New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


BIG NEWS! Here's the latest Issue of NJ Stage Magazine -- Click here

Sharyn Rothstein's "A Good Farmer" Raises Emotional Issues

By Susan Wallner, JerseyArts.com

originally published: 02/01/2018

Sharyn Rothstein's "A Good Farmer" Raises Emotional Issues

CARLA - I want to sleep in the car tonight…

BONNIE JOHNSON - Carla -

CARLA - With Miguel and the kids. We’re going to drive out in the corn fields.

BONNIE JOHNSON - Don’t be stupid. You’ll freeze.

CARLA - I bought extra blankets.

BONNIE JOHNSON - Sleep here.

CARLA - It’s not safe here. They would look here first.

From: “A Good Farmer” by Sharyn Rothstein

 

Two women are talking, a small farmer and one of her employees. They’re also friends. Immigration officers have just raided a nearby farm, and they’re scared. Sharyn Rothstein’s play “A Good Farmer” is set in a small town in upstate New York. It’s a study in friendship, paranoia and competing loyalties that’s looking for the human experience behind the kind of big issues that fill our daily news feed.

Sharyn Rothstein is an award-winning playwright (“By the Water,” “All the Days”) and a staff writer for the USA Network series “Suits.” She wrote “A Good Farmer” about 10 years ago after reading an article about a small town where tensions between locals and immigrant farm workers were erupting. You can read more about that here, in a blog Sharyn wrote for the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

The American Theater Group, SOPAC’s resident theatre company, has a new production of “A Good Farmer” opening January 24, 2018. If anything, the play is timelier than it was 10 years ago, as immigration has become an even more divisive issue.

image of Sharyn Rothstein

“The audience is going to bring a very different experience to the play,” said Rothstein when I spoke to her last week during rehearsal. “And I think they’re going to hear it differently than they would have in the past. But I was never interested in writing a polemic, and I was never interested in making this about politics, per se. For me, it’s about the human relationships and the idea of community.”

Putting a human face on big issues can be a cathartic experience on stage. Rothstein’s characters avoid stereotypes – they’re real people, with backstories that complicate things. I sat in on rehearsal at SOPAC last week.

Director Kel Haney was running through two scenes, both taking place in Bonnie’s kitchen. Bonnie (Ariel Woodiwiss) is the farmer, a woman running a business by herself after the death of her husband.  She’s listening to music and cooking after a hard day when there’s a knock on the door. As Bonnie answers, you see her guard go up. It’s Gabe (Todd Lawson), a local who’s been down on his luck. Suffice it to say that Bonnie and Gabe have some bad history, yet Gabe has come to ask for – practically demand – a job on her farm. It doesn’t go well. The scene ends with a veiled threat from Gabe about the “illegals” who work for Bonnie.

Carla and Bonnie_Rehearsal

The next scene also starts with a knock on the door. This time, it’s Bonnie’s employee, Carla (Janice Amaya). Bonnie greets her warmly, offers her tea, then whiskey. It becomes clear they trust each other, based on a history of shared experiences and tough times. Carla jokes about harvesting the cabbage, but, as an undocumented worker, she’s basically terrified she’ll be the next one deported. Bonnie moves back and forth between concern for her farm and concern for her friend.

As the director worked with the cast, deciding where one would lean, which way the door should open, and on subtler aspects of delivery and tone, the characters were becoming believable and true. Watching, I couldn’t help but think how strange and sad it is that we’re living in a country where people, in some cases our friends or co-workers, are driven to hide in fields and church basements. “A Good Farmer” was telling a story where choices were being made, and people’s lives changing. I wanted to see what happened next, but my time in rehearsal was up.

Immigration is a big, complicated issue. As a playwright, Rothstein doesn’t pretend to have the answer. But, she says, “I do know that everyone on all sides is a human being and that we’re never going to get anywhere until we recognize their humanity and act from that place. And that is my hope for this play, that it allows people a window into that.

A Good Farmer cast members

“A Good Farmer” opened January 24, with performances through February 4. After the January 28 matinee, there will be a panel discussion: “The Immigrant Experience: Escaping the Shadows,” with a noted immigration attorney, a “dreamer” and others joining the playwright.

 

Written by Sharyn Rothstein, directed by Kel Haney and featuring Janice Amaya, Todd Lawson, Brenda Withers and Ariel Woodiwiss, “A Good Farmer” is a production of the American Theater Group, South Orange Performing Arts Center’s theatre company in-residence. For tickets and more information, visit www.sopacnow.org.




About the author: Susan Wallner is a principal of PCK Media, an independent production company. She is the co-series producer of the public television program 'State of the Arts,' a job that has introduced her to a wealth of talent and artistic diversity over the years. Susan's documentaries and performance specials have aired nationally. Most recently, her profile of the writer, aviator and celebrity, 'Anne Morrow Lindbergh: You’ll Have the Sky,' won the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Emmy for Best Feature Writing (it was Susan's 15th regional Emmy win). Narrated by Judith Light and Lily Rabe, it aired throughout the country on PBS and PBS World, and is available on DVD. Currently, Susan is working on a documentary about the self-taught city planner, builder, and artist, Kea Tawana.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.






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

View all events










 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2018 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.