future season, is written by Eleanor Burgess, conceived by Eleanor Burgess, Megan Sandberg-Zakian, and Emily Ruddock, and based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. The MRT production will re-imagine this classic New England story through the eyes of immigrants and will be set in a suburban American preteen’s bedroom, with a small cast of four diverse actors.

As Burgess, Ruddock, and Sandberg-Zakian explain, “Louisa May Alcott’s novel addresses many themes that feel suddenly relevant today: a divided country in conflict, facing hard times, standing up for what you believe in, staying true to yourself and your ideals, and helping immigrants. We need a story like this now more than ever—full of warmth and joy, and grounded in our true American values.”

For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, visit

About the Mass Cultural Council grant

The MassDevelopment Board of Directors has approved $9.3 million in new grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF), a state program that fosters the growth of the creative economy by supporting building projects in the nonprofit arts, humanities, and sciences. Included in this announcement is a Cultural Facilities Fund grant of $35,000 to Merrimack Repertory Theatre for updated LED lighting and sound technology, reducing the theatre's carbon footprint and enhancing accessibility for hearing-impaired audience members.

The grant will specifically allow MRT to purchase a new light board to better illuminate the stage, reduce our environmental impact, and decrease electricity costs; purchase new Assistive Listening Devices and microphones to insure that audience members are able to consistently hear actors and music, regardless of their position on stage; install new LED lights; and provide open captioning at some performances, allowing the actor’s words to be displayed as text, so those patrons may experience live theatre without the use of a device.

“From the Berkshires to Cape Cod, Massachusetts is home to a deep cultural history that continues to grow and thrive,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration looks forward to continuing our work to support public-private partnerships like these that will help drive tourism and benefit residents and visitors for years to come."

For more information on projects included in the MCC grant announcement, visit

Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) has been Merrimack Valley’s professional theatre company since 1979 and is an integral part of Lowell’s identity as the cultural heart of the region. MRT’s mission is to share theatrical stories of human understanding that reflect and engage our community. A seven-show season runs from September through May in the intimate 279-seat Nancy L. Donahue Theatre. The company is known as a leader in producing new plays, especially world and regional premieres. MRT is one of 72 theatres nationwide (one of three in Massachusetts) with membership in LORT (the League of Resident Theatres).

Circle Health is the 2017-18 Season Sponsor. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Performance Space: The Nancy L. Donahue Theatre 
(In Liberty Hall, adjacent to Lowell Memorial Auditorium)
50 E. Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Box Office: 978-654-4678

Read about MRT’s current 2017-18 Season:

Read about MRT’s upcoming 2018-19 Season:

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