(UNION, NJ) -- Premiere Stages at Kean University has announced its 15th anniversary season, featuring four new plays that explore the power and responsibility of legacy. The season will kick off with Tammy Ryan’s The Wake, winner of the 2019 Premiere Play Festival, the theatre’s annual competition for unproduced scripts written by playwrights affiliated with the greater metropolitan area. Running June-October, the season will also feature the New Jersey Premiere of Yasmina’s Necklace by Rohina Malik, as well as developmental workshops of Walden by Amy Berryman, a finalist for the 2019 Premiere Play Festival, and Robey, a new play about civil rights icon Paul Robeson by Joe Sutton, recipient of the 2019/2020 Liberty Live Commission.
“The characters who are central to the plays in our 2019 season find themselves in situations where bold actions are required, contemplating the lessons of the past as they navigate their worlds toward a better tomorrow,” stated John J. Wooten, Producing Artistic Director of Premiere Stages. “It is a fascinating mix of plays and we are very excited to share them.”
In Ms. Ryan’s The Wake (July 11-28, Bauer Boucher Theatre Center), Maggie and Rosemary rent a beach house in Florida to scatter their sister’s ashes six months after her death, only to find themselves and their respective partners staring down a hurricane. As the storm begins to rage, strange encounters with wildlife signal something more is going on. Filled with humor and heart, The Wake explores grief, family and America’s shifting cultural and environmental climates. A Francesca Primus Prize Winner for her play Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods (developed and produced at Premiere Stages), Ms. Ryan’s work has also been produced by Luna Stage, Pittsburgh Playhouse, 29th Street Rep and Florida Stage. The Wake, the fourth of Ms. Ryan’s plays to be produced by Premiere, will be directed by Mr. Wooten, who most recently collaborated with Tammy on the New Jersey Premiere of Soldier’s Heart.
The season continues with the New Jersey Premiere of Ms. Malik’s Yasmina’s Necklace (September 5-22, Bauer Boucher Theatre Center), previously presented at the 16th Street Theater and Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Nominated for the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Play, Yasmina’s Necklace tells the story of Abdul Samee. Abdul’s father is Iraqi and mother is Puerto Rican - but if you ask him, he'll say he's Italian. Longing to shed his cultural identity, Abdul changes his name to Sam, marries an American and does everything in his power to turn away from his heritage. But when Sam meets Yasmina, a beautiful woman from his father's homeland, he begins to learn that a tree without roots cannot stand for long. A Resident Playwright Emeritus at Chicago Dramatists, Ms. Malik is the recipient of the 2018 Lee Reynolds Award. Kareem Fahmy, who currently serves as the Phil Killian Directing Fellow at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, directs.
The season also includes a free staged reading of Ms. Berryman’s Walden (June 14-16, Bauer Boucher Theatre Center), runner-up for the 2019 Premiere Play Festival. Set in the not-so-distant future,Walden imagines a world where climate change has intensified and scientists are recommending that humans colonize other planets. Cassie, a NASA botanist, returns from deployment in space and is shocked to find her sister, Stella, a former NASA architect, engaged to a man determined to stick it out on Earth. As the twins grapple with questions of rivalry and love, humanity hangs in the balance. An actor and writer originally from Seattle, Ms. Berryman recently won the LA Short Film Festival’s Best Drama Award for You Are Everywhere, which she wrote, co-produced and starred in. Mia Walker, who will serve as Associate Director on the upcoming Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill, directs.
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Premiere’s season concludes with a developmental reading of Mr. Sutton’s 2019/2020 Liberty Live Commission, Robey (October 18-20), scheduled to be presented in Kean University’s new Liberty Hall Academic Center. In 1919, Paul Robeson (Robey to his college friends) was asked to give the valedictory address at Rutgers University. As the first African American student to be selected for this honor, he was very conflicted about the tone and message of the monumental speech. Robey explores his journey as he prepares his remarks, overcoming the doubts and fears that filled a very young man at a pivotal point in New Jersey's history. A resident of West Orange, Mr. Sutton’s plays include As It Is In Heaven, The Third Army, Restoring the Sun and the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Voir Dire. Scholar Nathaniel G. Nesmith, whose work has appeared in American Theatre, The New York Times and African American Review, is the dramaturg for the project.
Tickets for Premiere Stages’ 2019 season go on sale May 1. Prices range from $15-$30, with deep discounts available for season packages, groups, seniors, and students; admission to all staged readings and workshops is free. Premiere Stages also offers a series of free interactive lobby talks and post-show discussions in conjunction with select performances. To purchase tickets or inquire about season packages, please call the box office at 908-737-7469 or click here.
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 advance notice. Sign-interpreted, audio-described and open-captioned performances are available upon request; please call 908-737-4077 at least two weeks prior to your desired performance.
Premiere Stages is made possible in part through funding from W. John Bauer and Nancy Boucher, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, The Northfield Bank Foundation, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Union Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, Investors Foundation, The Union County HEART Grant, Actors’ Equity Foundation, and through the generous support of individual patrons and local organizations. Discover Jersey Arts is our marketing partner. Visit www.JerseyArts.com for more information about other arts programming happening around the Garden State.
Premiere Stages is committed to producing topical plays and interactive programs that reflect people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, religious groups, gender identities, ages, abilities, disabilities and sexual preferences.
PHOTO: (Top Row) playwrights Amy Berryman and Tammy Ryan (Bottom Row) Rohina Malik & Joe Sutton. Photos courtesy of Premiere Stages.