The two couples who run Wellfleet’s Harbor Stage Company — Robert Kropf and Stacy Fischer and Brenda Withers and Jonathan Fielding — are producing the company’s first winter show in Boston in eight years.
“Like everybody on the Cape who works seasonally, trying to fit everything into three months and then taking nine months off is just not sustainable,” says Withers. “We’re always looking for venues and different places that might work.”
The answer was a $20,000 fundraising campaign to revive Northside Hollow, written and directed by Withers and Fielding, for eight shows from Jan. 11 through 20 at the Boston Center for the Arts. Kropf, the company’s artistic director, co-stars as a miner trapped underground after a deadly collapse, with Alex Pollock as a first responder — reprising their roles from the Harbor Stage’s 2015 world premiere.
Harbor Stage shows have moved to Boston twice before — The Seagull in 2013 and Miss Julie in 2016 — and many patrons in Wellfleet also saw the city versions. Now that the two couples share a year-round rental cottage in Wellfleet, Withers and Fielding, who live in Westchester, N.Y. in the off-season, could stay close. Kropf and Fischer live in Stow and have frequently been involved in Boston theater.
“A lot of our audience is from Boston or lives there in the winter, so we were joking that it’s really like going to visit family out of town,” Fielding says.
Northside Hollow is set in a cave, but Fielding says the intimate 80-minute play boils down to two people being stuck in a room together. They ponder mortality, forgiveness, and healing. All involved believe these themes land differently in 2024, so it was time to bring the show back.
“During the pandemic, everybody was worrying about these same things, and the play shifted in meaning for us after that event,” Fielding says. “We felt like it was more resonant than it was before, and this is an opportunity for people to heal from that experience.”
It’s a busy January for Kropf: Liv at Sea, which he wrote and directed at Harbor Stage last July, will be performed from Jan. 24 through 28 at the same Boston Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre. The production — about a young woman having to choose between her long-term partner and a passionate stranger — is not presented by Harbor Stage, though: it’s independently financed and produced by Liv at Sea Productions but with the same cast and creative team as in Wellfleet. The more seasoned Harbor company is helping as what Withers calls “a support team.”
“They’ve all gotten together because they fell in love with that play and wanted to give it more of a run,” she says. “It’s a lot of young people who want to learn about producing their own work, so because we love them we’re trying to help and mentor them as much as we can.”
Withers and Fielding are excited to restage Northside Hollow at the BCA theater because it’s similar to the company’s home at Wellfleet Harbor. “This theater just felt so intimate and organic,” Withers says, “and the right place to do something that took place in a mine.”
They also get to create the cave again. And set up the audience inside that mine, with six audience members wearing helmets with headlamps to help light the action. “There’s a hint of fun in it,” Fielding says with a laugh. “And scariness.”
The new Boston focus, though, doesn’t mean Harbor Stage is getting too comfortable in the city.
“Wellfleet is our place and is really the heart of everything we do,” Withers says. “I can’t imagine that changing. What it’s about is finding a way to make it sustainable here. We have such an incredible community — our patron base, our donor base, the artists — but it’s very hard economically to keep the theater going without a larger base.”
Housing, including the couples’s cottage and seasonal rentals for actors and other employees, has become the 12-year-old company’s top expense. While Withers says they are hugely grateful for their year-round rental, the two couples could use more space. “We used to think it was definitely within reach for us to purchase a place, but since the pandemic, that has changed,” she says.
She hopes that adding Boston shows will be an opportunity to meet others interested in Harbor Stage’s kind of work. It could also help the artists join a larger national conversation that extends beyond the traditional hubs of New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, she says, especially since their model of a small, scrappy company has become more necessary as theaters struggle post-pandemic.
“We know we do serious work at the Harbor,” Withers says. “We have to get out there, show them, and say, ‘Hey, we made this on Cape Cod, and it’s pretty good.’ ”
The event: Northside Hollow, written by Jonathan Fielding and Brenda Withers
The time: Through Jan. 20, Wednesday through Sunday, 7 p.m.
The place: BCA Plaza Black Box Theatre, 539 Tremont St., Boston
The cost: $25, at bostontheatrescene.com