Stages | Terry Byrne

Actress Shana Dirik uncorks a new theater venture

Shana Dirik as Mrs. Lovett in a Metro Stage Company production of “Sweeney Todd” in 2009.
Martin Gordon/Metro Stage Company
Shana Dirik as Mrs. Lovett in a Metro Stage Company production of “Sweeney Todd” in 2009.

Award-winning Boston actress Shana Dirik has delivered memorable performances in SpeakEasy Stage Company’s “Nine,” Fiddlehead Theatre Company’s “The Little Mermaid,” Moonbox Theater’s “Kimberly Akimbo,” and the Gold Dust Orphans’ “Murder on the Polar Express,” to name just a few.

But when she decided to launch a new theater company, she balanced her pragmatic side (she ran her family’s business for 10 years) with her creative vision. Her new company, Theater UnCorked, makes its debut June 2 with a benefit “pop-up” performance of “Sweeney Todd,” a concert version of one of her favorite shows.

“I wanted to create a small company that gave me creative license to do shows that make me happy, or speak to me in a special way,” says Dirik, who will serve as the company’s producing artistic director. “Over the years I’ve worked with some amazing people from both professional and community theaters — actors, directors, designers, and business people — and I invited them to be on my advisory board, to chime in and collaborate to ensure the company is financially stable over the first three years.”


Dirik says she decided to start with “Sweeney Todd” because her performance as Mrs. Lovett in the Metro Stage Company production in 2009 earned her an Actors’ Equity professional card after many years in community theater.

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Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” traces the trail of revenge cut by the barber who returns from exile and teams up with Mrs. Lovett to make some surprisingly popular meat pies. The one-night-only concert version will be performed by a cast of 36 at the First Church of Cambridge in Harvard Square

“We will not be performing ‘book in hand,’ ” Dirik says, “It won’t be fully staged, but I know Allison (Choat, who is directing) has ideas to centralize and minimalize the action. We will, of course, have Sweeney’s barber chair.”

After the pop-up concert, Theater UnCorked will present a staged reading of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” directed by another award-winning actress, Bobbie Steinbach, in the Calderwood Pavilion.

“I’d like to create a balanced season, of a musical, a straight play, a comedy, maybe workshop some new scripts,” she says. Her goal is to stage a full production in the spring of 2019. “The company is not about me finding roles to play, but more about producing shows that audiences love and performers and artists can get excited about.”

Boston-bound in
‘I M Possible’


Playwright Juanita Peters says she wrote “I M Possible” not only to highlight the challenges of embarking on a new life through immigration, but to explore relationships — between Canada and the United States, between a father and his sons, but most importantly, between men in general.

“I M Possible,” which is playing at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury Friday through Sunday, grew out of the true story of Peters’s relative John Jarvis, a successful inventor in the early 20th century from Weymouth Falls, Nova Scotia, who moved to Boston. Randolph, the father in the play, wants his sons and nephew to be inspired by that success, but instead they are inspired by another Weymouth Falls native, Sam Langford, a black boxer who gained fame after moving to Boston himself, where he became known as “The Boston Bonecrusher” or “Boston Tar Baby.”

“It’s a play about who we are, who we want to be, and how we want to get there,” says Peters, who has been revising the work this spring in her role as visiting playwright at Hibernian Hall. “The title isn’t subtle. Things can feel impossible, until someone shows you that it is possible.”

Most parents think they are delivering the same messages to all of their children, but Peters says she’s trying to point out how different we all are, even among members of the same family.

“It’s funny the way siblings witness the exact same event, but take away different experiences or memories from it,” she says. “At the same time, being family means that even when you don’t agree, you have to find ways to adjust so you can get along.”


Although the story takes place from the 1920s to the 1950s — “the span of one career,” Peters says — it’s not a history play. In Boston at that time, however, there was a vibrant black community.

‘I wanted to create a small company that gave me creative license to do shows that make me happy, or speak to me in a special way.’

“I wanted to highlight the anticipation these young men felt for the economic opportunities ahead of them when they leave their small Nova Scotia town,” she says. “It’s hope that’s made possible by the examples others have set for them.”

Tickets for “I M Possible,” presented by the Madison Park Development Corp. and directed by Vincent E. Siders, are available at


At First Church of Cambridge, June 2 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $30-$40,

Terry Byrne can be reached at