There’s a lot going on at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse these days. While the summer season of theater ended on Oct. 8, the playhouse is once again keeping its doors open all winter with a variety of programming. According to artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo, “Our motto is: Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, where the off-season is the on-season!”
“We like being here all year,” Ms. Munafo said, adding that the summer season was extended to six months in 2016. “We make an effort to offer a variety of entertainment throughout the off-season.”
The playhouse began featuring regular winter programming three years ago, when it reopened its doors after a two-year hiatus for renovation. The initiative has continued ever since. “We’re continuing with some of the series that we have established, plus adding a few new things,” Ms. Munafo said.
Movies, poetry readings, music, and art shows are all on the schedule. The off-season offerings kicked off on Nov. 7 with the first screening of the Monday Night Movies series.
Every Monday throughout the winter, the playhouse will screen a classic movie on a big screen in their comfortable theater. The series is a joint production between the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and Island Entertainment. Each month there will be a theme that ties the choices together. The November’s series will feature films directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
The lineup will include two of Hitchcock’s most popular films: “The Birds” (1963) and “North by Northwest” (1959), as well as two of his earlier, not quite as well-known films, “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) and “Notorious” (1946).
“We screened one Hitchcock film last year,” Ms. Munafo said. “We had a good audience. People really liked it, so we decided to do a whole series. I think we all love Hitchcock.”
Although the December films have not been scheduled yet, Ms. Munafo speculates that the focus will most likely be on holiday musicals. At some point next year, the playhouse will also honor longtime playhouse supporter Patricia Neal with a month of films. Jamie Alley, who previously selected all the films and was on hand to introduce them, has moved off-Island, but Ms. Munafo promises that he will be making guest appearances.
Martha’s Vineyard poet laureate Arnie Reisman will once again host the monthly Poetry Cafe. The series will kick off on Tuesday, Nov. 15, with a lineup that will include Fan Ogilvie, Andrea Quigley, and Donald Nitchie. The evening of readings will be held in the playhouse’s lobby/art space, where guests are seated nightclub-style at small cafe tables while enjoying complimentary beverages and Pie Chicks pie. Starting in December, the Poetry Cafe will be held on the first Tuesday of every month through March.
Adding music to the mix, the Wicked Good Musical Revue series will return, hosted by longtime musical theater performer Molly Conole. The cabaret-style events will take place on the playhouse’s main stage, and will feature local singers and actors with piano accompaniment, performing a mix of Broadway hits and some lesser-known show tunes. This year, the playhouse will serve desserts before and after the revue so that guests can sit down and chat with the performers. The first Wicked Good Revue will take place on Nov. 18 and 19, and will feature audience favorites. In December, Ms. Conole and troupe will host a special Holiday Sing-Along.
A very special concert is also scheduled for December when the playhouse and MVYradio team up to bring the Boston-based all-female group Wintery Song in Eleventy Part Harmony to the Vineyard. Group founder and vocalist Jennifer Kimball is a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, and half of the folk duo the Story. The group’s recent release, “Hark!” is described on cdbaby.com as “holiday-ish music reinterpreted by a collaboration of songwriters and Celtic string players who are by turns reverent and irreverent; swinging from Sinatra to ‘Silent Night,’ Scottish trad tunes to ‘Nutcracker,’ White Stripes to Jennifer Kimball.”
The playhouse lobby will continue to feature a rotating show of work by local artists. Currently, the featured artist is Linda Ziegler. On Dec. 10, the playhouse will host a reception for artist Kanta Lipsky, whose show will hang through Jan. 5.
The popular Shakespeare for the Masses series will be relaunched in early 2017, and the Peter Luce Playreaders will be invited back to present a reading of a classic play sometime this winter. Ms. Munafo says that she hopes to launch a play-reading series — similar to the summer Monday Night Special series — and will soon be adding an afterschool theater program and classes and workshops for kids and adults to the playhouse’s winter schedule.
“We want to be accessible to the winter population,” Ms. Munafo said. “Everything is moderately priced or free.”
For more information, visit vineyardplayhouse.org.
This article by Gwyn McAllister originally appeared on mvtimes.com.