Jerry Bisantz

Jerry Bisantz at Image Theater in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Jerry Bisantz is on the Board of Directors of the Image Theater Company in Lowell, MA. Jerry has been involved in the theater in the Boston area for over thirty years as an actor, singer, director and playwright. His politically incorrect comedy “Boys At Play” is the recipient of the “Best New Play 1999” Award from the Independent Reviewers of New England and will be published by Bakers Plays.

Two of Jerry’s ten minute plays, “Sex Education” and “Romance 101” are also to be published in the upcoming “Best Of The Boston Theater Marathon.” Jerry’s play “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” won both the “Playwrights’ Choice” award and the “Best Play” award at the 2003 Playwrights’ Platform Summer Festival. Jerry’s one act play “Fallen Star” was a finalist in the 1997 EMACT Festival at Brandeis University and won him the “Excellence In Playwriting” Award. “Sunday Visitors” garnered the “Playwrights’ Choice”Award at the 1998 Playwrights’ Platform Festival in Boston, and his ten minute play “Tit For Tat” was the runner up for that award in 1999.

Jerry’s ten minute plays “Y-2 Krack’d” and “Romance 101” and “Sex Education” were performed in the prestigious “Boston Theater Marathon”. He was also the founder and producer of Waltham’s Hovey Players’ “Summer Shorts Festival”, which celebrated its eighth year. Jerry serves on the Board of Directors of Playwrights Platform and he lives in Lowell with his lovely wife Sharon, his two great kids Kate and Max, and Lucy, the wonderdog.

Interview

Lowell.com: What has been the most popular production at Image Theater, and what upcoming show are you most excited about?

Jerry Bisantz: I would have to say our most popular production has been our once a year “Keep Your Kids At Home” Naughty Readings. It’s a collection of “naughty, slightly dirty, adult only plays and songs , all original, all performed upstairs at The Old Court. It really hits it out of the park. But our most succesful play to date was the recent Patrick Fenton play “Kerouac’s Last Call” which was just named “Top 20 plays in New England, 2008 by Edge Magazine.

Lowell.com: What is it about Image Theater that makes it unique?

Jerry Bisantz: What makes Image Theater stand out from all others is the fact that we only produce only NEW WORKS by local playwrights. Since Sept 2005, we have produced over 70 playwrights and writers in ten minute plays, musicals, readings, etc… all performed at various venues in downtown Lowell.

Lowell.com: What is your favorite hidden gem in Lowell?

Jerry Bisantz: The Stations Of The Cross behind the Franco American School.. particularly at night. There is an amazing feel of French Canadian, Catholic Mysticism in this place that young Kerouac used to go with his poor brother, Gerard. You have to go there and experience it.

Lowell.com: What does life in Lowell mean to you?

Jerry Bisantz: Lowell is an amazing city. Both our kids went through the High School, Kate graduated from Emerson, and Max is at NYU studying theater. So.. we done just fine by that school, ya know? My wife is a teacher and the new theater advisor at the HIgh School. (the kids are performing “Greater Tuna” at The High School on the 13th of Feb… shout out to the kids!)

I have never felt more comfortable in any other city. The artists, the camaraderie… pehenomenal. And the way they have embraced Image Theater! Imagine: we do ONLY new stuff NO one has ever heard of and we have actually turned a profit AFTER paying actors, technicians, and playwrights (we pay playwrights for our full length plays). That is unbelieveable.

Lowell.com: Describe a fun evening in Lowell with friends, starting at dinner (the kids can be with a babysitter or they can join you).

Jerry Bisantz: The perfect evening is this: Friday night, go to Blue Taleh for dinner, head over to Ricardo’s for drinks (Charlie Harris sings with Odie Tenken on piano… he has an awesome right hand!) then go to The Old Court, bust some chops with Bean, Megan, or Finbarr and go to Caffe Paradiso for desserts. Repeat as directed.

Lowell.com: What are the challenges of owning a theater in Lowell, and how are you overcoming those challenges?

Jerry Bisantz: The challenge for us is the fact that we are essentially homeless. We perform at The Old Court, The Revolving Museum, The McDonough stage on John Street, ALL spaces, the Mambo Grill, etc… it is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we are not tied to any one location but a curse when we find a script that we love, but have no place to do it properly.

My partner, Ann Garvin is so helpful and so talented. She directed Kerouac’s Last Call” and really brought it to life. I think the experience of jamming 130 people upstairs at The Old Court for our first production of Jim McLindon’s play “Distant Music” was a seminal moment for us.
There are other theaters in this town that do wonderful work, we just like to think that we do some wicked cool, slightly dangerous stuff.

In May we are producing my play “The Straight Line”… a new kind of Western… very Coen Brothers-ish. I guess the line from the play that best describes it is this:

“…sometimes when a man turns 50 he gets a little crazy…”

Suffice it to say it’s gonna be a blast, with beer, woman, guns, and oh, yeah… beer.

We sincerely hope that Lowell takes to our Cabaret evening next week. It’s such a nice, romantic night out: a “grown up’s night out with music by Cole Porter, Gershwin, etc… sung be four people who really know how to style a song. Valentine’s Day weekend is coming fast!

I guess we’ll continue to do what we think is cool, fun, ORIGINAL and exciting. We love playwrights and we love giving them the opportunity to be heard. Any writers out here reading this, please get in touch with me at Jbisantz@comcast.net. We’d love to read your work.
In closing, this city deserves a great time and great plays that they can afford.

Lowell.com: Thanks, Jerry! We will do what we can to support local theater in Lowell, and we encourage everyone to check out Image Theater.