Thursday, June 4, 2015

Premiere Stages Launches 11th Season at Kean University with Kate Cortesi’s Great Kills (June 19 – 21)


Premiere Stages at Kean University will launch its much-anticipated 2015 Season with a free staged reading of Kate Cortesi’s provocative new play, Great Kills, June 19 – 21 in Kean’s Murphy Dunn Theatre. Selected from over 440 submissions, Great Kills is the first of two scripts scheduled for expanded development as part of the 2015 Premiere Stages Play Festival. An annual competition for unproduced scripts by playwrights with ties to the greater metropolitan area (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut), the Premiere Stages Play Festival perfectly embodies the theatre’s passionate and longstanding commitment to supporting emerging artists through the development and production of new plays. Ms. Cortesi has received an honorarium and the opportunity to further develop the play through a professional, 29-hour rehearsal process culminating in three public readings. Great Kills, directed by Kel Haney, will feature actors Stori Ayers, Gardiner Comfort, Valerie Hager, Grant Shaud, Ali Stoner, Lindsay Torrey and Azul Zorrilla.

In Ms. Cortesi’s electrifying new play, a high school achiever’s college application reveals a secret from her past, sending her Staten Island family into a tailspin. But is this ambitious young woman traumatized by violence, as her essay claims, or by a culture of achievement that has trained her to market herself at any cost?

A resident of Brooklyn, Ms. Cortesi's other plays include A Patron of the Arts, Love and Happiness, The Color Wheel, and Telephone. Her work has been honored with the 2014 Princess Grace Playwriting Award and Columbia University's Karen Brownstein Award, and has been produced or workshopped by terraNOVA Collective, The Lark, and New Dramatists in New York, The Underbelly in Edinburgh, and the Philadelphia Ethical Society. Ms. Cortesi was the co-head writer of Columbia University's 107th Varsity Show, and often writes and directs for the screen.

Director Kel Haney returns to Premiere Stages after last fall’s successful production of At Liberty Hall, the 2013/2014 Liberty Live Commission. She has directed and developed new work at The Lark, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre and New Dramatists, among others. Her recent directing credits include The Elephant in Every Room I Enter (La MaMa, Mabou Mines), The Recommendation (The Flea), United Front (Primary Stages/Fordham), You’re Not Tough (HERE, Dixon Place), and Fifth Planet (Lincoln Center Education). I Am Them, a series of short films directed by Ms. Haney exploring pivotal turning points for three different women, releases this summer.

Audience members attending Premiere’s workshop of Great Kills are encouraged to engage in the new play development process by providing direct feedback to Ms. Cortesi through interactive post-show discussions with the playwright and written evaluation forms. Positive feedback from patrons attending an earlier reading of Great Kills in March contributed to Premiere’s eventual decision to name the play this year’s Runner-Up in the prestigious Play Festival.

Great Kills runs Friday, June 19 at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 20 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, June 21 at 3 p.m. in the Murphy Dunn Theatre, located in Kean University’s Vaughn Eames Hall at 1000 Morris Avenue, Union, N.J. Admission and parking are free. Reservations are strongly recommended, as seating is limited; please call 908-737-7469 or email to reserve.

Premiere Stages offers affordable prices, air-conditioned facilities, and free parking close to the theatre. Premiere Stages also provides free or discounted tickets to patrons with disabilities. All Premiere Stages facilities are fully accessible spaces, and companion seating is available for patrons with disabilities. Assistive listening devices and large print programs are available at all times; publications in alternate formats are available with advanced notice. Please call 908-737-4092 for a list of sign-interpreted, audio-described or open-captioned performances. For more information, please 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, The Westfield Foundation, 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. 

Photo: Kate Cortesi and John Wooten (KS) Photo by Ben Gancsos.

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