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Friday, October 14, 2016

Kean Theatre Conservatory Opens 2016-2017 Season

UNION, N.J. – The Kean Theatre Conservatory will open its 2016-2017 season this week with Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train by Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis (October 14 – 22, Zella Fry Theatre). 

An Olivier nominee for Best New Play, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train premiered Off-Broadway at Labyrinth Theater Company in 2000 under the direction of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Praised by The New York Times as a “probing, intense portrait of lives behind bars,” Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train chronicles the story of Angel Cruz, who has recently been moved into maximum security at Rikers Island. While in protective custody he meets Lucius Jenkins, a sociopathic serial killer awaiting extradition to the state of Florida for execution. Linked by fate and facing an unpredictable outcome, Angel and Lucius tangle over questions of innocence and guilt, crime and punishment, and individual moral accountability.

“I chose Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train because of the playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis,” stated director Ernest W. Wiggins, an associate professor at Kean. “I’m excited by his use of dialogue, the way in which his characters talk to one another. He also lets us into the inner thinking of his characters. This play allows us to experience an intense situation, which deals with imprisonment, the nature of punishment, the duplicity and complication of religion, and individual responsibility. I hope the students [working on the production] will come to trust themselves and each other more and to take risks. I want the students to ultimately learn how to respect the power of words.”

In November, the Conservatory will present the family-friendly Seussical (November 11 – 19, Wilkins Theatre-
Rehearsal photo above), a fantastical musical extravaganza by Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime). 

Based on the beloved children’s books of Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss), Seussical features a number of iconic characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Lazy Mayzie, and The Whos. The production will be directed by longtime professor Holly Logue, with choreography by Michele Mossay, coordinator of Kean’s dance minor program. In a Conservatory first, the title was not selected by faculty members.

“This year, for the first time since I've been at the University, which is 32 years, we decided to suggest titles of musicals and allow the student body in the theatre program to vote,” said Ms. Logue. “There were four musicals [under consideration] and we provided descriptions of characters and an overall plot summary and asked the theatre majors to consider several things. First, we wanted them to think about what the learning opportunities were inherent within each of the four titles. We also wanted them to think about how the musical would fit into the overall season. Last, we wanted the students to think about the resources available within the department. It's important for them to understand what might be required to produce certain kinds of theatrical pieces. Could we do it? Voting took place, and though each of the four titles garnered several votes, Seussical received more than double the votes of any of the others.”

“Rehearsing a musical is multifaceted,” Ms. Logue continued. “We hope that the students will learn how to combine the elements of music, dance, and acting in a way that allows them to be creative and imaginative as they invest in the characters that they will create, who were inspired by the books of Dr. Seuss.”

The Conservatory will begin its spring semester with Orlando (February 19 - 27, 2017 in the Zella Fry Theatre), Sarah Ruhl’s celebrated adaptation of Virgina Woolf’s enigmatic novel, Orlando: A Biography, directed by E. Teresa Choate and Anna DeMers. Late in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I falls in love with the beauty of Orlando, a lovely boy of sixteen. He, in turn, falls passionately in love with an aristocratic Russian girl who appears to be a handsome boy. But love is fleeting, especially so as Orlando never ages and never dies. To complicate matters, romantic and otherwise, one fine morning in 17th century Constantinople, Orlando awakes to discover that he has become a she and must now adjust to living life as a woman.

The Conservatory season concludes with An Alternate Approach: An Experiment in Perspective (March 31 - April 8, 2017 in Vaughn Eames Hall), coordinated by associate professor Karen Lee Hart. In this highly anticipated site-specific performance, teams of student performers, designers, choreographers, and directors will approach one theme from multiple points of view. Audiences will begin in the Zella Fry Theatre, following the actors to “a location and an ending unknown.”

Standard tickets to all Theatre Conservatory performances are $15, with $12 tickets available for Kean faculty, staff, and alumni, and $10 tickets available for students. To purchase tickets or request a season brochure, please call the Kean Stage box office at 908-737-SHOW (7469), email, or visit

Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre, Kean University's Theatre Conservatory mirrors the university's mission to provide a core educational foundation based on the liberal arts. Our curricula are designed to educate theatre students to enter the realm of professional theatre, theatre education or advanced graduate studies. For more information, please call (908) 737-4420, email, or visit

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