The Mint Theater

meet-the-mint-500x281A few blocks from Broadway in New York City, at 311 West 43rd Street, you can go up two floors and back in time.

The Mint Theater is devoted to rediscovering great and forgotten plays of the 19th and early 20th century.  Sometimes the writers are familiar — Hemingway, J.M. Barrie, Tolstoy — but often they’re not, and the titles never are.  But the material is always great, well reviewed and recognized in its day, a day that has passed.

If you’re ever around you should go.  There are many reasons to love this place, and if you work in higher ed there a couple more.

First, to attend these plays is to cash in on a certain kind of learning, a broad familiarity with recent cultural history and a delight in new discoveries.  To come here is to enjoy something mostly available to people who’ve spent some time studying up, whether in formal degree programs or on their own, and who like to keep learning.

"Photo: "The New Morality" By Harold Chapin Directed by Jonathan Bank Cast:     Christian Campbell     Clemmie Evans     Michael Frederic     Kelly McCready     Brenda Meaney     Ned Noyes     Douglas Rees presented by The Mint Theater Company; Dress rehearsal photographed: Friday, August 21, 2015; 2:00 PM at Mint Theater, New York, NY; Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine. PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine"

Second, this is serious scholarship as public service.  Plays are presented in fanatically accurate historical detail.  The programs come with interesting accounts of the text, its author, and its lasting significance — despite the intervening decades of obscurity.  One recent essay was from Yale trained dramaturgical advisor Maya Cantu; this is one of the few playbills in New York’s theater district to come with footnotes.

The upshot of all this research, scholarship, and interdisciplinary execution is an uncannily vivid look into the recent past, made the more immediate because the source material is unfamiliar, and not yet become a subculture of its own.

And although production values are high, ticket prices are about a quarter to a third of prevailing rates.  Worth going, to be glad our universities contribute to this corner of the mainstream, and to harvest your own education for the fun of it.

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