Marion Arts Center’s ‘Native Gardens’ brings theater to the park

Jun 13, 2021

MARION — The Marion Art Center made its 2021 theatrical debut June 11, as the first performances of “Native Gardens” were presented in an outdoor setting at Bicentennial Park.

The play was directed by Kate Fishman of Marion who said she has been trying to get the rights to produce the play for years after seeing it performed and being inspired.

“A bunch of us went and saw it and I loved it, and of course I imagined it on this stage,” she said, adding, “It’s very funny but with its own message. There are no bad guys.”

It took over a year for Fishman to get the rights to produce the play, which was originally intended to be performed last year but had to be postponed because of covid.

After 19 years in community theater, Fishman said it felt “really bizarre” not doing a play last year.

“Everyone in the theater world everywhere is so psyched to be back,” said Donn Tyler who plays Frank, a well-meaning if sometimes cantankerous old man with a passion for tidy landscaping.

The play was written by Karen Zacariás and is about a young couple: Pablo, a young lawyer, and his pregnant wife Tania, a doctoral candidate, who buy the house next door to D.C. stalwarts Frank and Virginia.

The relationship between the couples starts out friendly but quickly turns hostile after the new homeowners dispute a long-standing fence line, separating Frank from his beloved flower beds and English ivy.

The cast includes Gary Sousa as Pablo, Mia Vaughn as Tania, Suzie Kokkins as Virginia, and Donn Tyler as Frank.

Sousa, who said he has not acted in a play since high school, teaches history at Tabor Academy where he has worked for 17 years. Tyler was also a teacher at Tabor, where he taught history for 36 years. And Vaughn, the youngest member of the cast at only 19, graduated from Tabor last year.

Kokkins is a registered dietician for South Coast Hospitals.

“Native Gardens” is the second MAC production to be performed in the park, after last year’s “Good People” directed by Jacob Sherburne.

Fishman said that they decided to continue with the outside shows because of all the positive feedback they got after “Good People.”

While performing outside does create some challenges — like having to start earlier to make sure there is enough daylight for the whole show and having to break down the set after each performance — guests seemed to enjoy the natural ambiance.

“It’s nice to be outside enjoying the arts and fresh air without masks,” said Janice Mahoney, who attended a June 12 show.

The play will continue next weekend with performances on Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m. All shows will be held in the park and guests must bring their own lawn chairs.

If shows are rained out, no makeup show will be held. Instead ticket holders will be able to get a refund, reschedule for a different date if available, or donate their tickets.

Tickets for the show are $18 for MAC members and $20 for non-members and are available by phone at (508) 748-1266, at or in person at the Marion Art Center.