The 2016 NJPAC Stage Exchange commissions were given to three extraordinary playwrights: Chisa Hutchinson, Nikkole Salter, and David Lee White. They've all chosen to write new plays on provocative subjects. Here are a list of events and descriptions of the plays:
Birth of a Play: A Panel Discussion about the Creative Process
Thursday, March 24, 2016, 7:00 pm, at Madison Public Library, 39 Keep Street, Madison - FREE
In this first event in the NJStageX series, Professor R.N. Sandberg, acting director of the theatre program at Princeton University, will moderate a panel discussion including the three commissioned playwrights, Chisa Hutchinson, Nikkole Salter, and David Lee White, and their sponsoring artistic directors, John Pietrowski, Cheryl Katz, and June Ballinger. Panelists will discuss the process of writing a commissioned play and bringing it to the point of production. This event is free and open to the public.
BIOGRAPHY OF R.N. SANDBERG: R.N. Sandberg's plays have been seen in Australia, Canada, England, Japan, Panama, and South Korea as well at U.S. theaters such as the Barter, Dallas Children’s Theater, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Intiman, La Mama, Providence Black Rep, Stages Repertory Theatre, and Yale Cabaret. He has been teaching playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature at Princeton University since 1995 and received the President's Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014. He currently is the Acting Director of the Program in Theater at Princeton. READ MORE ABOUT R.N. SANDBERG
Sanism by David Lee White with Passage Theatre Company (Trenton, NJ)
Stage Exchange Reading on Friday, April 29, 2016, 7:00 pm, at NJPAC. Tickets are $5.00 and all proceeds will be donated to the beneficiary organization, NAMI Mercer.
The reading will be followed by a FREE public symposium at 8:30 pm.
THE PLAY, SANISM: When Ronnie suffers a psychotic break in her mid-30s, she demands that her case worker contact her two best high school friends, Valerie and Daryl, neither of whom has seen Ronnie for ten years. As the three reunite, Valerie and Daryl are forced to navigate a number of Catch-22s in the mental health-care system, while Ronnie's increasingly erratic behavior opens old wounds between the friends. As a result, a number of unspoken secrets and sins threaten not only to tear the friends apart, but also to destroy any chance Ronnie has of getting treatment. SANISM is a fictional story, based on and inspired by interviews with mental health practitioners, patients, and loved ones of people suffering from mental illness.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: David Lee White is a New Jersey-based writer who has written several plays familiar to audiences throughout the state. His play Blood: A Comedy was produced at Passage Theatre (2009) and Dreamcatcher Rep (2012). David also worked with Passage's Artistic Director, June Ballinger, to create the mainstage shows Trenton Lights and Profiles, which made use of interviews with Trenton residents on the topics of race, identity, and history. He is the Associate Artistic Director and Resident Playwright at Passage Theatre, and runs the Passage Play Lab which has aided in the development of plays by New Jersey-based playwrights. READ MORE ABOUT DAVID.
THE SYMPOSIUM: The public is invited to a free symposium following the staged reading on April 29th to explore the play and its topic: discrimination against people with mental illness. David Lee White will discuss the play with David Seegert LSW, MSW; Overlook Hospital Palliative Care Community Liaison and Humanities Scholar Nancy Gross, and literature and medicine scholar Suzanne McConnell. The audience will be invited to share their thoughts wiht the playwright and each other. READ MORE ABOUT THE PANELISTS
THE PARTNERING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR & THEATRE: June Ballinger and Passage Theatre Company. June joined Passage in 1995 and assumed artistic leadership of the theater in 1996. Dedicated to developing new plays for the American theatre, June has introduced Trenton audiences to premiere works by William Mastrosimone, Leslie Ayvazian, Yusef Komunykaa, Russell Davis, Caridad Svich, and others. Prior to becoming a producer, she performed in many new works at theatres nationwide such as New York’s Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Actors Theatre of Louisville, Primary Stages, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and The Kennedy Center. She was a founding ensemble member of the Magic Carpet Play Company in San Francisco and was in the original Broadway cast of Pack of Lies starring Rosemary Harris.
THE BENEFITTING ORGANIZATION: NAMI Mercer provides education and support for individuals and families affected by mental illness, and advocates for lives of quality and respect, without stigma or discrimination. NAMI will receive the proceeds of ticket sales to the readings at NJPAC.
Indian Head by Nikkole Salter with Luna Stage Company (West Orange, NJ)
Stage Exchange Reading on Friday, May 20, 2016, 7:00 pm at NJPAC. Tickets are $5.00 and all proceeds will be donated to the beneficiary organization, Newark Museum.
The reading will be followed by a FREE public symposium at 8:00 pm.
THE PLAY, INDIAN HEAD: When a New Jersey school refuses to replace its "Indian" mascot, one young woman's passion erupt in an act of vandalism. This is a story of cultures, communities, and families clashing...and uniting.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: Nikkole Salter is an OBIE Award-winning actress and dramatist. Her plays include In The Continuum (New York Outer Critics Circle's John Gassner Award for Best New American Play, 2006; Helen Hayes Award, 2007), Repairing a Nation, Of Great Merit, Carnaval, Lines in the Dust, and Freedom Riders. Nikkole is a 2014 MAP Fund Grant recipient, a Theatre Hall of Fame Seldes-Kanin Fellowship awardee, and a recipient of the Global Tolerance Award from the Friends of the United Nations. READ MORE ABOUT NIKKOLE
THE SYMPOSIUM: The public is invited to a free symposium following the staged reading on May 20th, to discuss the play and its topic: controversy over Native American mascots. Nikkole will discuss the play with Tricia Bloom, Curator of American Art at the Newark Museum; Tony Dearing, Director of Local Content at nj.com/The Star Ledger; Rev. John Norwood, Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation Councilman and Principal Justice of the Tribal Supreme Court; and Ryan Victor "Little Eagle" Pierce, Founder and Artistic Director of The Eagle Project. The audience will be invited to share their thoughts wiht the playwright and each other. READ MORE ABOUT THE PANELISTS
THE PARTNERING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR & THEATRE: Cheryl Katz & Luna Stage Company. Cheryl has been with Luna Stage since 2003. She served as Director of Play Development for eight years before becoming Associate Artistic Director in 2011. She was appointed Artistic Director in 2013. During her time at Luna, she has contributed to the development of over fifty new works for the stage and has directed the world premieres of a number of plays on Luna's mainstage. Prior to her position at Luna, Cheryl developed and directed new plays in the New York area and worked as a producer, administrator, and special projects manager for New York-based non-profit theatres, companies, and organizations. Cheryl is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
THE BENEFITTING ORGANIZATION: Newark Museum's Art of the Americas Collection includes both Native North American art (the focus of a permanent gallery) and Latin American art. Its holdings comprise over 4,500 objects with a geographic span from Alaska to Argentina and a time span from the pre-Columbian era to the present. Newark Museum will receive the proceeds from ticket sales to the reading at NJPAC.
Surely Goodness and Mercy by Chisa Hutchinson with Writers Theater of New Jersey
Stage Exchange Reading on Friday, June 24, 2016, 7:00 pm at NJPAC. Tickets are $5.00 and all proceeds will be donated to the beneficiary organization, New Jersey SEEDS.
The reading will be followed by a FREE public symposium at 8:30 pm.
THE PLAY, SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY: Tino, a brilliant but bullied 12-year-old in Newark has lived with an abusive aunt since his mother died defending him from a stray bullet. Bernadette, a cantankerous lunch lady who is not fond of children, has taken a liking to Tino. When Bernadette is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), Tino, inspired by Bible passages he believes are are sent to him by his mother, finds that the power of love is all the two friends need to help each other through their troubles.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: Chisa Hutchinson earned a BA in Dramatic Arts from Vassar College and an MFA in Playwriting from NYU. She’s landed some pretty cool gigs since then, such as writing and performing with the New York NeoFuturists and being a Staff Writer for Blue Man Group. Chisa's many plays have been produced by the Lark Play Development Center, City Parks’ Summerstage, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, New Dramatists, Rattlestick Theater, Midtown Direct Rep, Writers Theatre of New Jersey, Second Stage Theater, and more. READ MORE ABOUT CHISA
THE SYMPOSIUM: The public is invited to a free symposium following the staged reading on June 24th, to discuss the play and its topic: the failure of the social structure to help a disadvantaged school child and a low-income woman in need of healthcare for a serious disease. Chisa will discuss the play with Stuart Cook, MD, who is the Ruth Dunietz Kushner and Michael Jay Serwitz Chair in Multiple Sclerosis and Director of the MS Diagnostic Treatment Center at Rutgers – New Jersey Medical School; Rosemary S. McGee, a medical humanities scholar at Drew University; Dr. Ellen Anthony Moore, assistant professor of theatre arts at Marymount Manhattan College; and Sharon Zucker, Dean of Guidance at NJ SEEDS. The audience will be invited to share their thoughts wiht the playwright and each other. READ MORE ABOUT THE PANELISTS
THE PARTNERING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR & THEATRE: John Pietrowski and Writers Theatre of New Jersey. John is in his 25th year as Artistic Director of Writers Theatre of New Jersey, an organization he helped found 30 years ago. A director, playwright, and actor, he has directed over 30 new plays at Playwrights Theatre, including 20 co-productions since 2001. In 2012, he was awarded a playwriting fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and one of his poems was published April 2014 in US 1 Worksheets and subsequently nominated for a Pushcart Award. In October 2014 he performed in Richard Dresser’s 100 Years and has recently performed Sedition and Two Jews Walk into a War, at WritersTheatre and theatres in New York and Philadelphia. His play Dura Mater was performed at Johns Hopkins University in November 2014. He holds a BS in Communications from Northwestern University in Performance Studies and a Masters in Public Administration from Seton Hall.
BENEFITTING ORGANIZATION: New Jersey SEEDS, an organization that changes the lives of motivated, high-achieving students from low-income families by transforming their educational opportunities. New Jersey SEEDS will receive the proceeds from ticket sales to the reading at NJPAC.
We are grateful to the followng organizations for their generous sponsorship of this program:
The 2016 NJPAC Stage Exchange symposia, including the panels and public discussions on March 24th, April 29th, May 20th, and June 24th, are made possible by funding from New Jersey Council for the Humanities.
The NJPAC Stage Exchange commissions and staged readings on April 29th, May 20th, and June 24th are made possible by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
NJPAC is a proud partner of Newark Celebration 350.