Emma Stanton Announced as a Premiere Stages at Kean University 2018 Finalist

(UNION, NJ) — Premiere Stages, the professional theatre company in residence at Kean University, has selected its four finalists for the 2018 Premiere Play Festival and will increase its cash awards for honored playwrights by one-third, the theatre announced. Premiere Stages received a record 572 submissions for the festival, an annual competition for unproduced scripts that offers developmental opportunities to playwrights with strong affiliations to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.  The 572 submissions marked a 43% jump from 2017, and represented playwrights of all backgrounds and ages. For the first time in the festival’s 14-year history, three of the four finalist scripts selected were requested from synopses submitted by playwrights.

“We are very excited to be developing an eclectic and topical mix of plays as part of the 2018 Play Festival,” stated John J. Wooten, producing artistic director of Premiere Stages. “Interest from playwrights and audiences in the Festival has grown substantially in the past few seasons and we are pleased to feature some impressive writers whose dramatic voices are just starting to emerge.”

No Candy by Emma Stanton, a former recipient of the Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship and resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists.  Sunday, March 18 at 3:00pm – No Candy by Emma Stanton – A multi-generational community of Bosnian Muslim women copes, both privately and publicly, with the trauma they experienced during the war. Set in a gift shop near the Srebrenica massacre memorial, the play follows how each woman seeks redemption: one dreams of Julie Andrews, one sings grunge music at karaoke bars, one dresses drag in her father’s clothes. No Candy provides a thought-provoking exploration of the persistence of humor, art, and absurdity in an unimaginable time.

All finalists will receive professional readings as part of Premiere’s 14th annual Spring Reading Series (March 15-18), directed by Mr. Wooten and Jessi D. Hill, Literary Team Chair for Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, and will be considered for expanded development in Premiere’s mainstage season. One of the four plays will be selected for an Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) 29-Hour Reading in June, and the most promising play will be awarded a full AEA production as part of Premiere’s 2018 season. All finalists receive cash awards ranging from $750 to $2,500.

Read more about the nominations here.

School Shooting Brings Lessons of ‘Mockingbird’ into Sharp Focus

On the first day of rehearsals for its upcoming production of “Mockingbird,” Nashville Children’s Theatre Executive Artistic Director Ernie Nolan spoke to the cast and crew about the play’s themes of understanding and healing in the wake of school violence. But there’s no way he could have known just how timely that conversation would be, in light of the recent shooting that took place in Parkland, Fla.

“Usually, we tell stories that are very ‘Once upon a time,’” Nolan says. “But ‘Mockingbird’ is so current, so of the moment. It’s shocking to think that we are literally responding to what is happening in our schools right now.”

"Mockingbird With Red Beak" is one of the drawings
“Mockingbird With Red Beak” is one of the drawings by local artist Sarah E. Vaughn featured in “Mockingbird” at Nashville Children’s Theatre. (Photo: Sarah E. Vaughn )

Based on the award-winning book by Kathryn Erskine and adapted for the stage by Julie Jensen, “Mockingbird” centers on Caitlin, an 11-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome, who must navigate the complicated emotions surrounding grief and loss when her older brother is killed in a school shooting.

“For me, this show is really about empathy. It’s about a community responding to violence. But because of the specific difficulties facing our main character, she is quite literally discovering what it means to have empathy. She’s dealing with her own feelings, while trying to understand her father and everyone else searching for closure. It’s such a beautiful story, and I think it really offers an important springboard for conversation for both children and parents.”

Nolan has enlisted a pair of Broadway designers to bring “Mockingbird” to life, including scenic designer Court Watson (“Guys & Dolls,” “The Coast of Utopia,” “Grease!,” “Little Women,” “High Fidelity”) and sound designer Joanna Lynne Staub (“Angels in America,” “The Color Purple,” “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time”).

“It’s been so exciting to work with these amazing artists. We’re really thrilled to have Court and Joanna on board, along with the rest of our incredible cast and design team.”

 

Read the full article from the Tennessean here.

‘It’s Not Just History’: An Atelier Course Explores Princeton’s Slavery Ties in Song

In the fall semester, alumni Peter Mills ’95 and Cara Reichel ’96 of Prospect Theater Company taught a Princeton Atelier seminar in which undergraduates created original musical theater works inspired by the work of the Princeton & Slavery Project. (Readings of a one-act musical drawn from their compositions will be presented at Nassau Hall Jan. 13.) In this audio feature, PAW intern Douglas Corzine ’20, a student in the course, takes us inside the challenges of telling these compelling stories in musical form.

Former slave James Collins Johnson, left, pictured on campus circa 1890, is the subject of one of the atelier songs.
Princeton University Archives

Listen to the full transcript from Princeton Alumni Weekly here.

‘Draw the Circle’ Puts a Surprising Frame on a Transgender Story

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen in “Draw the Circle.” (Stan Barouh)

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen has a good story to tell in “Draw the Circle,” and a fresh way to tell it. It’s an autobiographical solo show about gender transition in which he plays his parents, his classmates, his doctors and his girlfriend – everyone but himself.

By the end he’s fully there, along with projected statistics about the rising U.S. murder rate of transgender people. This activist theater is molded from the raw material of being born to traditional Muslim Indian immigrants to the United States and assigned female; before the show starts, we see a photo of Deen as a young girl.

This 80-minute piece is running in rep at the Atlas Performing Arts Center with another hot-button solo act, Dan Hoyle’s “The Real Americans” – a survey of strangers Hoyle met during fact-finding road trips through the heartland. Hoyle may be a slightly more limber mimic than Deen, but Deen’s tale unspools more naturally.

Deen’s problem for years was feeling invisible (and worse), which is how we experience him as he takes on the voices of the people who give us his history of gender transition. Dressed in jeans and a blue T-shirt, he chronicles, with surprising empathy, not just what it was like to slowly, painfully come to terms with transition, but what it was like for loved ones who shunned everything about it. The father’s a card able to tell jokes, but the mother is sheer distress and shame. She frets about what the relatives back in India will think and laments the daughter – Shireen was Deen’s name, we are told – she feels she has lost.

Looking out, looking in: Mashuq Mushtaq Deen in “Draw the Circle.” (Stan Barouh)

Viewpoints come from a wide-eyed niece and, perhaps most poignantly, from Molly, who fell in love with Shireen and was then challenged by Shireen’s evolution to Deen. The names of each character are helpfully projected on the back wall; Deen does good work switching vocal patterns and postures, but he’s more compassionate than chameleonic in his characterizations.

Director Chay Yew – a playwright himself, and artistic director of Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater – keeps the lean performance percolating briskly. It’s all about the information: the stage is a bare white square floor furnished with only a plain white chair. There is nothing else but the names on the screen, and the narrative.

Trans playwrights are still emerging, which puts Deen’s show in the vanguard here (and let’s credit Mosaic Theater for boldly expanding its repertoire all the time). The story’s framework is simple yet striking, and more than a novelty: it’s an apt, big-hearted way to puzzle together many pieces of Deen’s journey. “Draw the Circle” does not sugarcoat his despair or incidents of violence, yet it rather amazingly reaches back to retrieve people who easily could have been cut out for life. The wrathful moment confronting us with the ongoing violence against trans people does not define the tone of this personable, entirely approachable show. Inarguably, though, it’s that flicker of wrath that gives the piece its purpose.

Draw the Circle , written and performed by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. Directed by Chay Yew. Lights, Mary Louise Geiger and E-Hui Woo; set, Chay Yew; sound design, Matthew M. Nielson. Through Dec. 24 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets $35-$65. Call 202-399-7993 or visit mosaictheater.org.

 

Review by Nelson Pressley for The Washington Post.