NJPAC Stage Exchange
Three commissions, three playwrights, three plays, three theatres, three productions, three public forums, three community organizations. This is the recipe for NJPAC Stage Exchange: an exciting new program that unites the entire theatre community of New Jersey with the general public to nurture new works, bring playwrights into schools, and grow new audiences by focusing on local issues that touch their lives. Here's how it works:
Commissioned Plays: With the help of NJ Theatre Alliance and three partnering professional theatres, New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) commissions NJ playwrights to write plays on NJ issues.
Teaching Artists: The writers become NJPAC Teaching Artists, leading workshops and master classes in the partner theaters' communities.
Staged Readings: In the Spring, NJPAC presents staged readings of the works in progress, read by professional actors.
Public Discussions: Thanks to a grant from New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a pre-event panel in March and symposiums following each staged reading will create public forums where the topics of the plays are discussed by scholars, professionals, community leaders, and the public.
Full Productions: After the readings and discussions, the playwrights further develop their plays for full productions by the partnering theatres.
Community Benefits: Proceeds from the staged readings will be donated to non-profit organizations that seek to find solutions to the conflicts presented in the plays.
In 2014, New Jersey Performing Arts Center launched the NJPAC Stage Exchange series, where cutting-edge new play development meets insightful community dialogue. Tapping into the success of the program, in 2015 NJPAC announced an inaugural commissioning program as part of the Stage Exchange.
In the summer of 2015, with guidance from New Jersey Theatre Alliance, NJPAC worked with three partner theatres - Passage Theatre Company (Trenton, NJ), Luna Stage Company (West Orange, NJ), and Writers Theatre of New Jersey (Madison, NJ) - to identify three emerging New Jersey playwrights and commission them to create new works relevant to today's Garden State.
In Spring 2016 there will be staged readings of the plays at NJPAC, and the partner theatres will stage world premieres of the plays in the 2016-17 season. The selected playwrights in this inaugural year are David Lee White, Nikkole Salter, and Chisa Hutchinson.
"The inaugural year of the Stage Exchange was the perfect re-entry for NJPAC into the New Jersey theatre community," said Andy Donald, NJPAC's Producer of Artistic Development and Community Programming, who oversees the Stage Exchange. "Each one of our staged readings focused on the state's best playwrights, their newest work, and the issues they care about today. We're thrilled to grow the program in its second year in partnership with some of the state's finest theatres, by not only funding and supporting the creation of new plays from the very beginning, but guaranteeing them the most crucial step of all: a world premiere."
“New Jersey theatres have a strong track record for incubating new works and contributing to the American theatrical canon," said John McEwen, the Alliance’s Executive Director. "We believe this program is unique in its design and diverse collaborating partners, and can serve as an inspiration for other presenting houses and producing theatres."
In addition to the commissioned plays, the writers have been appointed as NJPAC Teaching Artists, leading workshops and master classes in each of the partner theatres' communities throughout the 2015-16 season.
Jennifer Tsukayama, Senior Director of Arts Education at NJPAC, remarked, "Integrating an educational component into these commissions strengthens the critical connection between the creative process, stage performances, and arts training. Placing the commissioned artist in the schools broadens the impact of the project and elevates the relevance of the play and the presenting theater to the larger community."
Free public symposia will follow each staged reading, and there will be a pre-event discussion in March 2016 on the creative process. These public forums are meant to aid the playwrights in further developing the plays, and to introduce the public to the unique power of theatre to elucidate the human story and inspire action. Local non-profit community organizations that work in fields related to the themes of the plays will participate in the symposia and will receive the full proceeds from ticket sales to the readings, making NJPAC Stage Exchange a source of growth and development not only for artists, but also for their communities.