New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Fortune Cookies

By Gary Wien


This is the 10th season for South Camden Theatre Company and they call it "A Season of Faith." The neighborhood around the theater has improved dramatically over the years and the company has played a major role in the revitalization. Each of the productions this season has dealt with faith in a unique way. In Fortune Cookies, the company looks at how the audience has kept its faith in the theater. The play, written by Joseph M. Paprzycki, was first performed in 2007 back when the company's home was the basement of Sacred Heart Church. In the years that followed, the play was always the most requested work by the audience. To thank the people who have kept coming back year after year, the theatre decided to bring the production back and give it the type of production that wasn't possible the first time around.

The play is set in a Chinese restaurant in Camden in 1997. Four friends who used to work together have kept their friendship alive by returning to this restaurant one Monday night a month. Tonight happens to be the 10th anniversary of the first night they started this tradition. Although the four friends are not aware of the night's significance, Mr. Wong, the owner of the restaurant does and he's prepared a special evening for them. It's a gift that he says is "the thing that dreams are made of."

This production runs from February 27 through March 15 and stars Amiee Theresa, Megan Pisors, Nicole DeRosa Lukaitis, Christopher 'Jumbo' Schimpf, and Dan Kim — the last three were all part of the original production in 2007. Christopher 'Jumbo' Schimpf will also direct the production.
"It is wonderful to see these old friends back on stage again," said Paprzycki. "Remembering the looks on people's faces when they left the first time was so gratifying and to have so many people want to see it again is very gratifying as a playwright. When people walked out of the show, they were laughing and crying at the same time.

"I've made a couple of little changes to the play," noted the playwright. "I think being a playwright who's 9 years older and having written another 10 plays or so since we've produced this one, I'm a better writer now. You learn to hear more. I think part of it is you hear things more as a more experienced writer and part of it is you hear things as a much older person."

Fortune Cookies is not just a snapshot in time for the characters in the play; it's a reminder of just how far the theatre and Camden has come since the first production. A few blocks from the theater in 2007 one could still see crime on a regular basis, but today the neighborhood is much nicer and a safe place to go. Back in the basement, the audience sat on plastic chairs on a concrete floor, while today's audience is in nice seats in a state-of-the-art theater. Not only will this production have professional sound and lighting that greatly exceeds that of the original, but the stage will truly resemble a Chinese restaurant and audience members will even smell the food coming from the kitchen.

"This is a play about real spirituality and friendship and the whole issue of faith," explains Paprzycki. "What is faith? Can magic change faith? Is magic real? And the basic question of what do you really want? What if the dream that you're dreaming might not be the dream that's being dreamt for you? That's what the play is all about. Is there another force out there? You might think your whole life that you want something and then something happens one day and it all gets twisted around and you're like 'I never knew I wanted this in the first place.'"

Paprzycki says that's exactly what happened with him. He never planned on being a playwright and didn't even write his first play until he was 37 years old. Well into his thirties, despite having good jobs and earning a nice income, he had no answer when people asked him what he wanted to do. Then one day he saw an ad for Angels in America in the newspaper and went to New York to see the production and it suddenly made sense to him.

"I had no idea that this is what I would be doing," he recalled. "So, I think the play sort of ties into my own personal journey. I was confused and saw that picture of the angel and something just snapped, but I didn't quite know what it meant yet."

The play is loosely based on a bunch of friends that Paprzycki had at the time. He said he was working at a horrible job, but had a couple friends he hung around with to get lunch and drinks. This is the third of five plays he's written based in Camden. All are different stories with different characters, but the characters here are more or less composites of people he knew. Looking back, the playwright says he sees some parallels with what was happening to him during the period in which he wrote the play.

"Could I write this play today?" asked Paprzycki. "I don't know. I don't know if I would have the same inspiration or if the people around me are the same… What makes me so happy is I don't feel like I'm watching a play, I feel like I'm sitting next to people in a Chinese restaurant. They're just gathered and talking and having fun. There's crazy stuff and some serious stuff, but it's quickly covered in comedy. It's just the way it is when you're out with your friends. All kinds of stuff come up during the course of a two hour dinner. I think people can identify with that. They can see their friends at the table and can feel their lives in this play.

"I guess we all secretly inside would love to have somebody look out for us," he continued. "Someone to point us in the right direction. I think the City of Camden, being in such bad shape at the time, these four friends just for the sake of keeping their friendship alive kept coming back. There's a line like 'So many work friendships are like vacation ones — we'll stay in touch, we'll talk, but you always disappear from each other.' Yet, these people have stuck it out. They've stuck it out by going back to Camden just to keep that friendship alive because they know that Monday night each month is their night — no spouses, no boyfriends, no girlfriends — it's just for them."

As we're talking, Paprzycki suddenly makes the connection that it's not just the characters who are returning for the 10th year, it's his audience. They've been coming back to the same spot in Camden for each show over the past ten years just to keep the dream of live theater and a revitalized Camden alive. Maybe there is a little magic in those fortune cookies after all.



Fortune Cookies is running February 27 through March 15 at the South Camden Theatre, located at 400 Jasper Street in Camden, NJ. For more information visit www.southcamdentheatre.org



For more by this author, click here






American Girl Live: An Interview With Laila E. Drew and Shelby Miguel
Please note: Due to the potential of a major winter storm on Saturday, both performances of American Girl Live at Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown have been postponed and rescheduled for President’s Day, Monday, February 18 at 2 pm and 5:30 pm. All tickets will be honored on that date. If you cannot attend the new date, please contact the box office at 973-539-8008.
"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City in conjunction with TROIKA Entertainment is will present KINKY BOOTS, the smash-hit musical that brings together four-time Tony® Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (Book) and Grammy® Award-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper (Tony Award-winner for Best Score for KINKY BOOTS), at Sound Waves in Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City from April 30 until May 5 with two performances on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets starting at $35.00.
The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.


It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.






Event calendar
Friday, Jan 18, 2019


MUSIC

John Forster at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

David Massengill - Folk Concert @ Christ Congregation Church, Princeton - 8:00pm

SAL "THE VOICE" VALENTINETTI @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

The Elvis Birthday Bash @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm







COMEDY

Big Apple Comedy Club @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm


MISC

The Jason Bishop Show to Benefit CASA @ Pfleeger Concert Hall, Rowan University, Glassboro - 7:00pm

View all events
























New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.