Jack Neary’s membership in the drama club at UMass Lowell (then Lowell State) “more than any other endeavor in those years, convinced me that I belong in theatre,” he says. “And here I am, still.”
Indeed. The prolific playwright (who in 1972 played the lead role in the University’s annual musical, which that year was “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) has published 34 plays. That’s in addition to a storied career directing, acting and serving as artistic director of the summer theater programs at Mount Holyoke and Northampton’s New Century Theatre, which he co-founded at Smith College.
His work has been widely produced; his perhaps best-known work, “Jerry Finnegan’s Sister,” was performed all over the country, played in Paris and toured France. “To Forgive, Divine,” professionally introduced at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, was purchased for film by Walt Disney Pictures.
As an actor, Neary has appeared in hundreds of plays and, most recently, in Ben Affleck's blockbuster film, “The Town.”
These days, he’s concentrating on his new venture,which will stage its first production in summer 2012 in Durgin Hall on the UMass Lowell campus: “The Music Man in Concert.”
“Many of the singers and musicians in the show are UMass Lowell alums,” Neary says.
Another play, “Auld Lang Syne,” featuring Emmy-winner Gordon Clapp of “NYPD Blue” fame, opens at the Peterborough Players theater in June 2012.
But despite all his current success (which, he notes, was a long time coming: Neary was 35 before he wrote his first play), he remembers his roots — particularly the tutelage of the late Gardner Tillson.
Tillson, a professor of English and drama at UMass Lowell for three decades, helped him learn perhaps the most important lesson for a playwright, Neary says: “what to give actors and how to sell an audience.”