(UNION, NJ) -- For the first time in its 13-year history, Premiere Stages will provide expanded development to five new works in one season, including the New Jersey Premiere of Skeleton Crew, the third play in Dominique Morisseau’s critically acclaimed Detroit cycle, and the first professional production of Chris Cragin-Day’s heartwarming play, Foster Mom, winner of the 2017 Premiere Stages Play Festival. This season will also feature free developmental workshops of Patricia Cotter’s 1980 (Or Why I’m Voting For John Anderson), runner-up for the 2017 Play Festival, and two exciting new play commissions, Nicole Pandolfo’s Brick City, developed in cooperation with NJPAC and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, and Martin Casella’s Black Tom Island, recipient of the 2017/2018 Liberty Live Commission in partnership with Liberty Hall Museum.
A searing story of power, struggle, and hope in uncertain times, Ms. Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew (July 13-30 in the Zella Fry Theatre) makes its Garden State debut after a critically acclaimed run at the Atlantic Theater Company in 2016. In this compelling portrait of American workers struggling to hold on against the tide of technology, Faye, the matriarch of a small family of line workers, gives her all to keep her team employed in one of the last automotive stamping plants in Detroit. A two-time NAACP Image Award winner and recipient of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, Ms. Morisseau will again team with Premiere’s producing artistic director John J. Wooten, who directed her first play, Follow Me to Nellie's, at Premiere Stages in 2011.
“We are honored to welcome Dominique back to Premiere,” stated Mr. Wooten. “Skeleton Crew is an ideal fit for our season and we are excited to be sharing this richly topical play with our patrons. The emergence of Dominique as one of America's leading playwrights makes the project particularly special.”
Premiere’s second mainstage production will be Chris Cragin-Day’s Foster Mom (September 7-24 in the Zella Fry Theatre), winner of the 2017 Play Festival and an audience favorite earlier this spring at Premiere’s annual reading series. A funny, surprising, and ultimately optimistic coming-of-age tale for adults, Foster Mom tells the story of Leslie, a fortysomething whose decision to adopt a child is complicated by two factors: a skeptical mother and an unexpected romance. As Leslie’s relationship with her new boyfriend intensifies, so does her conviction about foster parenting, leading her to wonder: will she have to choose between the love of her life and the foster child she's never met? Ms. Cragin-Day, a founding member of Firebone Theatre and alumna of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group, is an assistant professor of English and theatre at King’s College in New York. Longtime collaborator Kel Haney, whose staging of Water by the Spoonful at Premiere Stages was named one of “the ten best New Jersey theatre productions of 2016” (Patrick Maley, NJ Advance Media), returns to direct.
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Premiere’s 2017 season will also include a free staged reading of Patricia Cotter’s 1980 (Or Why I’m Voting For John Anderson), playing June 16-18 in the Murphy Dunn Theatre. In a country hungry for a new voice, an inspiring, independent contender emerges for President. Four very different (and slightly lost) campaign workers advocate tirelessly for their long shot candidate, convinced he can change their country and their lives in Ms. Cotter’s contemporary comedy about class, race and the politics of hope. Ms. Cotter is an Emmy Award-winning writer for Comedy Central’s “Win Ben Stein's Money” and recipient of the American Academy of Arts & Letters Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater. She was recently honored as the runner-up for the 2017 Play Festival. Jessi D. Hill, who currently serves as artistic associate at Flying Carpet Theatre Company and literary team director at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, directs.
The season concludes this fall with free staged readings of Premiere’s current commissions. Following a developmental reading at NJPAC this May, Premiere Stages will present a workshop of Nicole Pandolfo’s Brick City (October 20-22 in the Miron Student Center) in preparation for a full production in July 2018. In this topical and compelling new play, Jessie, a combative high school senior with a disability, and Darnell, the star player of his high school basketball team, find themselves together in extended study hall during the most important marking period in their lives. As Darnell inches dangerously close to throwing away a lucrative college scholarship and Jessie a potential career as an artist, both discover that things aren't always as simple as they may seem. Brick City is the recipient of a 2017 NJPAC Stage Exchange Commission, sponsored by NJPAC in partnership with the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.
Finally, Premiere will present a free sneak preview of the 2017/2018 Liberty Live Commission, Martin Casella’s Black Tom Island, November 17-19 in the Miron Student Center at Kean University. Based on an actual incident that took place in Jersey City in 1916, Black Tom Island explores the first documented terrorist attack on American soil through the lens of a fictionalized Slovak immigrant and his wife who may or may not be involved in the attack. The reading will run in conjunction with Liberty Hall Museum’s new ongoing exhibit, Brothers in Arms: Memories of the Great War, which examines the service of Captain John Kean, Congressman Robert W. Kean, and their three Roosevelt cousins, George, John and Philip, through photographs, personal objects, and firsthand accounts from letters and postcards sent home.
Tickets to Premiere’s mainstage productions range from $15 - $30, with deep discounts available for season packages, groups, seniors, and students; admission to 1980 (Or Why I’m Voting For John Anderson, Brick City, and Black Tom Island 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 visit www.kean.edu/premierestages.
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.
Premiere Stages is also 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 Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Union Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s Stages Festival and through the generous support of individual patrons. Discover Jersey Arts is our marketing partner. Visit www.JerseyArts.com for more information about other arts programming happening around the Garden State.
PHOTO: Michelle Wilson, Nyahale Allie, and Ley Smith in Dominique Morisseau's Follow Me to Nellie's at Premiere Stages in 2011. Premiere will present Ms. Morisseau's Skeleton Crew this July. Photo by Roy Groething.