By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Grafton – About 15 years ago, Frank Bartucca of Grafton rekindled his enthusiasm for theater. He studied master acting classes at several venues in Boston and Worcester, while performing in plays with community theater groups. Then in 2010, he founded the 4th Wall Stage Company.
“Starting the theater company allowed me more freedom of choice as to the types of plays that I would become involved with – whether I produced, directed or appeared in them,” he explained.
Among the venues where he studied was the Foothills Theatre in Worcester. That professional theater company was founded in 1974 and suspended operations due to lack of funds in 2009.
“With the demise of the Foothills Theatre, I realized that we were not seeing the types of plays in central Massachusetts that you would see if you went into Boston or New York,” he said. “For example, we were not seeing plays by Anton Chekhov, Sam Shepard or Eugene O’Neill. I felt this was an opportunity to bring those types of plays back to central Massachusetts.”
After organizing the 4th Wall Stage Company as a nonprofit organization, he produced its first production, Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” It was directed by Whit Whales, who Bartucca said was instrumental in helping him found the theater group.
Most of its productions have been staged at the Singh Performance Center at Alternatives Unlimited, located in a restored and renovated former mill building in Whitinsville. They also present performances at several Worcester venues. Not having a permanent location has some advantages, Bartucca noted.
“We don’t have the financial overhead of owning a building,” he said. “We knew from the beginning that the kind of dramas we produce do not have as much universal appeal as musicals and Neil Simon comedies. We are building audiences, but it’s a slow process.”
Each year the group has been producing three main stage productions. A series of children’s theater performances has been added at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester.
Currently, the 4th Wall Stage Company is preparing to present “A Streetcar Named Desire,” for which playwright Tennessee Williams received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948. Serving as director is Barbara Guertin.
“We had a huge turnout for the auditions and got some very good actors and actresses,” Bartucca said. “They’re really dedicated to this show and have wanted to do it, so their hearts were into it right from the beginning.”
Two matinees of “A Streetcar Named Desire” will be presented for about 1,200 upperclassmen of Worcester Public Schools at the Hanover Theatre of the Performing Arts in Worcester.
A public performance at the Hanover Theatre will be staged Friday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m. For ticket reservations, call the box office at 877-571-SHOW (7469).
Additional performances will be held at the Singh Performance Center at Alternatives Unlimited in Whitinsville for two weekends: Saturday, April 11, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 12, at 2 p.m.; Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 19, at 2 p.m. For reservations, contact Guertin at 508-791-2665 or [email protected]
Bartucca welcomes other theater enthusiasts from everywhere throughout the region to join the group.
“From Worcester, we seem to draw people from Spencer to the west, Clinton to the north, Marlborough to the east, and the Grafton and Millbury area to the south,” he said. “Many of these people are professionals – engineers, doctors, lawyers and teachers. They sacrifice a lot to come to rehearsals evenings and weekends. They absolutely love theater.”
For more information about the 4th Wall Stage Company, visit 4thwallstagecompany.org.