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Under Marshall Hughes, Roxbury Repertory Theater and Mainstage offer performing arts for Roxbury Community College

By Ted Thomas
Under Marshall Hughes, Roxbury Repertory Theater and Mainstage offer performing arts for Roxbury Community College
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Marshall Hughes, director of visual, performing, and media arts, Roxbury Community College (Photo courtesy of Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo) 

When the curtain came down last fall on a performance of Roxbury Repertory Theatre’s production of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” the audience exploded into applause. The play is based on a novel of the same name by Harper Lee. A review of the performance that appeared online exclaimed that “…this Mockingbird lets the story truly sing and finally does Lee’s novel justice.”

Pamela Green, executive administrative assistant, Roxbury Community College (Dr. Milton Samuels photo

Like so many outstanding plays performed by Roxbury Repertory Theater over the years, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” was directed by Marshall Hughes. For more than a decade, Hughes has been the director of visual, performing, and media arts at Roxbury Community College. From his modest office in the Media Arts Center on the college’s campus, the dynamic Hughes is likely to be coordinating several creative projects at the same time, all of which will make their way to Mainstage, RCC’s 500-seat venue for artistic performances. 

Hughes is aided by his Administrative Assistant, Pamela Green, who joined forces with him six years ago, after 15 years working in the banking industry. She beams when she describes her job as “not just clocking in and getting a salary, but actually helping someone reach their goal.”

Hughes’ artistic credentials are impressive. Prior to coming to Roxbury Community College, he was chairman of the music department at the Weston School in Cambridge.  Before working at the Weston School, Marshall worked at MIT for the Freshman Alumni Summer Internship Program and was an advisor for a music seminar.

Now, Hughes has his own opera company, Opera unMET, which began with a performance at The Colonnade Hotel in Boston. The company’s early successes prompted the members to incorporate and launch into very serious work. “Our first major production was Porgy and Bess at Jordan Hall,” Hughes fondly recalled.  “Then we performed at other major venues such as The Hatch Shell and Symphony Hall. It [the company] has been very successful,” he said.

At Roxbury Community College, Hughes, who has a degree in voice and singing from New England Conservatory, views himself as a connector. “I see myself as a connector between what’s happening on stage at RCC and the community,” he explained. “We have collaborated with major players like the Huntington Theater, the Boston Ballet, Symphony Hall and Hibernian Hall.”

A key collaboration is the work that Hughes does with the Roxbury Repertory Theatre. The theatre started about 10 years ago, and began performing at RCC approximately six years ago. 

“Roxbury Repertory Theatre started for several reasons. Most inner-city kids read plays as part of their school’s curriculum,” Hughes observed, “but they don’t get to see plays performed, especially by actors of color.” Plays like A “Mid Summer Night’s Dream” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” were performed before public school students, who were offered discounted tickets.

Hughes described a recent collaboration with the Seniors-On-The-Move program at the YMCA on Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury. The seniors performed, in Hughes’ words, “a very successful play” on the RCC stage. Of the two to three performances staged each year, one is definitely geared to a young audience, Hughes noted.

He gave high praise to the Summer Arts Intensive Program held in the Media Arts Center. Teenagers interested in theater engage in a high-octane program of dance, creative writing, and theater, which culminates in a performance that showcases their talent. “We like to have guest artists come in and work with the kids,” Hughes shared. For example, this summer, Boston’s first Poet Laureate Sam Cornish worked with the young people in the creative writing class.

The great success that Hughes’ programs enjoy would not be possible without the efforts of Green. On any given day, she could be writing press releases, scheduling interviews for students who have applied for slots in the summer program, coordinating performance schedules, and answering time-and-place questions for Hughes. With seemingly boundless energy, Green believes, as others do, that RCC’s Mainstage is a “hidden gem.”

Hughes and Green share a belief in the importance of culture. “Arts and humanities are a vital part of life,” Hughes exclaimed. “Art is connected to all things human.”