Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: Chatham Players' Jersey Voices a winner!

Review by Ruth Ross

One of the joys of summer is Chatham Players' Jersey Voices, the festival of one-act plays performed by the venerable troupe for the past 22 seasons. I think I have seen all but three in my 20 years of reviewing! Some years, the offerings are uneven in writing and/or performance, but this year the company has put together a winner!

Of the seven playlets, three are dramas while the remaining four are comedies. All the entries are helmed by different directors and acted by seasoned veterans and newbies to the troupe.

Lauri Macmillan and Charles Green
It was difficult for me to select my favorites, for all the plays had something to recommend them. Of the dramas, Paper Bell was the most affecting. About to make a recording on a "diamond disk," famous singer Ruth McKintire (Lauri Macmillan) passes some time with self-described "farm boy" Charles Green (Charlie Thomson). She longs for the family life in a small town he enjoys; he seeks the adventure and travel she experiences on the road. While nothing is resolved at the play's close, the moments these two spend together certainly are bittersweet. Jessica Phelan competently directs, but she needs to get Thomson to speak louder. He was often difficult to hear even in the little black box Chatham Playhouse.

One, Three, Two by Michael Weems and directed by Lynn Polan, addresses the stranglehold technology (and its accompanying passwords and codes) has on modern life, strangling our need for simplicity. Daniel De Guzman is affecting as Jake, who has "gone fishing" instead of picking his son up at school, much to the consternation of his very capable wife Heather (Sarah Blannett Pharaon). The play moseys along rather pokily, as befits a man escaping from the rat race, but the satisfactory ending finds the couple determining a possible solution to Jake's problem.

The third drama, Not Enough, written by Chip Bolcik and directed handily by Robert Lukasik, explores a marital dilemma faced by a middle-aged couple. Their predicament is presaged by Peggy Lee's rendition of "Is That All There Is" and by the play's title. That Bob and Mary (Lewis Decker and Bridget Burke Weiss—both terrific) break the fourth wall to address the audience adds a bit of levity to the fraught situation doesn't really diminish the play's emotional punch. He wants the two to be lovers again; she chastises him for not making her feel special—a situation probably faced by many long-time couples, making the topic relevant and timely.

(L-R) Zach Sinske, Paula Ehrenberg, Amie Quivey Colleen Grundfest 
As for the comedies, be warned that I will not divulge details that might affect your enjoyment of them. The festival opens with a bang, presenting What Every Grown Son Wants His Mother to Know by Joann Lopresti Scanlon and directed by Kevern Cameron. Janie (Paula Ehrenberg), Donna (Colleen Grundfest) and Laura (Amie Quivey) have gathered for lunch and to complain about the lack of maternal attention paid by their college sons. 

Enter Donna's son David (Zach Shinske) and we get a hilarious "take" on what goes on between mothers and sons from the latter's point of view. All the actors are superb, with Grundfest best expressing the plight of "helicopter moms" who can communicate with their college student offspring by text or computer. Although we are familiar with parental complaints of neglect, Scanlon gives us the opposite point of view to great comedic effect.

Happily Ever After penned by Jeanne Johnston and directed by George Seylaz stand the Cinderella happy ending on its ear, also to great comedic effect. Broadly played by Bradley Carrington (the Prince) and Katherine LeFevre (the Princess), the two fairy tale innocents charmingly display the dilemma posed by such a sunny ending. The play provoked much laughter as it really tackled what, in real life, is a serious problem.

The last two plays, both comedies, were especially droll. Bottle for a Special Occasion (by William C. Kovacsik and directed by Arnold Buchiane) features the great comedic actress
Terri Sturdevant
Terri Sturdevant as the grieving widow Judith shopping at the wine store for an appropriate bottle of wine to put in the coffin of her late oenophile husband. As the clerk Martin (Duane Noch) attempts to help her, the truth of her marriage is revealed; it's not pretty, but both the playwright and Sturdevant manage to wrest comedy from it—the latter through her masterful delivery of the dialogue! She is a delight to watch.

And Fantasy Dance (by Gary Shaffer and directed by Joann Lopresti Scanlon) involves a trio of Dance Dads at a competition in which their daughters and granddaughter are competing. This playlet ended the festival with a bang appropriate to the first entry; the two acted as perfect bookends to the entire festival! Frank Bläuer (Tim), Bob Grundfest (Bob), Roy Pancirov (Frank) and TJ Ryan (Jerry) apply the jargon of fantasy sports to dance and the result is side splitting. Pancirov is especially comical; Grundfest matches his performance as a man obsessed by palindromes. Using the sport fantasy metaphor in an offbeat way is hilarious.

Jersey Voices 2016 is a delight for lovers of original one-act plays, especially by New Jersey playwrights. Every year it's like what Artistic Director Bob Lukasik paraphrased from "Forrest Gump," a box of chocolates—you never know what you're going to get. This time, it's a box of whatever your favorites may be (mine are caramel). So open the cover and dive right in!

Jersey Voices 2016 will be performed at the Chatham Playhouse, 23 N. Passaic Ave., Chatham, through August 7. For information and tickets, call the box office at 973.635.7363 or visit online.

Photos by Howard Baker

Thursday, July 28, 2016

New Jersey winners of the Kennedy Center’s 2016 VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition

Ringwood, NJ – Elijah Gaines and Jaleel Lindsey, of the Greenfield Residential Community Home in Ringwood, New Jersey have been named winners of the Kennedy Center’s 2016 VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition. One of eight selected from a pool of nationwide submissions, they will attend a series of workshops at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC over the Labor Day weekend.

“This is a highly competitive and prestigious award. These young men have achieved something very important.” said John Pietrowski, Writers Theatre’s Artistic Director (photo).

Gaines, a Greenfields graduate, and Lindsey, a resident, were participants in the VSA Playwright Discovery Program at the Community Home, a 20-week residency taught by Writers Theatre of New Jersey’s master teacher Dominique Cieri through a contract with VSA Washington. Their play, Learn Your ABCs, follows a teenage boy, struggling with learning disabilities, who channels his anger into a poetry slam, and wins with a rap that incorporates his disabilities.

Playwright and Newark resident Chisa Hutchinson, whose most recent work, The Wedding Gift, was positively received in its national debut at The Contemporary American Theatre Festival, served as a dramaturg for the residency, as part of her residency with the New Jersey Stage Exchange (A partnership betwenn NJPAC and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance).

Further development of the play was undertaken by actors Brandon Rubin, Aaliyah Habeeb, Sahirah and Najah Johnson—all of Newark—who assisted in workshops and a final reading presented in the Horizon Theatre at the NJ Performing Arts Center last June.

Both Cieri and Hutchinson are award-winning playwrights and participants in Writers Theatre’s Women Playwrights Program. “A program like the one at Green cannot succeed without extraordinary teaching artists leading the workshops,” said Pietrowski. “Dominique Cieri has been working with this population for over 25 years, and Chisa is an acknowledged expert in working with at-risk populations.”

For the past 29 years, WTNJ, as part of its Complete Access Initiative, has worked with Juvenile Detention Centers throughout the state to bring creative writing workshops to residents. In 2013 and again in 2016, the Writers Theatre of New Jersey received a grant from the Kennedy Center’s VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition to teach playwriting that focuses on learning disabilities. The writing intensive is lead by an experienced teaching artist who provides guidance and builds a creative environment for residents to write stories, poems, and group plays. At the end of each program, a selection of the residents’ work is rehearsed and presented by the writers for parents, peers, and the public.

Over the past three years, two plays written in Writers Theatre’s Juvenile Detention Center programs have been selected for as finalists in the Kennedy Center’s VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition.

Writers Theatre of New Jersey, as part of its NJ Young Playwrights Program, includes a Living with Disabilities category, for plays that incorporate characters with disabilities or disability themes. Submission in this category is not limited to youngsters with disabilities. For more information on this and the New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest, go to

For more information on any of Writers Theatre’s programs, please visit, or contact Writers Theatre at P.O. Box 1295, Madison, NJ, 07940, 973-514-1787 x20 or

About Writers Theatre of New Jersey:

Writers Theatre of New Jersey is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, professional (Actors’ Equity) theatre and a community of professional playwrights, theatre artists, and arts educators that provides opportunities for writers to develop their works in a nurturing environment and connect with new audiences. Our New Play Development Program is a multi-step process through which playwrights, theatre artists, and audiences collaborate to bring selected texts from rough draft to finished production.

Our Education Programs introduce students of all ages and backgrounds to the possibilities inherent in thinking and communicating creatively. Writers Theatre’s New Jersey Writers Project provides hands-on workshops led by professional writers-in-residence to students in schools and community centers throughout the state. We place an equal emphasis on Development and Educational activities, and encourage our community and audiences to participate fully in both.

We are honored that, every year since 2003, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA) has designated Writers Theatre as a Major Arts Institution. This means that the Council considers Writers Theatre to be “an anchor institution that contributes vitally to the quality of life in New Jersey.”

Funding for our activities comes from: the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Victoria Foundation, and many corporations, foundations and individuals.

Writers Theatre is a member of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, the National New Play Network, and Madison Arts & Culture Alliance.

'Exit the King' next at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) continues its 54th season with what is considered to be Eugene Ionesco’s crowning masterpiece, Exit the King. Performances begin August 10 and continue through August 28 at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Avenue (at Lancaster Road) in Madison. Tickets and subscriptions can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 973-408-5600or going online at

This compelling tragi-comedy captures King Berenger in the last hours of his life as his centuries-long reign is coming to an end. Played in real time, the production is only 90 minutes long with no intermission and will feature a talk-back after almost every performance by director Bonnie J. Monte and members of the cast.

As the third piece in Ionesco’s “Berenger Cycle,” Exit the King stands out in the playwright’s canon, as his most accessible and universal play. It has been labeled in many ways: an allegory, a dark comedy, a death ritual, a tragic farce, an absurdist lyric poem, a hymn of praise and moving celebration of life. This moving tale speaks differently to each and every audience member, as it did when it was last performed on Broadway in 2009, 42 years after its American debut in 1967.

The Cast:

Brent Harris returns for his fifth season as Berenger the First, the King. Recent company credits include The Guardsman, The Alchemist, and his portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. He has also appeared in the national tours of The Lion King(Scar) and The Screwtape Letters (Screwtape). Mr. Harris is the recipient of the Drammy Award for Outstanding Leading Actor for his performance in The Beard of Avon.

Marion Adler returns for her fifth season with The Shakespeare Theatre in the role of Queen Marguerite. Company credits include Much Ado About Nothing, The Learned Ladies, Our Town, The Winter’s Tale, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as the musical Enter the Guardsman for which she wrote the lyrics. She is also the writer ofGunmetal Blues, a musical in which she starred as The Blonde in the Off-Broadway production.

Jon Barker, who will be returning for his ninth season with The Shakespeare Theatre, will play the role of the Guard. He was most recently seen this season on The Theatre’s Outdoor Stage in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised). Other company credits include: The Guardsman, The Alchemist, The Tempest,Pericles, Tovarich, Trelawney of the Wells, Henry IV, and many more.

Kristie Dale Sanders plays Juliette, the maid. Now in her tenth season with The Shakespeare Theatre, she was last seen at STNJ in The Merry Wives of Windsor and has also appeared in Pericles, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, The School for Wives, King Lear, Measure for Measure, The Rivals, Illyria and The Threepenny Opera. Her Broadway credits include Cabaret, Evita, Next Fall, The Phantom of the Opera, Urinetown and The Sound of Music.

In his Shakespeare Theatre debut, Greg Watanabe will play The Doctor. He recently made his Broadway debut in Allegiance starring George Takei and Lea Salonga. Regional credits include: the world premiere productions of The Summer Moon (A Contemporary Theater), The Happy Ones (South Coast Repertory Theatre, L.A. Drama Critics Circle nomination, Best Featured Performance), and Extraordinary Chambers (Geffen Playhouse, Ovation nomination, Best Featured Actor).

      Returning for her second season, Jesmille Darbouze will play the role of Queen Marie. She was last seen at STNJ in Love’s Labour’s Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a collaboration with The Shakespeare Theatre and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Darbouze’s television and film credits include Mysteries of Laura, A.K.A. Jessica Jones, and No Pay, Nudity opposite Gabrielle Byrne.

The Director:
Bonnie J. Monte is in her twenty-sixth season with the Theatre, most recently directing last season’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Guardsman. Ms. Monte serves as the Artistic Director at the Shakespeare Theatre; under her leadership, the Theatre has evolved into one of the most respected classical theatres in the nation. Ms. Monte has created a number of original translations/adaptations for the company, including Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Servant of Two Masters (published by Playscripts, Inc.), and The Alchemist. Prior to arriving in New Jersey, Ms. Monte was a casting director at the prestigious Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City. From 1981 to 1989, she was the Associate Artistic Director at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, working closely with the late Nikos Psacharopoulous and many of the nation’s most notable theatre artists including Tennessee Williams.

The Artistic Staff:
The show’s visual elements will be brought to life through the work of set designerBrittany Vasta, lighting designer Tony Galaska, costume designer Hugh Hanson, and sound designer Karin Graybash. Serving as production stage manager is Christine Whalen.

Single tickets for Exit the King start as low as $25 for preview performances and $32 for regular performances. Prices range from $25 - $75. This season, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is initiating their 30 UNDER 30 Program, which offers tickets for $30 for patrons aged 30 and under, with valid ID, tickets subject to availability. For tickets, call the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or visit

Special Performances:
For the same price as a regular ticket, the Symposium Series performances offer a post-show discussion with the cast and artistic staff. For Exit the King, symposiums will be offered after each and every performance starting on August 14.

The Know the Show pre-show talks are offered again in 2016 free-of-cost. Prior to the show, an artist from The Shakespeare Theatre presents a pre-performance talk providing background information and an inside perspective on the production. This program is free with the purchase of a performance ticket, and for Exit the King will be held Thursday, August 18 at 7:00 p.m., with the show commencing at 8:00 p.m. Ms. Monte will present this talk.

The acclaimed Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is an independent, professional theatre company located on the Drew University campus. The Outdoor Stage is located on the campus of the College of St. Elizabeth and the Theatre’s support and education facility is in Florham Park.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s programs are made possible, in part, by funding from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional major support is received from The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, F.M. Kirby Foundation, The Edward T. Cone Foundation, Bank of America, The Samuel H. Scripps Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, and CTW Foundation, as well as contributions from numerous corporations, foundations, government agencies and individuals.

'25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' next at Bickford

The Morris Museum’s Bickford Theatre to present The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, produced by Theatre Next Door. Starring high school and college age students, this hilarious musical comedy will play from August 11 through August 13, 2016.

Featuring music and lyrics by William Finn and a Tony Award winning book by Rachel Sheinkin, Spelling Bee has charmed audiences across the country with its effortless wit and humor. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home life, the eclectic characters spell their way through a series of (potentially made-up) words on a riotous ride complete with audience participation, all the while learning that winning isn’t everything.

“We’re thrilled to be back at the Bickford Theatre at Morris Museum for another exhilarating summer production," said Angelo DeFazio, Bee director and co-founder of Theatre Next Door. "Spelling Bee is unlike any musical because it has a lot of improvisation and audience participation, making each performance a truly fun and unique experience.”


Thursday, August 11, 2016, 8:00PM
Friday, August 12, 2016, 8:00PM
Saturday, August 13, 2016, 2:00PM and 8:00PM


$25 General Public; $20 Seniors/Museum/Theatre Guild Members; $20 Students (18 and under or with a valid college ID)

Tickets may be purchased online at by phone at (973) 971-3706, or in person at the Bickford Theatre Box Office. The Bickford Theatre is an integral part of the Morris Museum, located at 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown, NJ, and offers free parking and full accessibility. Box Office hours for phone sales are Monday through Friday, 10:00am to 5:00pm. Walk-up hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11:00am to 5:00pm.

Cast Members

Xavier Cruz (Florham Park), Leandra Del Pozo (Bridgewater), Rachel Favetta (West Orange), Thomas Fetner (South Orange), Julie Funesti (Florham Park) , Anna Hanson (Glen Ridge), Ryan Healy (Livingston), Tommy Hilden (Florham Park), Nicole Lippey (West Orange), Mikey Miller (Florham Park), Chase Moriarty (Glen Ridge), Meghan Muth (Florham Park), Briana and Carlyn Serpone (Roseland), Brooke Shanley (Florham Park) and April Sigler (Stanhope).

Creative Team

Production team includes director and TND co-founder Angelo De Fazio, musical director Courtney Serpone, choreographer and TND co-founder Melissa Mooney, producer Jenna Rocca, stage manager Anthony Foti, and costume designer Christina Alamo.

About Theatre Next Door

Theatre Next Door & Dance Life Academy (TND) strives to foster a spirit of creativity in the life of each member. TND offers a selection of dance and theatre classes and takes pride in the encouragement of the “triple threat” of acting, dancing, and singing under the Artistic Direction of Angelo De Fazio and Melissa Mooney, and Managing Director JoAnn Russoniello. For more information, please visit

About the Bickford Theatre

The Bickford Theatre is a professional theater that produces and presents year-round entertainment, including a Main Stage Series, two Children’s Theatre series, a Jazz Showcase, and other concert series at the Bickford. The theatre is a Senior Member of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, a not-for-profit organization of 30 professional theaters throughout the state, and works in conjunction with Actors' Equity Association (AEA) and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). From its beginnings in 1994 to the present, tens of thousands of theater-goers from across the tri-state area have enjoyed the Bickford Theatre’s many entertaining and diversified offerings in theatre, music and dance.

About the Morris Museum

Founded in 1913, the Morris Museum is an award-winning, community-based arts and cultural institution which serves the public through high caliber exhibitions in the arts, sciences and humanities. The Museum also offers educational programs, family events, and is home to the Bickford Theatre and its wide range of performing arts offerings. Continuously serving the public since 1913, the Morris Museum has been designated a Major Arts Institution and has received the New Jersey State Council on the Arts’ Citation of Excellence, among other awards. The first museum in New Jersey to be accredited, the Morris Museum was re-accredited in 2013 by the American Alliance of Museums.

The Morris Museum is a Blue Star Museum, offering free admission to active duty military personnel and their families, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Location & Hours

The Museum is located at 6 Normandy Heights Road (at the corner of Columbia Turnpike) in Morristown, NJ, and is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,Friday and Saturday, 11:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday, 12:00 to 5:00pm. In addition, the Museum is open evenings from 5:00 to 8:00pm on the second and third Thursday of the month. Admission to the Museum is $10 for adults and $7 for children, students and senior citizens. Admission is always free for Museum members. For more information, call (973) 971-3700, or visit

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Holmdel adds matinee for 'To Kill A Mockingbird' all other dates sold out

Due to an  unprecedented, entirely

Don't hesitiate, tickets will go fast!

To Kill a Mockingbird

written by Harper Lee, adapted by Christopher Sergel
directed by Tom Frascatore

July 22, 23, 29, 30 Aug 5, 6 @ 8PM
July 24, July 31 @ 2PM

Adults $22 Seniors $17 Students $12
*additional processing fees apply

It’s 1935, and racial tensions are high in Maycomb, Alabama. Nonetheless, young Jean Louise Finch -- or Scout, as she is fondly called -- manages to live a rather carefree, privileged existence, insulated from issues of race. All that changes when Scout watches her father, Atticus Finch, defend an innocent man, Tom Robinson, against a potential death sentence, which looms threateningly against him because of prejudice due to race. Scout begins to realize that just because society portrays something as being true doesn’t mean that it actually is fact. With the the help of Atticus, and her older brother Jem, Scout learns that “growing up” often means doing what is right, even when it comes at great cost. To Kill A Mockingbird is now considered an American masterpiece about the power of childhood innocence, morality, and love. However, it is important to note that the author, Harper Lee always defined it as a simple love story.

Harper Lee’s provocative novel includes accurate and frank use of the racially-charged language of the time period. This use of language remains in this adaptation as an honest depiction of bigotry and racial injustice.

Performed with permission from Dramatic Publishing

Duncan Smith Theater
36 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733

Please email info@holmdeltheatrecompany.orgwith any questions.

Trilogy Repertory to present 'The Rainmaker' at Plays in the Park

Trilogy Repertory Company will continue Bernards Township’s Plays in the Park summer season with N. Richard Nash’s “The Rainmaker on July 29, 30, and August 4, 5, 6.

The play will be presented at the outdoor amphitheater at Pleasant Valley Park in Basking Ridge.

The play, set in a drought-ridden western state during the 1930s, tells the story of a hot summer day in the life of spinster Lizzie Curry whose brothers try to marry her off with little success, worrying both about her future and the fate of their cattle ranch With no relief from the drought in sight, a charming, sweet-talking rainmaker, Starbuck arrives out of nowhere with the promise to bring rain for $100. His arrival will have a profound effect on Lizzie’s life.

Directed by Hugh Wallace of Bernardsville, the ensemble cast features Nancy Jeanne McBride of Bernardsville, Peter Curley of Maplewood, Mark Szabo of Parlin, Richard Butler of Piscataway, and Bill Ward, Michael Giangreco and Hank Barre of Basking Ridge. 

“The Rainmaker” opened on Broadway in 1954, with Geraldine Page and Darren McGavin. It was revived in 1999 with Woody Harrelson. The 1956 movie starred Burt Lancaster and and Katherine Hepburn, who earned an Academy Award nomination for her role as Lizzy. A musical version, “110 in the Shade,” opened on Broadway in 1963, receiving four Tony Nominations; the 2007 revival starred Audra McDonald.

The partnership of Trilogy Repertory and Bernards Township has produced over three decades of family entertainment and achieved several awards for both groups for excellence in theater programming. Most prominent are the awards from ACT (Achievement in Community Theater) and the prestigious “Excellence in Cultural Arts Programming.” “The Rainmaker” is made possible, in part, by support from New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and is presented through special arrangement with Samuel French. 

“The Rainmaker” will be presented at the outdoor amphitheater at Pleasant Valley Park, Valley Road (next to the Veterans Hospital at Lyons), Basking Ridge, on July 29, 30, and August 4, 5, 6, at 8:00 pm. Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted. 

Bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating.

For the time of a paralyzing drought in the West we discover a girl whose father and two brothers are worried as much about her potential future as an old maid as they are about their dying cattle. For the truth is, she is indeed a plain girl. The brothers try every possible scheme to marry her off, but without success. Nor is there any sign of relief from the dry heat, when suddenly from out of nowhere appears a picaresque, sweet-talking man with quite the sales pitch. Claiming to be a "rainmaker," the man promises to bring rain, for $100. It's a silly idea, but the rainmaker is so refreshing and persistent that the family finally consents, banging on big brass drums to rattle the sky. Meanwhile the rainmaker also turns his magic on the girl, and persuades her that she has a very real beauty of her own. She believes it, just as her father believes the fellow can actually bring rain. Rain does come, and so does love. An excellent play for all groups., call 908-204-3003.

Picture Captions:

Starbuck and Lizzie:  William Ward (Starbuck) of Basking Ridge and Nancy Jean  McBride (Lizzie) of Bernardsville rehearse their parts,

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New Voices 2016 concert at Paper Mill Playhouse

New Voices 2016, THIS Friday (7/29) and Saturday (7/30). 

Don't miss 120 of New Jersey's most talented young people in a fully-staged concert! 

For tickets visit

Matheny Actors, RVCC Theatre Majors to Perform Evening of Inclusive, Original Theatre

For six Raritan Valley Community College students who signed up for a Theatre Production class this summer, the experience is one they may never forget. The RVCC students have been joined in the class by three adults with disabilities from the Matheny Medical and Educational Center in Peapack, rehearsing and learning together weekly at the College’s Branchburg Campus.

The Matheny actors are participating as part of Matheny’s Arts Access Program, a multidisciplinary fine arts program serving people with disabilities. After several weeks of working together, the students’ efforts will be showcased in a theatre performance featuring original work and dance, as well as Writing Workshop, written and directed by RVCC Associate Professor of Theatre Dennis Russo.

The evening of theatre, set for August 10, at 7 p.m., is free of charge and open to the public. It will last approximately one hour and will be staged in the College’s Welpe Theatre.

“We wanted to offer a different kind of performance opportunity for all of the students, creating an inclusive piece of theatre where the Matheny actors are working with the RVCC students on one, ensemble-based play,” says Russo. “The Matheny students will be carrying the action, but they will be supported by the RVCC student actors.”

According to Russo, the Matheny artists’ participation in the RVCC class was initiated when the Center’s staff reached out to the College’s administration last fall in hopes of creating more community-based programs for their clients. The College’s weekly summer Theatre Production class seemed like the perfect opportunity, explains Russo. As a result, this summer three Matheny adults—Cheryl Chapin of Basking Ridge, Natalia Manning of Hillsborough and Chet Cheesman of Franklin—have been rehearsing alongside RVCC Theatre majors Aliyah Arceno and Stephanie Maehr, both of Bridgewater; Vanessa Viscomi of Hillsborough; Natalee Mira of Whitehouse Station; Jhaliyl Stewart of New Brunswick; and Chris Esmerado of Bernards Township.

For the Matheny actors, the class experience fulfills another dream: attending college. By enrolling in the class, “Natalia, Cheryl and Chet are registered students of RVCC. This is a major source of pride for them,” notes Keith Garletts, Arts Access outreach coordinator/program specialist. “Chet has wanted to attend RVCC for about 10 years, so this is very important and exciting for him. Going to college is a given for most people these days—but that’s not the case for a large percentage of people with disabilities. I believe that it is our responsibility to respect and care for the most vulnerable of our citizens, and that includes providing them with the tools to live out a meaningful and productive life. Education is the cornerstone for that fulfillment.”

“None of the Theatre majors had worked with actors like Chet, Cheryl and Natalia before,” says Russo, head of the College’s Theatre program and chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department. “So not only are the RVCC students interacting with the Matheny actors, they’re also creating a piece of art with them. And since it’s theatre, which is a collaborative art, they’re working with each other person-to-person. For the students, it’s been an immersion into a process with people they don’t cross paths with every day. So they’re learning on a more profound level than in a typical class.”

Adds Garletts, “The RVCC Theatre majors will probably start off thinking, ‘We’re doing something good for these people.’ But they may come out of the class feeling: ‘Wow, they did something really good for me.’ I have a very strong suspicion that no matter what these RVCC students are doing 20 years from now, they will remember this Theatre Production course.”

For additional information about the performance of Writing Workshop, contact the Visual and Performing Arts Department, 908-218-8876.

About Arts Access

Matheny’s Arts Access program empowers individuals with disabilities to create art without boundaries. Through the use of innovative systems and techniques, participants can take part in the visual, performing and literary arts. Regardless of their disability, clients are provided with the tools and materials needed to produce complete pieces of work. While freedom of choice is often limited in other areas of their lives, it is encouraged at Arts Access. Clients choose everything from the paint color and brush stroke to a dance or theatrical movement to the written word. The program makes this possible by bringing participants together with professional artist facilitators. The facilitators are working professionals in their area of expertise who have been trained to be the arms and legs of the disabled clients. They consciously maintain a sense of neutrality throughout the creative process. The facilitators provide a process for the client artists to create works that are purely their own.

Arts Access provides clients with a nurturing environment for expression; a chance to interact with other artists; and an opportunity for performance and exhibition. The Arts Access program is a vehicle through which disabled individuals can have their ideas, imagination and creativity come to life.

About RVCC

Raritan Valley Community College’s main campus is located at 118 Lamington Road in Branchburg, NJ. Serving Somerset and Hunterdon County residents for close to 50 years, RVCC is an educational and cultural center that is nationally recognized for its innovative programming, service to the community and environmental leadership. The College offers more than 90 associate degrees and certificates, as well as career training, professional development and personal enrichment courses. The College also has a performing arts center and planetarium.

RVCC is committed to offering a quality and affordable education through effective teaching, liaisons with the community’s businesses and state-of-the-art technology. For further information, visit


Photo 1: Matheny artist Cheryl Chapin leads a group rehearsing during the College’s Theatre Production class.

Photo 2: RVCC Theatre major Stephanie Maehr, left, rehearses with Matheny artist Natalia Manning during the College’s Theatre Production class. 

Photo 3: RVCC Theatre major Jhaliyl Stewart, left, rehearses with Matheny artist Cheryl Chapin.

Photo 4: RVCC Associate Professor of Theatre Dennis Russo, center, rehearses with Matheny artists and RVCC Theatre majors.
Photos by Keith Garletts

Harriett Trangucci in solo reading at Mondo

Every summer DRT presents a series of solo works as readings at MONDO, the cultural gathering place in downtown Summit ( MONDO is located at 426 Springfield Avenue, Summit, NJ 07901.
This is the final in the 4 week series.

Tickets are $20 in advance/ $25 at the door.
To take advantage of the $5 discount, reserve your tickets in advance.
To reserve you can email or call: 917-969-4534

Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Jenny Keeps Talking by Richard Greenberg

In three monologues, one actress plays three women. First we meet Jenny, an established left-wing columnist whose newspaper is in the throes of a takeover. In the second monologue, we meet Jenny's ne'er-do-well sister, Claudia, an Upper West Side bohemian and failed opera singer whose life has been a string of get-rich-quick schemes and disastrous sublets. In the play's last scene, the women's grandmother speaks to us about her secret plans for her granddaughters. The doorbell rings, and all three are about to get together for a bumpy evening of settling their scores.

A touching but wickedly funny one-woman show about the feud between two widely different sisters and the grandmother who has to reconcile them in the end....a minimalist Sisters Rosensweig...vintage Greenberg." -NY Newsday

Featuring: Harriett Trangucci

Season Passes available now for the upcoming 2016-2017 Dreamcatcher Repertory Season.
Visit our website for more.
     Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre

Oakes Center  *  120 Morris Avenue  *  Summit, NJ 07901

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ezra Barnes directing The Merchant of Venice: free outdoor performance in Manhattan

MOV Promo Shot
The Merchant of Venice, directed by Ezra Barnes with (left to right) Jane Bradley, David Marantz and James Davies (photo by Jonathan Slaff)
Please join us for the Shakespeare in the Parking Lot production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, July 28-August 13. I am proud to be the director of the show.
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is perhaps the second most iconic setting for summer Shakespeare in New York. No frills production values strip the plays to their essence, confirming William Shakespeare's enduring relevance. The parking lot serves as a reminder of the city we are in with all its variable dynamics.
In this setting, we explore one of Shakespeare's most complex plays. Shakespeare's Venice is a city where survival is paramount, the distinction is sharply drawn between residents and "aliens," and the right to justice is not a given. The conflict between Shylock and Antonio, in which Portia becomes ensnared, is at the core of Shakespeare's portrait of flawed individuals torn by conflicting desires for revenge and mercy.
The Drilling Company, led by Hamilton Clancy, presents Shakespeare in the Parking Lot every summer, and the artists, onstage and off, are enterprising, resourceful and creative. You will have a memorable evening at the theater!
Barnes Ezra 0081 xret
photo by Andrew Brucker
▪ The Parking Lot is located at 114 Norfolk Street, between Rivington and Delancey Streets.
▪ Shows are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and admission is FREE.
▪ Seats are available on a first come first served basis, with audience members often arriving early to secure a place. You are welcome to bring your own chair. Once seats are gone, blankets are spread out.
▪ We've never turned anyone away and there's never a wait for tickets.
▪ Subways: F to Delancey Street, M to Essex Street.

I hope to see you at THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.