PRESS RELEASE: MRT Premieres next break beat play by Idris Goodwin

DATE:  MARCH 1, 2016
CONTACT: Kate Brandt,
PR CONTACT PHONE: 978-654-7595 
BOX OFFICE: 978-654-4678


Word Premiere of Idris Goodwin’s newest break beat play brings insight and humanity to 1990’s hip-hop.

March 16 – April 10

Lowell, MA – Merrimack Repertory Theatre continues its 2015-16 Season with the world premiere of “The Realness: a break beat play,” the latest work from renowned playwright and hip-hop artist Idris Goodwin. The love story at the center of “The Realness” lets us view the seismic events of the mid-90’s hip-hop scene insightfully, through a compassionate human lens. Audiences will see this world through the eyes of T.O., who immerses himself in the hip-hop culture he’s only observed from the safety of the suburbs, and falls hard for a captivating MC. Wendy Goldberg, head of the National Playwrights Conference at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, will direct. The production is supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Works program.

The play runs approximately 90 minutes with performances March 16 – April 10. Press performances are at 8:00 on Saturday, March 19 (Opening Night), as well as at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm on Sunday, March 20. All performances will be held at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre, located at 50 East Merrimack Street in historic downtown Lowell. Tickets range from $60 - $23 and are on sale now at or by calling 978-654-4678.

Idris Goodwin and the Break Beat Plays
Idris Goodwin’s first break beat play, “How We Got On,” played at Boston’s Company One in 2013 to overwhelming audience enthusiasm and exceptionally positive reception by local critics, who lauded the work’s ability to make hip-hop accessible to the uninitiated, while maintaining the integrity of the genre’s rich culture. “The Realness” is the second work in the break beat series. Developed extensively with workshops (including those at the Kennedy Center and the Playwrights’ Center), it promises a similar impact.

Goodwin is the recipient of numerous honors and commissions, including Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s  American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle Commission and InterAct Theater’s 20/20 New Play Commission Award. An acclaimed performance poet and rapper in his own right, Goodwin’s albums include “Break Beat Poems” and “Rhyming While Black.” MRT Artistic Director Sean Daniels notes, “There are few artists having the type of impact that Idris has, and it’s very important for us to be premiering his new play here, which we will all be watching other theatres do for years and years afterwards.”

About the Play
“The Realness: a break beat play” gives us the story of T.O., a college student raised in the suburbs with an all-consuming obsession with hip-hop. But while he adores the music, he’s only observed the culture from afar. When he lands in the city hoping to immerse himself in the hip-hop lifestyle, he suddenly faces questions about what it truly means to live authentically. And when he falls hard for the brilliant and beautiful artist Prima, things only get more complicated. It’s not long before he finds himself caught in the web of lies he’s spun in order to stay in her life and define his own role in this captivating new world.

Through it all, we witness some of the most influential moments and movements in hip-hop, which have defined America’s contemporary cultural landscape: the death of Tupac Shakur; the emergence of a mainstream out of hip-hop’s underground roots; sweeping rap battles and intimate open mics.

Creative Team and Cast
The production will be directed by Wendy Goldberg, who is the Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference at The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and who also directed the world premiere of Goodwin’s “How We Got On” at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Humana Festival of New Plays in 2012. Goldberg is joined by designers Lee Savage (sets), Anne Kennedy (costumes), Brian J. Lilienthal (lights), and Josh Horvath (sound). The set will be largely built from audio speakers, bringing a newly resonant dimension to MRT’s stage.

The five-person cast features Terrell Sledge (T.O.), Diomargy Nuñez (Prima), Joy Hooper (Professor Brown), Jessie Prez (Roy), and Segun Akande (Lord Style).

Tickets range from $60 - $23 and are available at or by calling 978-654-4678. A senior discount is offered for 10% off adult ticket prices. Student tickets are $15. Group discounts are available for groups of six or more by calling 978-654-7561. $5 Night: Wednesday, March 16, at 7:30 pm. Patrons may purchase tickets for $5, cash only, at the Box Office between 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm. Limit 2 tickets per person. Lowell Night: Wednesday, march 23 at 7:30 pm. Lowell residents may purchase tickets for $10 at the box office from 4:30 pm-7:30 pm. Proper ID required, limit 2 per person. A Military Discount of $10 off per ticket (up to four tickets per production) applies to any performance for active duty, retired, veteran, and reservist members of the military.

Special Events
MRT is thrilled to continue its first season offering Free Child Care at one performance of every show. Licensed professionals from Acre Family Childcare will provide activities for children (ages 0-10) of ticketholders during the 7:30 pm performance of “The Realness” on Saturday, March 26 at 4:00 pm.

On Wine Down Sunday, the audience will be invited to enjoy a complimentary glass of wine in the lobby following the first Sunday evening performance with the cast and crew, as well as with the Western Avenue Studios Artists Association members whose work is currently on exhibit in the lobby. Post-Show Discussions will be held following select performances, allowing further access to the production. Most Wednesdays, a Community Conversation will follow the evening performance, when the audience is invited to participate in a discussion about themes of the play with local organizations. Each Thursday, Ask the Artists will provide an opportunity for the audience to hear directly from the people who created the show.

“The Realness” has received support from Media Sponsor The Nashua Telegraph. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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. The company is known for its high production standards and for creating compelling new plays and regional premieres that reflect the lives and emotions of its audiences. MRT is one of just three theatres in Massachusetts that is a member of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), which has 72 members nationwide.

MRT 2015-16 SEASON 
“The Lion”, written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer
August 26 – September 20, 2015

“I and You” by Lauren Gunderson
October 7 – November 1, 2015

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” adapted by Joe Landry
November 25 – December 20, 2015

“The White Chip” by Sean Daniels
January 6 – 31, 2015

“Tinker to Evers to Chance by Mat Smart
February 10 – March 6, 2016

“The Realness: a break beat play” by Idris Goodwin
March 16 – April 10, 2016

“Home of the Brave” by Lila Rose Kaplan
April 20 – May 15, 2016

Merrimack Repertory Theatre
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

Image Download

(Headshots available now, PR photos available March 11, production photos available March 17.)
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