Weekend Gala Celebrates Anniversaries of Theatre Intime and PST; “Wicked” Librettist Holzman to Deliver Keynote Address at Banquet
A TRIPLE ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND: The 100th anniversary of Theatre Intime, and the 50th anniversary of Princeton Summer Theater (PST), will be honored at a three-day reunion of alumni “Princeton theater-makers.” Both troupes mount their productions at the Hamilton Murray Theater in Murray-Dodge Hall, above, where Theatre Intime has performed since their 1921-1922 season. (Photo by Bill Charrier ‘69. Courtesy of Friends of Intime)
By Donald H. Sanborn III
Princeton University’s Theatre Intime was founded by a group of Princeton undergraduates in 1920. The Friends of Theatre Intime had hoped to schedule a centennial celebration for the fall of 2020, but the pandemic halted those plans.
However, after a two-year delay, “A Triple Anniversary Weekend” will be held from November 4-6. This commemorates the centennial of Theatre Intime, the 50th anniversary of Princeton Summer Theater, and the Hamilton Murray Theater’s centennial as a venue. The event’s website describes the celebration as a “reunion of Princeton theater-makers across the years.”
To ensure that the Princeton community can participate, a Community Pass ($50) is available. This pass provides admission to all events except the alumni meals.
A centerpiece of the reunion will be a gala dinner, “Théâtre Intime’s 100th & PST’s 50th Banquet Fete,” at which Winnie Holzman will be the keynote speaker. Among numerous writing credits, Holzman is especially known as the creator of the television series My So-Called Life; and as the librettist of the musical Wicked. Acting credits include Thirtysomething, Roswell, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
A Hamilton Murray Theater Centennial Film Festival will run throughout the weekend. The anniversary celebration’s website describes the festival as a “mix of full production features and short subjects expressly created for the festival.” The films will “play on big screens on campus throughout the celebration weekend.”
Friday’s events will include a “Welcome & Convocation” at Richardson Hall (this event is free and open to all, though registration is required); an “Intime & PST Archive & Exhibition” at Mudd Library, during which memorabilia such as programs, photos, letters, and newspaper articles will be on display; and an “Alumni Piano Bar,” a cabaret session at which pianists will be available to accompany any participants who would like to sing.
On Saturday there will be “Alumni All-Stars” panel discussions featuring alumni who work in the entertainment industry. The conversations are titled “Storytellers” and “How Theater influenced my (non-theater) career.” The gala dinner, at which Holzman will deliver the keynote address, will take place on Saturday evening.
Saturday also will feature a concert performance by composer and jazz pianist Barry Miles, in commemoration of the recording artist’s first performances on the Hamilton Murray stage. The anniversary celebration’s website notes that during his time at Theatre Intime, Miles “scored shows including the world premiere musical Miracle, and his landmark jazz concerts helped anchor the founding seasons of PST.”
A ticket to the celebration includes admission to the opening weekend of Theatre Intime’s upcoming production of Twelfth Night. Shakespeare’s comedy follows the romantic entanglements of Viola, who is separated from her twin brother in a shipwreck. The theater’s website describes the ensuing “love triangles, cross-dressing, and plenty of mistaken identities.”
Theatre Intime’s website notes that in February of 1920, a “group of Princeton student thespians staged their first production. Their theater was a dormitory room. Their curtain — a blanket — hung over a string. An eager audience of four watched an intrepid cast of five perform a parody of Nijinsky and the Ballet Russe.”
The website adds that the “goal for the 1921-1922 season was a real theatre building: Murray Hall, a chapel then used by the Philadelphia Society. Theatre Intime … takes its name from the French word for “intimate,” the best word to describe the 200-seat theater.”
In addition to Holzman, notable past members have included actor Jimmy Stewart; and Mark Nelson, an actor who is a lecturer in theater at Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts.
“Working on a Theatre Intime show is an incredibly well-rounded experience,” remarks Elliot Lee, a senior. Although currently no longer with the company this semester, Lee has filled multiple positions in the past. He has been original projects director (2019-2020), general manager (2020-2021), and media manager (2021-2022).
“No matter your role, you can watch the peers around you build up this show from scratch and manage every aspect of the theater you’re working in,” Lee writes in an email. “Working with Intime led me to learn about many invaluable facets of running a theater, from handling a box office and arranging a season of shows to building set pieces and planning festivals.”
Originally known as Summer Intime, Princeton Summer Theater was formed in 1968. Like Theatre Intime, it was founded by undergraduates, and its venue is the Hamilton Murray Theater.
Keynote Speaker Winnie Holzman
Holzman, who graduated in 1976, started acting in Theatre Intime productions when she was a sophomore, and continued “through the rest of my time at Princeton,” she recalls to this writer during a phone interview. “I was in shows during the school year, and then — very memorably, for me — I did Summer Intime.”
“That was really special in a lot of ways.” Holzman says, adding, “All of it was
wonderful; I got a lot out of all my experiences at Intime. But the summer Intime series is very all-encompassing. You live there, and you’re working at it as a job. You’re creating this summer-long experience, putting on shows continuously … getting into a dialogue with the town — with the community. That stands out in my mind as very special.”
But Holzman is quick to emphasize that the entire Theatre Intime experience is “special for me, because even then I dreamed of having a career in theater. So it was a great training ground, in a lot of ways.”
Holzman appeared with Mark Nelson in a two-hander: Murray Schisgal’s one-act play The Typists. The duo also acted together in Brian Friel’s Lovers, which Holzman describes as a “lovely one-act play. Another standout in my mind is The Glass Menagerie, which I did with the late Eric Zwemer.”
“You can’t get better at performing by reading a book about it; you have to just do it,” Holzman points out, when asked how the experience of performing in the Hamilton Murray Theater helped her grow as an artist. “What was great is that there is the opportunity to do it. It’s a small theater, obviously — hence the name — and in a small theater there’s something personal about it. You could feel people’s reactions. Truthfully, it just felt ideal. Because it was small, you could feel good about whoever showed up!”
Asked whether she would be willing to offer a hint as to what she will say in her keynote address, Holzman laughs and says, “I’d rather not; I want people to come to it fresh. But it’s going to be personal.”
She adds that in writing it, she was aware of the “people who have come before me” and the “people who will come after me — the entire community of students who found a place to create at Theatre Intime. So my aim was both to make it personal to me, but also to reach out to the whole community.”
Asked what she particularly wants readers to know, she says, “Obviously — I hope it’s obvious — I have great affection and love for the place. I think it’s a very unique place; it’s wonderful for people to go and see plays there, and support the students that are currently working there.”
Holzman reflects, “I think it’s the perfect size, for the kind of enterprise that it is. One of the things that’s really special about it is that it’s entirely student-run. It’s ambitious for a bunch of students to run a theater, in an ongoing fashion. But that’s been happening for a hundred years!”
For registration, more information, and a schedule of events for the anniversary celebration (honoring Theatre Intime and PST), an alumni reunion that runs November 4-6, visit hmt100.org. For tickets or more information about Theatre Intime’s upcoming production of “Twelfth Night,” which runs November 4-13, call (609) 258-5155 or visit theatreintime.org.