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Meet Edward Speck and Kelly Shea Knowles of Theater in the Open in Newburyport

Today we’d like to introduce you to Edward Speck and Kelly Shea Knowles.

Edward and Kelly, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Theater in the Open, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1979 and will soon celebrate its 40th season. Headquartered at Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, we perform outdoors, blending the tradition of theater with the beauty of nature. We explore original plays, classic works, fairy and folk tales. Our outdoor performances are always free and open to everyone.

We are also a Northshore center for youth arts education, offering a range of programs for children aged 5-17, as well as opportunities for Company membership. The centerpiece of our youth arts education program is the Summer Arts Workshop where students spend from two to six weeks outdoors at Maudslay State Park taking classes in visual arts, dance and drama.

The mission of Theater in the Open is to redefine the boundaries of community theater by transforming the magical tradition of storytelling into theater that is free to all. We perform outdoors in public spaces, connecting art with nature and with each other. We are also dedicated to elevating the caliber and accessibility of youth arts education to further enrich the cultural landscape.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There are countless challenges that are part of running a non-profit organization.

Funding, of course, is often foremost to any non-profit. We are grateful for the work of our tireless volunteers and supporters who believe in the importance of the arts, understand the positive impact they have on our communities and who are passionate about supporting our efforts.

Please tell us about Theater in the Open.
As an organization, we are proud to have realized our long-term goal of bringing free theater to the area, keeping art as open and accessible as possible.

At its very essence, theater is communal — it’s about people and stories. We want to keep this most universal of cultural traditions alive and well, We know that art helps to build community and we want to continue to be a resource for people to establish connections with each other, with their imaginations and with nature.

Coming to see a Theater in the Open performance is a unique experience. Audiences sit within our performance space, connecting to the artists and the stories they tell with no walls, no stages, no sets or lighting between them. Each performance is an opportunity to take an uninterrupted journey with us.


  • Maudslay is Haunted, our October fundraiser, is $7 per person

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photos courtesy of Jeff Page

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