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Premiere Stages at Kean University Announces 2015 Season

originally published: 04/24/2015

Premiere Stages at Kean University Announces 2015 Season(UNION, NJ) -- Premiere Stages will celebrate its 11th Anniversary as Kean University’s professional Equity theatre with a dynamic lineup of events, featuring a season of topical plays that focus on people of the region, both past and present. Enhanced by award-winning premieres, engaging musical presentations for young audiences, captivating summer camps for middle-school and high-school students, and collaborations with like-minded organizations both on and off campus, the 2015 season promises to be the most successful to date.  In describing the season, John J. Wooten, Premiere Stages’ producing artistic director, stated, “The power of the human spirit takes center stage at Premiere as we celebrate those who refuse to be beaten by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, as well as those centuries before in Seneca Village who fought to keep what was rightfully theirs. The season typifies Premiere’s unique commitment to presenting ground-breaking and socially relevant work, while partnering with the community to raise awareness about issues of social change that profoundly impact and empower the local community.” 

Premiere’s scintillating 2015 season features the Off-Broadway hit By the Water by Sharyn Rothstein (July 16 – August 2; Zella Fry Theatre, Vaughn Eames Hall), directed by Adam Immerwahr. In Ms. Rothstein’s moving new play, Hurricane Sandy wields its force upon the home of Marty and Mary Murphy, threatening to destroy not only the life they have built together but the neighborhood they grew up in. Will Marty manage to save his neighborhood and his home, or are the secrets unearthed by the storm too powerful to overcome? Premiere Stages is proud to present the New Jersey Premiere of this gripping and affecting play, described by The New York Times as "drawn with acute sympathy and in gritty detail.” 

Premiere Stages will partner with Kean University Galleries ( to present By the Block (July 16 – September 14; James Howe Gallery, Vaughn Eames Hall), an exhibition of salvaged wood quilts by Asbury Park artist Laura Petrovich-Cheney (, in conjunction with the production. Admission to the gallery is free, and patrons attending By the Water are encouraged to arrive early for their scheduled performance in order to view the quilts, which are constructed from wood scraps collected after Hurricane Sandy. 

“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to coastal communities in fall 2012 was evident in the wooden debris that littered the affected communities in its wake,” writes Ms. Petrovich-Cheney in an artist statement accompanying the exhibit. “Floorboards, pieces of cabinets, and window frames were often all that remained of homes torn apart by the storm’s ferocity. It was after the storm that I began collecting the castaway wooden debris - remnants evocative of life before the storm. Inspired by the geometry of American quilts whose simplicity belies their conceptual underpinnings, I piece together this salvaged wood into something meaningful and orderly.” 

Premiere’s blockbuster season continues with the winner of the 2015 Premiere Stages Play Festival, The People Before the Park by Keith Josef Adkins (September 3 – 20; Zella Fry Theatre, Vaughn Eames Hall), directed by Premiere’s producing artistic director, John J. Wooten. In 1857, a hard-working man and his son live in a respectful African-American community in New York City called Seneca Village. However, when the City decides to remove the community from their homes to create the world-renowned Central Park, their solitude and safe haven are threatened. The People Before the Park was selected from over 400 submissions as the winner of this year’s Play Festival, Premiere’s annual competition for unproduced scripts by playwrights born or residing in the greater metropolitan area. 

Premiere’s 11th season also features a free staged reading of Kate Cortesi’s Great Kills (June 19 – 21; Murphy Dunn Theatre, Vaughn Eames Hall), directed by Kel Haney. 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? Great Kills, recently named this year’s Runner-Up in the Premiere Stages Play Festival, was one of four finalists featured in Premiere’s popular Spring Reading Series in March, and returns for expanded development. 

Premiere’s 2015 season concludes with a free staged reading of the 2015/2016 Liberty Live Commission (November 13 – 15; Little Theatre, Kean University Center). Liberty Live is a unique partnership between Premiere Stages and the Liberty Hall Museum that celebrates New Jersey history with professional theatrical productions, museum tours, interactive displays, workshops for children, and talk-backs with local historians. On a biannual basis, Premiere Stages commissions a playwright native to or currently residing in New Jersey to create a new play that specifically explores an event or events of historical significance that celebrate the state’s rich and diverse history. Past commissions have explored events in the communities of Westfield and Elizabeth and include Talking to Westfield by E. M. Lewis and At Liberty Hall by James Christy. 

Tickets to Premiere’s 2015 Season range from $15 - $30, with deep discounts available for season packages, groups, seniors, and students; admission to Great Kills and Liberty Live is free. Premiere Stages also offers a series of free interactive post-show discussions, known as “talk-backs,” after select matinee performances. To purchase tickets or inquire about season packages, please call 908-737-SHOW (7469) or visit If you’d like more information on Premiere’s season programming or talk-back schedule and speakers, please call Premiere’s administrative offices at 908-737-4092 or email

In addition to its Main Stage season, Premiere Stages will again collaborate with other professional theatres in the area to present dynamic theatre programming exclusively for young audiences, with performances open to the public as well as school and camp groups. For more information, please contact Heather Kelley, director of audience services, at 908-737-4077 or Premiere’s 2015 Play Factory Performance Series will include:

  • Page Turner Adventures' Steam Trunk Circus (July 15 at 10:30 a.m.; Wilkins Theatre), a Theatreworks USA presentation. A steamer trunk, a mysterious book, and a hat belonging to Harry Houdini are brought to life in a show that's filled with fantastic physical feats! Ideal way to introduce elements from the STEAM curriculum to students. Recommended for grades 2 - 5.

  • Pushcart Players’ Alice in Wonderland (July 29 at 10:30 a.m.; Wilkins Theatre). Filled with Lewis Carroll's pure nonsense and madcap characters, this intriguing tale about a curious and proactive young girl has enchanted readers for many generations. Alice goes on an enchanted journey of self-discovery with challenges, choices and happy conclusions. A meaningful story for anyone who has ever been on the daring adventure of growing up! Recommended for ages 3 - 9.

  • Yates Musical Theatre's Rumplestiltskin (August 5 at 10:30 a.m.; Wilkins Theatre). Rumplestiltskin is the lively tale of the funny little man who spins straw into gold to gain the first born child of the King and Queen. This delightful musical includes singing, dancing, comedy, and fun for all. Rumplestiltskin is a magical feast for eyes and ears with little lessons along the way - about bragging, about making promises that we don't expect to keep, and about what can happen when one person sets out to exploit the desperate situation of another. Recommended for ages 3 - 9.

Premiere Stages is also accepting applications from middle and high school students for Camp Premiere, its innovative summer program for young aspiring theatre artists. Session I is a performance and playwriting camp for students entering grades 5 - 8 (July 20 - 31), and Session II is an acting camp for grades 9 - 12 (July 27 – August 7). Camp Premiere is dedicated to fostering a creative and nurturing environment for young theatre artists of all experience levels, and both sessions will culminate in a public showcase performance. Tuition is $295, and limited scholarships are available; preference is given to Union County residents. For more information, please contact Christine Whalen at 908-737-4092 or   

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, 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, The New Jersey Historical Commission,  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: Playwright Keith Josef Adkins, Winner of the 2015 Premiere Stages Play Festival for The People Before the Park, running September 3 - 20 at Premiere Stages. Photo courtesy of Keith Josef Adkins.


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