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Genetic Testing Sends Janice Underwater

By Gary Wien


Tell me about the play.
Clare Drobot, resident dramaturg and producing associate for Janice Underwater, described it as sort of a coming of age story for a woman in her thirties. I think that's a good way of looking at it.
Janice is going through hard times. She gets a letter from her schizophrenic mother, whom she hasn't seen in twenty years. Her father shows possible early signs of Alzheimer's disease. She avoids dealing with either situation. Instead, she mails out some genetic tests she got online and the anxiety this creates leads to a blowup at work and triggers visions of her mother, which occur throughout the play. She tries to find paying work as a visual artist (her true passion), make her rent, maintain her sanity, and make the right choices for herself and her family as she waits for these test results. She even initiates a romance with her troubled super along the way. Things don't turn out as she expected.

A number of the scenes actually take place in parts of Union County.   Were those locations originally in the script or did you change them for the production?
These locations were originally in the script. I grew up in Hillside and know all these places described in the play. I wouldn't change these locations for a different production. There's something important about naming Conant Avenue or Bloy Street or the Pulaski Skyway. Some of these places conjure up old memories for me, not all of them pleasant. This deep ambivalence felt right for Janice. Whether she'll need to move back to Hillside is a question for her.

How do you personally feel about genetic testing?  Do you think the benefits outweigh any moral questions? Or is it something we shouldn't be playing around with?
It's great that people can get a glimpse of their heritage through genetic tests, or that people who find out they have a predisposition towards coronary artery disease, for example, might be inspired to make lifestyle changes to prevent sudden death. But I'm not sure how I feel about this as yet another commodity in a free market. Direct to consumer genetic tests should be regulated to make sure that people aren't exploited and given inaccurate or unverified health information. That's happening with some recent FDA intervention and that's a good thing. It raises moral questions on a personal level too. After receiving results, should the consumer feel an obligation to tell close family members, for their own sake, if they want to know? Would sharing those personal results with a close relative be irresponsible without physician guidance? Even with physician guidance, there are questions. If people find out they have the gene for something like early-onset Alzheimer's, what can they do with that information? Would a positive result lead to problems with health or life insurance? Would it help a family to plan a course of action? I know it would stress me out to get tested for certain family illnesses. It would make my mind spin. I wouldn't use that as an argument against other people doing this. People should be able to find out these things if they want, and make their own decisions, to a degree. But I believe in oversight.

Have you ever noticed that people losing their mind is one of the few aspects of our every day life that remains a good source of comedy for theatre and films but hasn't fallen prey to political correctness for such a sensitive topic?  Any ideas why that might be?
I'm not sure. My play is a comedy-drama. Parts of it are funny; parts of it should hurt. Much of what these characters are going through is painful and horrifying. It's my intention to treat the topic with sensitivity. I have close family members who suffer from various mental illnesses. These conditions aren't a joke. But sometimes it's important to laugh. Humor can be avoidance or a way of not feeling. It can be cutting and glib and hollow. It can also be recognition of the absurd, expression of bitterness, and a way of coping with pain. It can be character-based. It can give voice to the dead, who have funny things to say. That's what I'm trying to do in this play. I see comedy where my own obsession and fears and poor decisions intersect with these characters. This is when the humor feels important to me, when it's true and finds a communion with people in my play and in my life. Much of the humor in the play revolves around terror and humiliation in ordinary situations. Those moments are not bound up in the topic of mental illness exclusively.



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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(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 from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.


Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!










Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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