A grown man sobs in the audience. The other 99 onlookers are nearly as shaken. Such is the effect of the first show of the Market Theater’s fall schedule, the U.S.-premiere of The Square Root of Minus One. Buoyed by a driven founder who happens to be a telecommunications mogul, the Market Theater is a force with which to be reckoned.
Since opening its doors across from the House of Blues this spring, the theater has been serving up dark, intellectual fare. Multimillionaire Gregory Carr is the aforementioned mogul behind the new theater and claims he founded it “for a little bit of a lark.” If so, it is a lark that has led to serious critical and popular acclaim.
“People have been so excited about the new theater, that it makes it seem like it is really filling a void—like this is just what Boston needs,” said Artistic Director Tom Cole, though he admits, “we were stunned by [our success].”
The story of the Market Theater’s rise is unlikely in the extreme. It begins in the mid-80s with the decision of Carr, then a student at the Kennedy School, to co-found Boston Technology, a company which sells voice mail systems to telephone conglomerates. So great was Carr’s achievements in the tech world that, at one point, he became chairman of Prodigy.
Despite his entrepreneurial genius, Carr maintains his true interests were never in business. “I’ve never thought of business as my primary activity,” he said. “I enjoyed it, and I found it challenging, but it was always something I did for fun—it’s a fairly small part of my life.”
That small part of his life has allowed Carr to realize a great many other interests, though, including the Carr Foundation and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard.
But philanthropic interests don’t traditionally lead directly to theater, and Carr admits that theater has not always been one of his chief passions. Always somewhat interested in the arts, Carr was swayed towards theater when he realized such an endeavor would combine his business skills and his yearning for new challenges. “Every new play is a complete creative enterprise from start to finish,” he said.
Carr also finds great social value in putting on shows, explaining, “We want to make people think.... We try to engage someone’s emotions, to explore what it means to be human. Any good piece of art should be able to do that.” He further believes that powerful concepts gain more power in an intimate setting, such as is featured by the Market Theater, with just between 100 and 120 seats depending on the show.
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