Actress Dirik ‘UnCorks’ a new set of challenges

Ben DiScipio and Shana Dirik in Metro Stage Company’s 2009 production of “Sweeney Todd.” Courtesy Metro Stage Company/(C) Martin Gordon

ACTON – It was never a case of becoming rich and famous.

For the quarter-century Shana Dirik spent working in community theater on stages big and small, it was the love of the art that propelled her.

When the chance came to bring it to another level and a whole new set of challenges, she willingly accepted them and quickly became a welcome addition to the Boston professional theater scene and a frequent victor to the awards podium.

Now, she has upped the ante again by becoming the producing artistic director of Theater UnCorked, Boston’s newest small theater company. The troupe will make their debut on Saturday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m. with “Sweeney Todd in Concert – A Pop-Up Musical” at First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden St., Cambridge.

Shana Dirik. Courtesy Theater UnCorked

Dirik will reprise her 2009 IRNE Award-winning role for Metro Stage Company as Mrs. Lovett opposite Ben DiScipio, who also won an IRNE for his performance as Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of London’s Fleet Street, in Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking musical.

Sweeney Todd” is the infamous tale of an unjustly exiled barber who returns to nineteenth century London seeking vengeance against the lecherous judge who framed him. After opening a new barber practice above a failing meat pie shop owned by the resourceful Mrs. Lovett, Todd and Lovett’s paths merge and their fortunes begin to change.

One un-savory ingredient added into the meat pies has the people of London lining up … and the carnage has only just begun!

While being an actress for the past 40 years, it was always in the back of my mind,” said Dirik about starting her own troupe. “I used to joke around with my friend about how we should open our own theater company.”

Dirik had a long career in amateur productions in the area before earning her Actor’s Equity card and appearing with many of Greater Boston’s best professional theater companies, winning three IRNE Awards along the way.

I had done pretty much everything I wanted to do as an actress.” Dirik said of the decision to branch out, while noting she’ll continue to perform and there are a few “bucket list” roles she has has yet to perform.

Once Dirik started the wheels in motion, things started to snowball and she found herself speaking with many members of the theater community she’s worked with through the years.

There’s so many amazing people in community theater and professional theater – costumers, actors, directors, production crew, researchers that I’ve worked with and a lot of them have gotten involved and helped me make the decision to form Theater UnCorked one of true collaboration and passion, something the company will be built on moving forward.”

With an 18-member Advisory Board in place and a successful Indiegogo campaign underway, all the pieces of Dirik’s vision are falling into place.

Courtesy TheaterUnCorked

Dirik said she picked “Sweeney Todd” to get the troupe off the ground because it was the Irne award winning production that started her journey into Boston with actors such as DiScipio and Paul Farwell she’s known and respected for many years.

It’s been a delight to work with them again,” she said

Other members of the cast are Jason Hersom as “Pirelli”, Christopher Porth as “Beadle,” Audrey Clark as “Joanna,” Alex Boyle as “Tobias,” Jordan Reynolds as “Anthony” and Catherine Christie as “Beggar Woman.”

Additionally, Sweeney will feature 21 ensemble members and 6 youth ensemble members, rounding out a full cast of 36.

IRNE-nominated director Allison Olivia Choat heads the production team along with Music Director Gina Naggar, Stage Manager James Tallach and Dirik.

Dirik hopes to attracts local members of Actors Equity with special appearance guest contracts.

Dirik said when she was holding auditions for “Sweeney Todd” she was excited at tapping into some new talent that hasn’t yet been seen on Boston stages.

There were some spectacular younger actors who turned out,” she said.

Dirik said she is being careful not to get ahead of herself in establishing a foothold in the very competitive world of Boston theater.

We’ll go one season at a time, putting one foot in front of the other,” she said. “We want to sustain ourselves.”

Her plans include producing a staged reading in Fall 2018, and then a full production in the Spring of 2019 and, through collaboration, bring exciting new events to the area.

She has looked at a lot of area venues, and hopes the  full production in Spring 2019 will be staged at the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts.

It’s a wonderful feeling to now be able to produce and promote shows I feel passionately about,” Dirik said. “I am grateful to our Board of Advisors and to the many individuals who have stepped up to support this new vision – I look forward to celebrating with you on opening night.”

Tickets for “Sweeney Todd in Concert – A Pop-Up Musical” are are $30 and $40 and can be purchased online at