Friday, October 6, 2017

Luna Stage opens 25th Season


Luna Stage 25th Season Opens Nov 2 with Paradise, a play by Laura Maria Censabella

Luna Stage opens its 25th season on November 2 with a production of Paradise by Laura Maria Censabella, a co-production with Passage Theatre in Trenton. The season will include the world premiere of Razorhurst, a musical commissioned by Luna, with book and lyrics by Kate Mulley and music by Andy Peterson. The season will conclude with Craig Alan Edward’s play The Man in Room 306, a piece that premiered at Luna in 1995 and was restaged in 2010 before transferring Off-Broadway. These productions represent the culmination of 25 years of work for Luna, which was founded by Jane Mandel in 1992 in a small space in Montclair and evolved into its present home as an anchor arts-producing organization the Valley Arts District in West Orange/Orange led by Cheryl Katz.

The mission of Luna Stage is to develop and produce thought-provoking theatre that gives voice to emerging American playwrights and new life to contemporary and classic plays that speak to our times. As producer, educator and innovator, Luna Stage is committed to collaborating with artists of multiple disciplines and partnering with our community to illuminate the diverse perspectives of our society.

Over the course of its history, Luna Stage has contributed to the development of over 50 new works for the stage. Our world premieres have gone on to be produced in New York and across the country earning the theatre a reputation for artistic excellence. Over the years Luna has won many distinctions such as being named on’s 10 best productions in both 2015 and 2016. It was honored by the New Jersey Theatre Alliance 2015 Curtain Call, and by the 2015 International Centre for Women Playwrights. [attached list of Luna world premieres, and awards - will be done later today]. But Luna does more than produce plays. It offers classes for children and adults and our developmental programs for early career artists inspire our community members to nurture their own creativity and vision.

Paradise by Laura Maria Censabella, a co-production with Passage Theatre, is directed by Kel Haney, an NYC-based director focused on new plays, but with many NYC and regional credits. The cast features Lily Balsen, who tours nationally with a solo adaptation of The Secret Life of Bees, and Grant Shaud, a Broadway and Off-Broadway veteran best known for his regular role as Miles on the TV series Murphy Brown.

Performances begin Thursday, November 2 and run through November 19. For complete performance information go to the website: or call 973-395-5551. For tickets to Paradise click here.

About the Play

Paradise premiered at Underground Railway/Central Square Theater in spring 2017 and was initially commissioned by Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It will also be produced by Gulfshore Playhouse later this fall.

Paradise is about two outsiders - a gifted Yemeni-American teenager and her disillusioned biology teacher - who form an unlikely scientific partnership in the hope of securing her a scholarship. But when conflicts arise over religion, science, and the boundaries of mentorship, their capacity to alter the course of each other's lives becomes greater than either had imagined.

Production Information

The Playwright

Laura Maria Censabella Paradise premiered at Underground Railway/Central Square Theater in spring 2017 and was initially commissioned by Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It will also be produced by Gulfshore Playhouse later this fall. Laura's full-length play Carla Cooks The War won the $10,000 William Saroyan Human Rights/Social Justice Drama Award for 2015. Other plays have been developed/produced at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, Philadelphia Festival Theatre for New Plays, the Women's Project and Productions, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Portland Stage Company, The New Harmony Project, The Working Theatre, and Urban Stages Outreach, among others. She has won three writing grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts; two in Playwriting for Abandoned in Queens (published in The Best Short Plays 2012-13) and Carla Cooks The War (published online by Connotation Press), and the Geri Ashur Award in Screenwriting for Truly Mary. Truly Mary was subsequently developed at The New Harmony Project with director Angelo Pizzo and producer Michael London. For two years she wrote for daytime serial television, winning two Emmy Awards, and her short film Last Call is available on Netflix (Best Short Drama Prize at the Breckenridge Film Festival). She received a B.A. in Philosophy from Yale University with a concentration in Theater Studies, and is part-time Assistant Professor in Playwriting at the New School for Drama where she won the Distinguished University-Wide

Cast Bios

LILY BALSEN: tours nationally in a solo adaptation of 'The Secret Life of Bees,' staged by master director Wynn Handman. NYC theatre credits include A Good Muslim and Kandahar to Canada (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Pentecost and Therese Raquin (Atlantic Stage 2/PTP), and Comedy of Sorrows (HERE Arts). Regional credits include Barrington Stage (MA), Theatre J (Washington, D.C.), Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), Olney Theatre (MD) and Walking the Dog Theatre (NY). She also records audio narration for children's books, and enjoys writing and performing original sketch comedy. She attended Middlebury College

Grant-ShaudGRANT SHAUD: Broadway: Relatively Speaking (three plays by Woody Allen, Elaine May, and Ethan Coen), Torch Song Trilogy (Harvey Fierstein). Off-Broadway: Writer's Block (Woody Allen), Atlantic Theater Co.; The Starry Messenger (Kenneth Lonergan), The New Group; Four Dogs and a Bone (John Patrick Shanley), Manhattan Theatre Club; After Ashley (Gina Gionfriddo),Vineyard Theatre, and others. Regional: Out of the City (Leslie Ayvazian), Passage Theatre, Trenton, NJ; Laughing Wild (Christopher Durang), Los Angeles; Out, Philadelphia Theater Co. Film: "Wall Street," "The Distinguished Gentleman," and others. Television: Series regular on "Murphy Brown," "Oliver Beene," and "Madigan Men" (with Gabriel Byrne), and various guest spots, most recently "Odd Mom Out" and "Younger." Grant is a member of The Ensemble Studio Theatre (NYC).

Kel Haney is a NYC-based director who focuses on new work. Recent directing credits include: Chris Cragin-Day's FOSTER MOM, Quiara Alegria Hudes's WATER BY THE SPOONFUL, and Deborah Brevoort's MY LORD, WHAT A NIGHT (Premiere Stages); Neil LaBute's THE WAY WE GET BY (American Theater Group - regional premiere); Chris Cragin-Day's A WOMAN, Neil LaBute's WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS, and Vickie Ramirez's GLENBURN 12WP (59E59); Gardiner Comfort's YOU'RE NOT TOUGH (HERE, Dixon Place); Jonathan Caren's THE RECOMMENDATION (The Flea). She has directed/developed new work with Abingdon Theatre Company, The Amoralists, Ars Nova, Atlantic Theater Company, Cherry Lane, Keen Company, Labyrinth, The Lark, Manhattan Theatre Club, Ma-Yi, Naked Angels, New Dramatists, New Georges, Partial Comfort, Playwrights Realm, Rattlestick, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, Westport Country Playhouse, & Williamstown. Also: MTC Directing Fellow, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Mabou Mines Residency, Old Vic/New Voices Exchange and a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre. Ms. Haney also directed the critically acclaimed short films, I AM THEM and STAY CLOSE. Upcoming: Haney/Comfort's THE ELEPHANT IN EVERY ROOM I ENTER (New York Theatre Workshop's Next Door at NYTW).

Luna Staff Bios

Cheryl Katz Artistic Director (photo below)

Cheryl Katz has been with Luna Stage since 2003. She served as Director of Play Development for eight years before becoming Associate Artistic Director in 2011. She was appointed Artistic Director in 2013. During her time at Luna, she has contributed to the development of over fifty new works for the stage and has directed the world premieres of Tranquil by Andrew Rosendorf, The High Water Mark and King of the Mountains by Ben Clawson, Carnaval by Nikkole Salter, Mercy and The Firefly by Amy Hartman, The Fastest Woman Alive by Karen Sunde, the NJ professional premiere of Thrill Me by Stephen Dolginoff, and all three Luna productions of The Man In Room 306 by Craig Alan Edwards (1995 and 2008 in New Jersey, 2010 in New York). Prior to her position at Luna, Cheryl developed and directed new plays in the New York area and worked as a producer, administrator and special projects manager for LaMama E.T.C., Under One Roof, Electronic Arts Intermix, Arts International and The School of Hard Knocks. She has worked in script development for The Young Playwrights Festival, The O'Neill Theatre Conference and The Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey and is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Jane Mandel and Cheryl KatzJane Mandel  Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus (photo with Cheryl Katz)

Jane Mandel (Director/Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus) holds an MFA from New York University School of the Arts and has had a career in the theatre as actress, director, teacher and producer. She is the founder of the non-profit theatre company, Luna Stage, and served as Artistic Director for over twenty years (now AD Emeritus). With her guidance Luna Stage earned a reputation for producing excellent, intelligent and provocative theatre. Scores of new and classic plays were brought to audiences through readings and full productions. One of her passions is for creating devised theatre. She created and directed In The Name of The Woman (the first show done at Luna Stage), and "we don't have enough sugar for the public" (an exploration of racism), created and co-directed The American Project (an exploration of what it means to be an American), and co-created and directed Mi Casa Tu Casa (a bilingual Latino- based play with music that has been touring in New Jersey.) Other directing credits include: Reckless by Craig Lucas, Rosa Loses Her Face by Kitty Chen, Burying Fiona, Rapture and Little Beasts by Jeanne Marshall, The Queen of Thebes and Friends and Relations by Arnold Rabin, Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen, The Other Side of Newark by Enid Rudd, Fair and Decent by Thomas Diggs, and Vita and Virginia adapted by Eileen Atkins. As Artistic Director she oversaw the productions of Death of a Salesman, Macbeth, The Whipping Man, The Dangers of Electric Lighting, The Old Settler and A Moon for the Misbegotten to name a few. She taught theatre games and improvisation/acting at NYU School of the Arts where she was a full time faculty member, The New School, The Whole Theatre, Montclair State University, The Teaching Artist's Collective, and Luna Stage. She was a member of The Shaliko Theatre Company and acted in The Measures Taken, Ghosts and Woyzeck while in residence at The New York Shakespeare Festival and on tour. Jane currently directs, acts and coaches acting. You many contact her at

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