PRESS RELEASE: Lost Laughs: The Slapstick Tragedy of Fatty Arbuckle

DATE: January 29, 2018
PR CONTACT: Jeanne Williams,
PR CONTACT PHONE: 978-654-7561
BOX OFFICE: 978-654-4678



FEBRUARY 14 – MARCH 11, 2018

Lowell, MA – Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) is proud to present the world premiere of Lost Laughs: The Slapstick Tragedy of Fatty Arbuckle, written by Andy Bayiates and Aaron Muñoz, directed by Nathan Keepers, with performances February 14 – March 11, 2018, at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre located at 50 East Merrimack Street in historic downtown Lowell. In addition, MRT is hosting a panel discussion on the historical context of Lost Laughs titled “Women’s Rights, Prohibition, and the Fall of Fatty,” on Thursday, March 1, immediately after the 7:30 pm show (details below).

During silent film’s golden age, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s comedic genius outshone even Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as Hollywood’s first million-dollar man. Then after one tragic weekend, he became America’s biggest villain. What really happened to him and Virginia Rappe? How did a comedy legend fall so far from favor? In the tradition of great vaudeville pairings, Aaron Muñoz is Arbuckle and Kristen Mengelkoch plays Keaton, Rappe, and a host of other characters. Big laughs and shocking truths—the line between comedy and tragedy is thinner than you ever imagined.

MRT Artistic Director Sean Daniels added, “Aaron Muñoz’s hilarious and heartfelt performance brings to life someone whose work has essentially been forgotten today. This was also the first court case to captivate the nation and make us look at our relationship to celebrity. A true history mystery. Andy Bayiates is always one of our favorite authors to bring back to MRT. In addition to being a true local success story (born at Lowell General!) he is always inventive and clear in bringing history to the stage. And I can’t wait for Lowell to meet Nathan Keepers and Kristen Mengelkoch—truly two of the funniest people I know. Plus, I think the world is ready to see a female Buster Keaton; I know Lowell is.”

“I've been wanting to do something about Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle for over a decade,” said Muñoz, who stars in and co-wrote the play. “I’m drawn to the question, ‘What if the one thing you are supposed to do on this earth gets taken away from you?’ I’m also interested in exploring the blessing and burden of being the funny fat guy in a celebrity-driven culture that loves to ferociously build people up and tear them down.”

“I love playing so many, many…many parts in Lost Laughs,” said Mengelkoch. “I’m everyone from Roscoe’s intimate friends and wives to his crazed fans and critics. You’ll see me as Buster Keaton, and you’ll see me as someone most people don’t know about. I certainly didn’t. I play a young woman, Virginia Rappe, whose story can’t help but bring to mind the current tragic revelations we’re reading about almost daily in Hollywood and the world. I so appreciate that this play is a celebration of the silent film era and comedic genius of Roscoe Arbuckle, while at the same time a real look at the corruptibility and fragility of celebrity.”

The approximately 90-minute show will be performed without an intermission. Performances are February 14 – March 11, 2018. Press performances are on Saturday, February 17 at 8:00 PM (Opening Night) and on Sunday, February 18 at 2:00 PM. Please email to reserve your press passes. All performances will be held at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre located at 50 East Merrimack Street in historic downtown Lowell. Tickets range from $26 - $73 and are on sale now 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.

More information is at


The two-person cast includes Aaron Muñoz (Playwright/Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle) and Kristen Mengelkoch (Will). The creative team includes Nathan Keepers (Director), Andy Bayiates (Playwright), Meredith Ries (Scenic Designer), Alison Siple (Costume Designer), D.M. Wood (Lighting Designer), Stowe Nelson (Sound Designer), and Dom Ruggiero (Stage Manager).


Panel Discussion: “Women’s Rights, Prohibition, and the Fall of Fatty”
Thursday, March 1, immediately after the 7:30 pm performance

Free and open to the public. No ticket required.

Drs. Julie Nash and Robert Forrant and actress Kristen Mengelkoch will join moderator Bonnie J. Butkas for a panel discussion of the historical context of Lost Laughs, including the growing fight over women’s rights, Prohibition, the rise of yellow journalism, and more. Kristen Mengelkoch will share her experience creating the roles of Virginia Rappe, Buster Keaton and more.

Dr. Julie Nash is the Vice Provost for Student Success and Associate Professor at UML. Her expertise is in 18th & 19th century British Literature, The British Novel and Women Writers. Her research interests include Student Success and Retention in Higher Education, Servants in Literature, Literature of the Industrial Revolution, Literature of Industrial Lowell, Maria Edgeworth, Elizabeth Gaskell, Women’s Literature. She is vice provost for student success, where she oversees retention and student success, curriculum, and accreditation. Prior to serving as vice provost, Dr. Nash served as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, as Honors Director, and as Gender Studies Director.

Dr. Robert Forrant is a Distinguished University Professor, Co-Director and Senior Research Fellow at UML in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. His research interests include 19th and 20th century U.S. history; labor history; immigration history; Lowell and Lawrence, MA history; and Great Depression and New Deal. He is the recipient of the Teaching Excellence Award (2016) and The President’s Award for Public Service (1998). He is partnering with MRT to provide deeper historical context for members of MRT’s Cohort Club and its general audience.

Kristen Mengelkoch plays the role of Virginia Rappe, Buster Keaton and many more characters in MRT’s production of Lost Laughs. She recently appeared in the First National Tour of the Tony Award winning musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, and has performed Off-Broadway in NEWSical the Musical and multiple editions of Forbidden Broadway (appearing on the Original Cast Recording of FB Goes to Rehab). Regionally she has performed at Geva Theatre Center, Gateway Playhouse, Moonlight Stage, North Coast Repertory Theatre, The Theatre in Old Town (Miracle Theatre Productions), The Welk Theatre and Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre. Television: Veronica Mars (Co-Star). From 2007-2009, Kristen was the co-founder/co-producer of Ampersand Theatre Company in New York City. Kristen is a graduate of San Diego State University’s Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre program.

Bonnie J. Butkas (Executive Director, MRT) joins MRT from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), where she served as Senior Director of Foundation Relations. She has led panel and community discussions around funding, race and theatre, organizational change, and political action. She was the Director of Development at Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York, where she led five years of unprecedented growth in the company’s contributed income including a successful $10 million capital campaign to renovate Geva’s building and grow the endowment. Ms. Butkas has also served in senior roles at the York Theatre Company,TADA! Youth Theatre and Bristol Valley Theatre.
This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities.


$5 NIGHT: February 14, 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.
WINE DOWN FRIDAY: February 16, 8:00 PM. Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine with the cast and crew in the lobby following the 8:00 pm performance, as well as with the Western Avenue Studios Artists Association members whose work is currently on exhibit in the lobby.
LOWELL NIGHT: February 21, 7:30 PM. Lowell residents may purchase tickets for $10, cash only, at the box office from 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm. Proper ID required, limit 2 per person.
ASK THE ARTISTS POST-SHOW DISCUSSION: February 15, after the 7:30 pm show. Post-Show Discussions will provide an opportunity for the audience to hear directly from the actors and other artists who created the show.
COOKIE MATINEE: February, 21, 2:00 PM. Enjoy complimentary fresh-baked cookies and coffee from Brew’d Awakening in the lobby prior to the matinee performance.
EDUCATOR DISCOUNT DAY: February 24, 4:00 PM and MILITARY DISCOUNT DAY: February 24, 4:00 PM. MRT will offers Educator and Military Discounts of 50% off tickets using the discount codes ED50 and MIL50. (Please show ID when picking up tickets.)
PANEL DISCUSSION: “Women’s Rights, Prohibition, and the Fall of Fatty,” March 1, immediately after the 7:30 pm show, FREE and open to the public (SEE DETAILS ABOVE).


Lost Laughs has received support 980AM WCAP, the media sponsor. MRT’s 2017-18 Season Sponsor is Circle Health. The Cohort Club ( is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities.


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. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Sean Daniels and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas, 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).

MRT 2017-18 SEASON

The Royale by Marco Ramirez, Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
September 13 – October 8, 2017
Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, Directed by Sean Daniels
October 18 – November 12, 2017
A Christmas Carol Adapted by Tony Brown, Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
November 29 – December 24, 2017
KNYUM, Created and performed by Vichet Chum, Directed by KJ Sanchez
January 10 – February 4, 2018
Lost Laughs: The Slapstick Tragedy of Fatty Arbuckle by Andy Bayiates and Aaron Muñoz, Directed by Nathan Keepers
February 14 – March 11, 2018
Little Orphan Danny Originally Conceived by Dan Finnerty; Created by Sean Daniels and Dan Finnerty; Book, Music, and Lyrics by Dan Finnerty; Additional Music by Dan Lipton; Directed by Sean Daniels
March 21 – April 15, 2018
The Villains’ Supper Club by Lila Rose Kaplan, Directed by Sean Daniels
April 25 – May 20, 2018


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


(Headshots available now, PR photos available Feb. 5, production photos available Feb. 15.)
1. Visit the LOST LAUGHS Photo Collection on Flickr (
2. Select a photo from the Photo Stream or the Albums
3. Click on the thumbnail and let the image load in your browser on the Flickr site.
4. Click the download button and select “View All Sizes.”
5. Select the size you wish to download from the choices listed across the top of the image.
6. Click the "Download the ___ size of this photo..." link at the top. The image will download to your computer.