The ENC Theatre Department presents Tina Howe’s Painting Churches at 7:30 p.m. April 19-21 in the Cove Fine Arts Center. The play tells the story of Maggie Church, a successful portrait artist living in New York who comes home to Boston to help her parents, Gardner and Fanny Church, pack up their Beacon Hill home and move to a cottage on Cape Cod. While there, she attempts to paint a portrait of her parents while dealing with long unresolved family issues and the worsening Alzheimer’s Disease of her father, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.
“Tina Howe is one of the great absurdists of contemporary playwriting and her play Painting Churches is a perfect depiction of what she herself calls ‘a fascination with the dailiness of women’s lives, but on an operatic scale,’” said Director and Producer Tara Brooke Watkins.
“I think audiences will be glued to the story not only because of the constant changes in mood, but because it’s one everyone can relate to: a child not feeling fully appreciated by her parents, a wife struggling to keep the house together, a father fearing his family will forget him? a family feeling close but distant.”
In preparing for the play, Watkins had an opportunity to meet with Howe. “She shared with me that she rarely sees productions that get it right and was happy that I chose to contact her to understand the truth behind her writing,” she said. “I will be trying as best I can to honor her actual story and concept.”? Watkins also discovered a Quincy connection to the play. “(Howe’s) parents are buried in Mt. Wollaston Cemetery, and her family has a connection to the Quincy Family.”
Some of the Quincy familial connections, in fact, are echoed in Painting Churches. Tina Howe’s late father, Quincy Howe, was a former Simon & Schuster editor and CBS News commentator who moderated the final Nixon/Kennedy presidential debate in 1960. Her grandfather, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Mark Antony DeWolfe Howe, married essayist Frances “Fanny” Huntington Quincy, the daughter of Josiah Quincy III. The Josiah Quincy Homestead is located just steps away from ENC’s gates.
“Painting Churches is funny and sad, intense and soft,” Watkins said. “I’m excited to work with college students on such intricate characters and such challenging writing.”
Tickets for Painting Churches are $10 general admission, $7 for students. For tickets or more information, call the ENC box office at 617-745-3715 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.