Anne Lucas takes center stage

Anne Lucas is bringing her new play, “PARTY,” to Marblehead Little Theater this January. Photo by Courtesy Anne Lucas

“Run for the storm cellars!”

This was Anne Lucas’ first line on stage, when she played a little girl in a performance of “The Wizard of Oz.” Ever since that first role at 5 years old, Lucas has been enamored with the performing arts. 

Lucas’ career has taken her on stage, behind the curtain and across the globe. Her education took her to the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Royal College of Music in London. When she returned to the States, she worked as an actress in Cincinnati before moving to Boston to get an Master’s in Fine Arts in Directing and Theater Education.  

“And then, I was broke,” Lucas says. After getting her master’s, she stayed in Boston, directing at Newton South High School and at Bentley University. “Bentley had never had any arts at all at that point. They asked me to be the first person to ever come in and direct plays at Bentley.”

But she was pulled away from the Massachusetts theater scene to the bright lights of New York City. “My younger sister called me and said, ‘You said some day we’d go to New York and be actresses together and I have to go now!’” Lucas left her teaching job behind to work in New York City from 1979 to 1989, where she had a prolific acting, directing and music career. 

It was in New York City where she met her husband. However, when it came to raising a family, Lucas knew that she did not want to raise her children in the city. Weekend trips to the Boston area to find a house led her to her current home in Marblehead. “It’s a neighborhood that’s very quiet. … It was a beautiful place to raise my children.”

Leaving New York did not mean leaving behind her career in theater. She worked as an adjunct professor at Salem State University for 10 years, wrote a performance for the House of Seven Gables in 2001 that ran for 20 years, and directed at Marblehead Little Theatre.

Lucas has also written 30 plays — from 10-minute performances to musicals. Among them is her first full-length play, “From Silence,” which follows a Holocaust survivor as she decides to tell her story. Her second full-length play, “Recovery,” focuses on three mothers and their daughters as they navigate addiction. “Recovery” was translated into Greek and performed at Teatro Non Verba in Greece.

“Party?” is her newest play, which she describes as “a very funny evening that talks about marriage. What does it mean? What does it mean to people in their 80s, what does it mean to people in their 50s and 60s, what does it mean to kids who are considering marriage now?” “Party?” will run at Marblehead Little Theatre from Jan. 20 through Jan. 29.

Having had her plays performed around the world and been part of countless performances, Lucas has unique insights into what makes theater special. She says, “I love the relationship between the audience and the piece of artwork. … It is collaborative, the set designer has his idea, the lighting crew has their ideas, the costume person has their ideas.” 

She says playwriting is particularly interesting because of how casts and crews interpret her work. “Theater is really difficult, and if you come to playwriting from a regular writing background, it can be very very frustrating because the actors are going to interpret your words maybe in ways you did not intend. The director — it is in their hands once it gets to them. They could do your play where everybody is naked on Mars — which is not your idea at all!”

She continued, “[If] you think everybody is going to do what I wrote — get a different career, because that’s not what’s going to happen. You have to be flexible and happy to collaborate.”

After such a full career both on and off the stage, theater is not just a job for Lucas. It is a part of her. “I don’t think there ever is any me outside of theater.