NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

October 12, 2012

A moment in literary history

West Newbury woman has role in Kerouac play

It sat, forgotten, in a New Jersey warehouse for nearly 50 years.

Now, Jack Kerouac’s nearly lost play is finally being presented to audiences as a staged reading at Lowell’s Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

The play, titled “Beat Generation,” was rediscovered in 2005 and is being staged for the first time by Merrimack Repertory Theatre and UMass Lowell as part of the Jack Kerouac Literary Festival. The performances run through Oct. 14.

“It’s really a literary moment in history,” says Charles Towers, artistic director of Merrimack Repertory Theatre. The former West Newbury resident is the director of “Beat Generation” at MRT. “And it’s being done in his native city.”

“Beat Generation” is a story of friendship and karma set in the 1950s. Its characters and dialogue capture the Beat mentality at the roots of the American counterculture.

Set four years after Kerouac’s novel “On the Road” ends, the characters — the author and his friends — reflect on their decision to leave life on the road behind and what the future holds.

Despite its format as a staged reading, the 17 cast members use props, costumes and a set.

Taking a place on the stage alongside a mix of seasoned actors, West Newbury’s Jean Lambert is making her professional debut.

Familiar with the theater as she works there as an usher, Lambert was approached by the director and offered a small role.

For Lambert, who worked as a clown in the 1970s, the role as the bishop’s aunt allows her a chance to dabble in comedy.

“This is right up my alley,” she says. “I have fun with it.”

Prior to Wednesday’s premiere, the cast assembled and made a toast to Kerouac, using his favorite beverage, whiskey.

“It was so great to hear Kerouac’s words being spoken for the first time,” Lambert says.

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