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JCTC Invites Audiences to Explore Origins

originally published: 10/22/2015

JCTC Invites Audiences to Explore Origins(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- How do our Origins influence our lives? Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) explores that question in a series of art events that begins October 29th and runs through December 3rd.

The Origins series features community dialogue, theater, film, interactive workshops, multimedia presentations, readings and visual arts. JCTC selects topics that are global in scope yet relevant to the community, then through a multitude of different voices and art forms, examines the theme from various points of view. Origins takes place in Merseles Studios, 339 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, which features  professional artist studios, art gallery and black box theater.

 Origins — made possible in part with a grant from the New Jersey Council of the Humanities (NJCH) — has two objectives: looking at how our roots form both our identities and our communities; and finding out more about the different cultural backgrounds represented in our society.

“The topic of Origins speaks directly to American society,” said Olga Levina, Artistic Director,  JCTC. “Once the word got around that Origins was our next theme, the outpouring from artists  and the community was overwhelming. That response was really a confirmation that Origins is a topic that many people care about.”

Jersey City, which earlier this year was declared “The most diverse city in the United States” by the financial website,, is a fitting setting for the Origins series. “With issues of race and immigration dominating current headlines and political debates, a deeper understanding of the meaning of Origins is more crucial than ever,” said Levina. “When you find out more about your own origins, you also realize a  core set of values is shared by different cultures. Today, there are more people from different backgrounds living side by side and the best way to encourage tolerance is to instill an appreciation of different origins.”

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October 29: 6:00pm-10:00pm

Origins Art Show: JCTC Gallery Opening & Reception; panel discussion with gallery artists and previews of upcoming events in Origins Series (free & open to the public)

November 6: 7:30pm-10:00pm

Before Me & After My Time: Multi-Media lecture & discussion on the Ramapough Lenape, New Jersey’s indigenous peoples, featuring Italian artist, Angelo Bellobono, Ramapough Lenape artist Jack Crying Raven and Chief Anderson Dwaine Perry, human rights and environmentalist activist. ($5 suggested donation)

November 7: 7:30pm-10:00pm

Through your Breath to your Roots: Interactive Workshop with international Artist Ekaterina Abramova, who uses symbols, images and breathing exercises to take the audience on journey of understanding how our roots influence our everyday lives. ($5 suggested donation)

November 12: 7:30pm-10:00pm

JCTC – Conversations: Readings on “American Origins” with Talk-Back moderated by Michael Aaron Rockland, Rutgers American Studies professor ($5 suggested donation)

November 13 & 14: 7:30pm-10:00pm

JCTC ArtLab: Origins, a revised theater piece performed by The Barn Collective, which was developed through the JCTC ArtLab theater residency program. (Tickets $15 online, $18 at door)

November 18: 7:30pm-10:00pm

JCTC New Play Reading: The Showman and The Spirit, a play about stereotypes, McCarthyism and race in 20th century America by Elizabeth Karlin, followed by Talk-Back featuring playwright and actors.

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November 19: 7:30pm- 10:00pm

JCTC Books: Readings & Signings – an evening with two local authors whose books depict two very different perspectives on Origins & Race – Debra Devi/Language of the Blues and Joe Monteperto/ The Edge of Whiteness (free & open to the public)

November 20: 7:30pm-10:00pm

JCTC Films: Screening of Young Lakota, an award winning documentary about 20-somethings on the Pine Ridge reservation, followed by Talk-Back with the filmmakers, Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt (tickets $10 online/$12 at door)

December 3: 6:00pm-10:00pm

Origins Art Show: JCTC Gallery Closing (free & open to the public)

Origins Art Show

Origins Art Show at the art gallery in Merseles Studios launches the Origins series.

The Origins Art Show is curated by Lucy Rovetto, a professional artist who lived abroad for many years. Although  a Jersey City native and New Jersey City University graduate, her experience spans working at the Jersey City Museum/Permanent Collection in the early 1990s to spending much of 21st century living in South Africa, making a living as an Artist Assistant at the Anton Smit Sculpture Park. Rovetto has been a Merseles Studios Resident Artist since 2014, when the space first opened.

“What intrigued me about Origins is that finding out about your roots is like going into a cave and finding treasure,” said  Rovetto. “For me, discovery is the essence of what art and being an artist is all about. With Origins, I didn’t know what I was looking for. The artists and their work told me what I was looking for.”

Origins Art Show artists include: Beth Achenbach, Dallas Athent, Carlos Bautista, Angelo Bellobono, Kathy Cantwell, Jerome China, Kevin Durkin, Jennifer Fanning, Luisa Henao, Jenna Lach, Susan Lettieri, Winifred Mcneil, Brandon Moon, Sruti Nair, Alex Pergamant, and Joan Sonnenfeld.

Through your Breath to your Roots

Through Breath To Our Origins by internationally renowned multi-media artist, Ekaterina Abramova is an interactive workshop that uses arts, dialogue, and exercises that delve deep into the world of symbols and images to find out how our roots influence our everyday lives. Abramova uses her experience as an artist, mother, and human being, along with her philosophy

 Abramova specializes in painting and graphic arts, whose styled is described a combing 21st century Post-Expressionism with Spiritual Ornamental paintings based on symbolic folk art of various peoples, most notably on Russian and Indian mythology. This award-winning artist, most recently awarded an International Artist Residency in Hyderabad, India, was in 2015 awarded a 3-month International Artist Residency, curated by Eileen Kaminsky Foundation at Mana Contemporary Art Complex in Jersey City.

Before Me & After My Time

Before Me & After My Time a collaborative project between Italian artist Angelo Bellobono and members of the Native Americans Ramapough Lenape that explore the past and present of the indigenous peoples of Manhattan, New Jersey (and yes Jersey City), and the Appalachians. This multi-media project features visual arts, projections, videos and conversation that both document and communicate the culture and history of the “Leni Lenape.” Bellobono’s collaborators include: Ramapough Lenape artist Jack Crying Raven Anderson and Dwaine Perry, a human rights and environmentalist activist and Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation.

JCTC – Conversations

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JCTC-Conversations features a selection of literary texts on the theme of American Origins read by professional actors, followed by a lecture and Talk-Back by Michael Aaron Rockland, Rutgers American Studies professor. Rockland is a world-renowned Humanities Scholar and was recommended by the NJCH to consult with this JCTC project, and Rockland whose early career was in the U.S. diplomatic service, during which he was a cultural attaché in both Argentina and Spain, is the author of 14 books, five of which have received special recognition and prizes. Rockland has won seven major teaching/lecturing awards, including the National Teaching Award in American Studies, has lectured in 23 countries, is a regular contributor to New Jersey Monthly magazine and has worked in television and film production, mostly for PBS. He is regularly interviewed on NPR.

“I think it's great that the JCTC has dedicated itself to the theme of "Origins," for all Americans come from somewhere else, we are the United Nations in miniature, because, unlike any nation in the history of the world, we are made up of people who have different origins, who came from elsewhere,” said Rockland.


Origins, a revised theater piece performed by The Barn Collective, was developed through the JCTC ArtLab theater residency program. The Barn Collective is a group of young theater professionals – Natalia Lopresti, Colleen Hughes, Drew Weinstein, and Emily Caffery – who met at the theater training program at The National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. They formed the Barn Collective to develop theater works that ask thought-provoking questions about society. From its earliest stages, the collaboration focused on Origins “because it was really important to us to ask questions about customs and beliefs we have,” said Weinstein. “We can’t move forward as a society or as individuals without examining our roots.”

Through the social media grapevine and networking with other theater professionals,  Barn Collective heard about JCTC and their ArtLab program and submitted a proposal. “For a company like us, ArtLab has been a huge gift, because biggest challenges are time, space and money and having ArtLab in terms of space is a huge help,” said Weinstein.

The Barn Collective met weekly during off hours at Merseles Studios, rehearsing and rewriting during an intensive, 5-month collaborative process. The final play is a post-modernist drama about a woman whose life depends on finding out her true origins and during her investigation, she  encounters characters with very different ideas about their own roots. Origins probes issues of familial relations, social conformity, mythology and history using elements of surrealism, absurdist comedy and drama. “Origins takes an honest and direct approach in asking important questions,” said Weinstein. “Origins is about finding emotional truth in our lives.”

JCTC New Play Reading

 The Showman and The Spirit, a play about stereotypes, McCarthyism and race in 20th century America by Elizabeth Karlin, an award-winning, emerging playwright.

Karlin’s  play was inspired by Clarence Muse, An African-American actor, director, writer, producer and composer who, in spite of his accomplishments, is remembered, if at all, for over a hundred film appearances playing porters, butlers and chauffeurs with no last name. The Showman and the Spirit takes place in 1976, at a Bronx high school, where n idealistic young teacher is organizing an assembly to celebrate the life of the late James Hudson, a heroic African-American performer and activist. His guest speaker is Lawrence Muffet, a fellow actor and friend of Hudson’s who is under the impression that he is the one to be honored. In the course of a school day, head-on amid misunderstandings, old resentments and pre-conceived notions collide as Muffet must confront his own place in the shadow of a great man’s spirit.

"As soon as I heard that JCTC was looking for a new play on the subject of Origins it came to mind immediately,” said Lia Romeo, New Play Reading Curator, JCTC. “A major plot point in the play concerns one of the characters' discovery of their true origins, and the question of this character's parentage drives a lot of the action. But the play also deals with the subject of origins in that the world of the play is informed by events that happened more than twenty years before the play begins I think the play does a beautiful job of showing how the legacies of racism and McCarthyism from the 1950s continued to be destructive in the 1970s and in fact continue to be destructive today."

JCTC Books: Readings & Signings

JCTC Books: Readings & Signings, a new program that spotlights local authors, debuts with an evening with two writhers whose books depict very different perspectives on Origins & Race – Debra Devi/Language of the Blues and Joe Monteperto/ The Edge of Whiteness.

The Edge of Whiteness, is an autobiographical, coming of age story about an about an adolescent’s struggle to discover his identity against the backdrop of the funky early 1970’s. When Brooklyn smolders with race riots, the Montaperto family reluctantly flees to an all-white New Jersey suburb. While young Joey Montaperto struggles to adapt to his new home, forced integration delivers two busloads of inner-city black kids to Roselle High, disrupting the entire student body, except for the former city boy, who feels more kinship with the newcomers than with his new neighbors.

Montaperto, a writer, actor and comedian studied who worked on stage and screen before embarking on the comedy circuit in the edgy, crack-riddled New York City of the 1980’s.  He performed  his one man show, Four Degrees of Disconnection, between 1999 – 2001, before heading to the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, for some serious soul searching. An avid traveler and spiritual seeker, The Edge of Whiteness is his first book.

In The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu, -rock musician and Huffington Post blogger Debra Devi defines over 150 blues terms like mojo, hoodoo, buffet flat and killing floor with wild stories and fresh insights from her interviews with such blues stars as Hubert Sumlin, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Henry Gray, Little Milton Campbell, Bob Margolin, Jody Williams, Robben Ford, Jimmie Vaughan and more The Language of the Blues includes a remarkable foreword by Dr. John, who helped Devi uncover the illegal gambling origins of terms like “gig” and “axe.” The book won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Outstanding Book on Music, and is blurbed by Bonnie Raitt, Joe Bonamassa, Conan bandleader Jimmy Vivino, Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin, record producer Hal Willner, Helter Skelter author Ed Sanders and even Ministry singer Al Jourgensen.

JCTC Films: Young Lakota

Young Lakota, an award winning, thought-provoking and emotionally engaging documentary about contemporary life of young Native Americans who must reconcile a painful legacy they inherited with their present day reality of political turmoil, looming poverty and a hard-scrabble future. Young Lakota, an Incite Pictures Production, directed and produced by Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt originally premiered November 2013 on PBS’s acclaimed Independent Lens documentary series, but since then has been screened several times as an outreach program to bring attention to the current plight of Native Americans. Young Lakota has been shown at the South Dakota Film Fest, Red Nation Film Fest, Smithsonian Native Cinema Arts, Santa Fe Film Fest, New Orleans Film Fest, Big Sky Documentary Film Fest, and the Cucaloras Film Festival.

The Talk-Back following the screening will include the documentary’s filmmakers, Lipschutz and Rosenblatt, promising a in-depth discussion on how a unique group of Americans resolve conflicts inherent in their Origins.

Jersey City Theater Center Merseles Studios 339 Newark Avenue Jersey City, NJ 07302 (201) 795-5386

For more information or to purchase tickets visit:>

JCTC-Conversations, JCTC-Films and other portions of Origins was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this series do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.


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