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The Graduate

By Gary Wien

originally published: 05/20/2015

The GraduateChances are you’ve seen the seminal sixties film, if you haven’t you should.  It’s the film that made Dustin Hoffman a star and helped cement Anne Bancroft as the ultimate seductress.   In 2007, the American Film Institute’s (AFI) ranked The Graduate as #17 in a list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time.  

Its story deals with a recent college graduate, Benajmin Braddock, returning home with no defined goals in life.  He becomes embroiled in an affair with Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s business partner, but soon finds himself in love with her daughter, Elaine.  Released at the end of 1967, the film became one of the ever-lasting memories of the sixties.  

The Eagle Theatre in Hammonton will bring The Graduate on the stage May 29 through June 27.  New Jersey Stage spoke with Ted Wioncek III, The Eagle’s Co-Artistic Director about the production.

What was it about The Graduate that attracted you?  The timelessness of the question “Now what?” The title is simple. In honor of our angst-ridden protagonist, full of bitter glee, The Graduate, alludes to Benjamin and his recent achievements of academia. However, one could suspect that the namesake has more to do with a valuable lesson yet to be learned. Equal parts fit as a fiddle and floundering, rather than stretch his mind, Ben stretches his limbs onto that of another, closing the bedroom door on his promising future. Steeped in cathartic peace, wallowing in self-pity, our dime store Romeo is left asking the inevitable… NOW WHAT? We have created a setting that exemplifies an age in which one can afford to stand still, mystified by the world that revolves around him. Hubristic and morose, filled with disillusions of grandeur, this is the sliver of time we glorify with bitter envy, commonly known as youth. Youth and achievement come with weighted responsibility; an impending expectation for one to seize each and every opportunity presented with blind gaiety and naiveté. Fate plays a cruel hand, knocking upon doors of the young. Despite how bright and promising the light may peer from behind the slat, it takes a gentle and poetic force to convince the sardonic at heart to open up, invite her in and keep the door ajar. Ben enters our play as the graduate, indeed. However, it is not until we reach the final cue that he successfully completes his course of study, equipped to grasp the moral of his own story.  

…NOW WHAT? Live.

The film was one of those significant markers of a generation.  How does the story hold up decades later?  Does it still seem relevant or has it become a bit of a nostalgic piece? The story holds up because the theme is universal and timeless. However, we do make a concerted effort to pay homage to the 1960’s while keeping the overall tone relevant for a modern audience. We have incorporated a great deal of time period appropriate music, and kept an eye on the fashion.  

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How does the presentation on stage change the feeling from the original film? The sardonic tonality of the film is captured in the stage adaptation. We conceptualized our physical surroundings a bit, but if anything I believe the stage has provided a more in depth look inside the world of these fascinating characters.

Who is in the cast? The play stars Rachel Brodeur, Mike Dorsey, Lori-Nan Engler, Jonathan Fink, Deedee Mann, David Nikolas, and Paul Weagraff.   Every member of The Graduate cast is an Eagle Theatre veteran, save for one... Mrs. Robinson. I had the pleasure of directing Lori Nan-Engler in a previous production of The Graduate. Neither of us tent to return to projects after we’ve put them to rest. However, it appears we were destined to give this irresistible tale another spin.

When do you generally announce the next season? Any hints? We plan to announce our 2016 Season in the summer. Be on the lookout for Sondheim, a new side of Wilder and the professional regional area premiere of Heathers.

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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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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