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The King Of East Jabip

By Gary Wien

originally published: 08/20/2016

The King Of East Jabip“My dad wanted me to write a play with a character that would be around his age,” explained Kelly McCarthy.  “He was interested in a character that he felt still had things in life he wanted to do and didn’t want to give up just because he was older.”

McCarthy, from Sea Isle City, spent 15 years as a professional journalist in a career that began with the Main Line Times, covering Philadelphia’s historic Main Line region.  Her father is the award-winning actor Tom McCarthy.  Following in his footsteps, Kelly began acting at age 4, building a resume that includes stage and television credits. She thought about writing a play many times, but never got around to doing it until her father got a grant for his daughter to write a play for him to act in.  The result is The King of East Jabip, a heartwarming comedy about a family dealing with a father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.  The play will be presented September 9 to October 9 at the Eagle Theatre in Hammonton — the first world premiere production in the theatre’s history.

“It started with me writing about a husband and a wife,” said Kelly McCarthy.  “At some point when I was writing it, I felt there was something wrong with this man and I didn’t know what it was.  There was some issue he was dealing with, it wasn’t just that he felt he hadn’t done enough in his life.  I don’t know how it evolved, but I realized the character had Alzheimer’s.  So, this is a man who still wants to do things and he’s just found out that pretty soon he’s going to have a hard time accomplishing some goals he always wanted.  He has an urgency.”

The play started out with just the husband and wife.  It received a reading at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia where Kelly received important feedback.  She let their advice sink in and took a break from the play for a while.  When she returned to it, she heard the voice of a daughter for the first time.   The third character helped her round out the story.

As part of her father’s grant, Kelly was able to study playwriting in Ireland at the Fishamble Theatre Company as well with Bruce Graham and Michael Hollinger, a pair of Philadelphia area playwrights.  She also took advantage of the National Playwrights Symposium at Cape May Stage, attending for three years where she met some of the biggest names in the business. The experience helped her as she worked on her first play.

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“I’ve learned so much in Cape May,” said Kelly McCarthy.  “That, to me, is like graduate school.  They bring in brilliant writers and you’re immersed for a week.  You are with your peers and have a true safety net there.  You don’t feel intimated; you feel like you have the love and support of everyone.  Everybody wants everyone to do well.  Just to get the advice from these master playwrights is invaluable and has helped me a lot.  Once it’s over, I go into terrible withdrawal!”

It’s appropriate that her first play will be presented at Eagle Theatre, because she had a special feeling the first time she walked into the theatre.  Her father was starring in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Eagle and she mentioned finishing her first play to Ed Corsi and Ted Wioncek (the co-artistic directors at Eagle Theatre).  They said they would love to read it.  She spent the weekend making a few changes and then sent it to them.

The King Of East Jabip“I was only looking for a reading and then I got an email a few days later,” recalled Kelly McCarthy.  “Ed said, ‘I love it! Are you sure you want a reading or are you game for a full production?’ I jumped out of my chair, screaming and ran to my parents saying, ‘My God! They want a full production!’”

Throughout the process, Eagle Theatre has helped assist Kelly McCarthy in several workshops, drafts, and staged readings of play, including a public reading at their New Works Development Series.

“After several years of living with a bunch of characters in my head and on the printed page, it will be nice to finally get into a rehearsal room and watch them come to life,” said Kelly McCarthy.  “I imagine it will be like a birthing. And this playwright is past her due date. I’m ready to cut the umbilical cord.”

The playwright recently turned 50 and can relate to the idea of wondering how much time is left to accomplish all she wants to do.  She wonders how fast can she write and how many plays can be produced. But she doesn’t mind starting her playwriting career later than most, she’s comfortable with how things turned out and is excited about the future.

“There’s no right age when to start something,” she added.  “I think any time something comes is the right time.  It’s just the way it happens.  I think when I was younger, I wouldn’t have had as much to say.  When this came to me now, I’m lucky to have it.  I just want to focus on what I can write going forward.”


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(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.
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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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