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Melissa Bernstein, PhD  ~ Artistic Director, Newton Theatre Company

Melissa Bernstein, PhD Biography 
Melissa founded the Newton Theatre Company in 2013.
She has directed all Newton Theatre Company shows including Wonder, Our Town, The Song of Achilles: Parts I and II, The Imaginary Invalid, Junie B. Jones and That Yucky Blucky Fruitcake, The Importance of Being Earnest, Agamemnon, Junie B. Jones and that Meanie Jim’s Birthday, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Bourgeois Gentleman (or The Would-Be Hipster), The Oresteia, Junie B. Jones Sneaky Peaky Spying, Ethan Frome, Natural Shocks, Ada and the Engine, Iphigenia at Aulis, Living in Exile, Mansfield Park, Women, Exhibiting, It’s a Wonderful Life, Helen, The Witches, Marie Antoinette, Pinocchio, Sorry, Wrong Number.
She was the founder and Executive Director of the Newton Youth Players, housed in the Newton Cultural Center at City Hall.
Over the program’s history, she has directed over 50 productions involving close to one thousand youth actors. She continues to direct students in NTC’s after school theatre program, Newton Theatre Kids.
Melissa holds a Ph.D. in Theatre from the University of Colorado at Boulder, an MFA in Playwriting/ Theatre Education from Emerson College and a BA in Theatre from SUNY-Binghamton.


BSO: Tell us about the inception of Newton Theatre Company and Newton Youth Players.


Newton Youth Players started 13 years ago as a program I developed with the Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs. It was an afterschool musical theatre program for elementary school children. Newton Theatre Company started 7 years ago, also in partnership with the Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs – our first shows were a staged reading of the book “Wonder,” and a huge-cast production of Thornton Wilder’s  “Our Town,” where we triple cast the show and cast the mayor (Setti Warren), as well as folks who work or live in Newton. 

Newton Theatre Company became its own non-profit two years ago.

Last September, 2019, I started Newton Theatre Kids as a program run through Newton Theatre Company, modeled after Newton Youth Players. The winter session of Newton Theatre Kids had us running four different casts of “Annie Get Your Gun!”

BSO: There is no typical day in the life of an entrepreneur. Share with us your a.m. to p.m.


Morning – Wake up, skim the New York Times, do email, if the sun is out, try to do a 3-5 mile walk.

Early afternoon – Catch up on email, read some potential plays to produce. Late afternoon – teach a children’s theatre class (live or now on Zoom), catch up on email

Evening – family time, rehearsal of NTC play (live or now on Zoom), email, tv with husband.

BSO: What are your can’t live without apps?


The New Yorker.
The New York Times Crossword Puzzle.

Dark Sky – checking it constantly to see if I can do my walk, also to see if we can do our outdoor Greek Tragedy performance in summer!

Google Maps. 


BSO: What was the best advice you received when you started your non-profits?


Be prepared for the unexpected. 

BSO: What are your proudest achievements, professional & personal?


Proudest achievement professionally – starting Newton Theatre Company. And specifically, adapting and staging Madeline Miller’s novel, “Song of Achilles” with her guidance. 

Proudest personal achievement – That my three adult daughters are my best friends.


BSO: What are your favorite news feeds?


New York Times, New Yorker.


BSO: What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?


Friends of the Parents Circle

Southern Poverty Law Center


BSO: Who has influenced your career the most? 


Jim Symons, my professor and Chair of the Theatre Dept. at the University of Colorado, Boulder, while I was getting my Ph.D. in Theatre. He inspired my love of Greek tragedy.

BSO: What is your advice for anyone interested in a career in theatre arts and artistic direction


It’s sometimes hard to find a way in, but if you are passionate about your art, that will shine through. Keep creating and networking!

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