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Resurgent Trinity Rep sets 8 plays for ’98-’99

Cash-strapped theater starts anew in 35th season

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The world premiere of young American playwright Robert Alexander’s “A Preface to the Alien Garden” highlights the Trinity Repertory Co.’s 1998-99 season, one that’s expected to continue the theater’s remarkable fiscal turnaround.

A portrait of an inner-city gang recruiting new members, eliminating competition and enforcing a violent code of conduct on the street, “Alien Garden” is scheduled to begin performances on Feb. 26, 1999, in the TRC’s smaller, downstairs theater. In all, eight plays will be presented in the company’s two theaters.

The season, which marks the reinvigorated nonprofit’s 35th, is set to begin Sept. 4 in its larger upstairs theater with “The Threepenny Opera” by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, directed by Alan MacVey. It will be followed by Leslie Ayvazian’s “Nine Armenians” on Sept. 25 in the downstairs theater, a production directed by TRC assistant director Oskar Eustis.

Next up is Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” starting Dec. 4 in the downstairs theater, directed by TRC artistic associate Amanda Dehnert and featuring Jennifer Mudge Tucker in the title role.

The season will also feature Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” directed by Eustis; Terrence McNally’s “Master Class,” with veteran TRC actress Barbara Meek as Maria Callas; Dario Fo’s topical farce “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” in a new American adaptation; and the TRC’s annual non-subscription sellout, “A Christmas Carol.”

The company, which teetered on the brink of dissolution about six years ago, is elated by the outcome of its record-breaking 34th season, which closed with a balanced budget, the second in as many years, reflecting unprecedented box office sales and steadily rising contributed income.

The 1997-98 season’s single-ticket revenue of $1,846,673 beat the previous season by more than $300,000, making it the best season in single-ticket sales ever at the TRC. In addition, its 1997-98 annual fund drive was the most successful in its history, raising over $1.4 million. The season also garnered numerous awards and broke several box office records.

Trinity’s strides toward fiscal solvency, which include continuing solid reductions of its debt burden, are credited to four-season a.d. Eustis, managing director William P. Wingate and board chairman Arnold B. Chace Jr. The accumulated debt had, in the TRC’s darkest days, reached $3 million, but last season it was reduced by a further $485,000-plus, down to $1,213,000, and the board is dedicated to eliminating it entirely by the end of the coming season.

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