Thursday, April 2, 2015

Premiere Stages Presents Plays by People in Partnership with Matheny Medical and Educational Center and New Jersey Theatre Alliance in Peapack


matheny chair

Premiere Stages at Kean University, in partnership with the Matheny Medical and Educational Center, presented Plays by People, an evening of original works by the talented playwrights of Matheny’s Arts Access Program, on March 28 at the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center in Peapack.

The free event, presented as part of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s annual Stages Festival, featured staged readings of six short plays written by Arts Access playwrights and performed by professional actors. The playwrights – all adults with medically complex developmental disabilities – were an integral part of the staging process, offering direct feedback to the actors on how to best present their written work, and in some cases appearing in the plays themselves. The plays presented were In a Box by Natalia Manning, Angels in Heaven by Jessica Evans, Jeff and Marie by Amanda Kochell, Tatianna’s Play by Tatyana Manousakis, Search for the Sun by Cheryl Chapin, and Bear Play by Cindy Shanks.

“Premiere Stages is honored to be a part of the innovative Arts Access Program. Having the opportunity to engage these remarkable playwrights and help bring their plays to life is an extremely rewarding experience,” stated John J. Wooten, producing artistic director of Premiere Stages.

"I've been working at Arts Access for the past five years, and in that time I've worked with a lot of outside artists, and I can tell you from experience, not everyone is cut out to work alongside artists with disabilities,” said Burt Brooks, the Performing Arts Coordinator for Matheny’s Arts Access Program. “It takes respect, compassion, humility, and professionalism. The troupe from Premiere Stages at Kean University had all these qualities and more."

The Matheny Medical and Educational Center is a special hospital for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities. As a comprehensive medical center, a special education school and teaching hospital, Matheny is designed to meet the needs of persons with all types of disabilities. The Arts Access Program, founded at Matheny in 1993, offers opportunities for unlimited self-expression in the arts. Through the use of Arts Access’ specialized communication and choice systems, the world of the artist with disabilities becomes unlimited and rich with creative possibilities. For more information, please visit or (Matheny Medical and Educational Center, 65 Highland Ave, Peapack, NJ 07977)

The partnership between Premiere Stages and Matheny’s Arts Access Program was facilitated by the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, which presented its statewide Stages Festival throughout March. Founded in 1981, the New Jersey Theatre Alliance is the first statewide organization for professional, not-for-profit theatre companies in the United States, and is a leader in developing model programs that foster collaboration, cooperation and audience development. The Alliance provides member theatres and arts patrons a wide range of supportive services and programs, assists member theatres in their growth and development – as well as in the promotion of their programs – helping them reach their full potential. For arts patrons, the Alliance provides a variety of services to enhance their theatre-going experience. 

Plays by People captured the essence of New Jersey Theatre Alliance's work and vision: to cultivate professional theatre in New Jersey and create opportunities for the public to participate in theatre, regardless of their limitations,” said Robert Carr, the New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s Director of Programs and Services. “Plays by People matched the professional artists of Premiere Stages with the emerging artists of Matheny's Arts Access Program to create a moving production as well as an inventive addition to our annual Stages Festival. We look forward to helping this collaboration grow, as part of The Stages Festival and beyond.”

The New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s Stages Festival offers over 100 performances, workshops, classes, and events at the state’s professional theatres, performing arts centers, libraries, schools, senior centers, museums and other community venues.  The program was developed to encourage New Jersey’s residents to attend their local professional theatres by making the experience affordable, accessible, and fun.  Since its inception 18 years ago, the program has served over 90,000 people. 

The Stages Festival is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.  Additional program sponsors are Bank of America, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, PSE&G Foundation, and The Smart Family Foundation. Additional program support has been provided by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Prudential Foundation, F.M. Kirby Foundation, Springpoint Senior Living Foundation, and The George A. Ohl, Jr. Trust Foundation. For more information on the Stages Festival, please visit or

prem The Premiere Play Factory, Premiere’s educational umbrella, encompasses a variety of programming, including in-school and community-based playwriting residencies for all ages; Camp Premiere, a summer theatre camp for middle and high school students; and the Play Factory Performance Series, an annual summer performance series featuring dynamic, professional theatre presentations designed specifically for young audiences. Please call (908) 737-4092 for more information regarding the Premiere Play Factory or visit Premiere Stages online at

Premiere Stages is made possible in part through funding from The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Shubert Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Northfield Bank Foundation, The New Jersey Historical Commission, The Provident Bank Foundation, The Hudson City Savings Bank Foundation, Union County HEART Grants, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Union Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance and through the generous support of individual patrons. Discover Jersey Arts is our marketing partner. Visit for more information about other arts programming happening around the Garden State.

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