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The Theater Project presents "Sunset Park"

originally published: 06/08/2023

The Theater Project presents "Sunset Park"

Back Row: Becca McLarty, Michael Bias, Gary Glor; Front Row: Valerie Stack Dodge, Jack Coggins, Sue-Ellen Mandell

(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- "No matter how old you get, love, longing, jealousy, and hope remain constant" -- Sunset Park by award-winning writer Joseph Vitale kicks off the Summer Season at The Theater Project, a leading incubator for rising talent and a showcase for New Jersey artists. The company is returning to Maplewood's Burgdorff Cultural Center, 10 Durand Road, with a packed schedule of new and lesser-known work. Sunset Park, performing July 6- 16, consists of four intertwining stories about growing older and coming to terms with the changes in our lives.

The play was a finalist in the 2022 NY Theatre Festival, with cast members Michael Bias (Bergenfield, NJ) and Sue-Ellen Mandell (Nyack, NY) receiving nominations for best actor and actress.

“It is said that childhood is its own country,” said Vitale, “and in many ways so is getting older. We cross an invisible barrier of sorts and suddenly have to deal with things we’ve never had to deal with before, physically and emotionally. I wanted to write a play about what changes in the human spirit as we age and what remains the same.”

Also in the cast are Valerie Stack Dodge (Morris Township), Gary Glor (Union), Becca McLarty (Montclair) and Jack Coggins (Hoboken). The play is directed by Theater Project artistic director Mark Spina (Union).

“We are very proud to count Joe Vitale among our workshop member playwrights,” said Spina. Vitale, a finalist for the 2020 Woodward-Newman drama prize and recipient of a NJ Council on the Arts fellowship in playwriting, is the author of a number of plays, including Dragons in the Crease, which was performed at New York’s Hudson Guild Theater in 2019. Murrow, a one-man show about the life of Edward R. Murrow (called “a dramatic masterpiece” by the Huffington Post), was performed Off-Off Broadway in 2016. His one-acts have been performed around the country, and his play The Interpreter, about the Nuremberg Trials, was produced by The Theater Project. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

The Theater Project presents "Sunset Park"

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Kaleidoscope Kabaret, songs and short plays from The Theater Project’s highly successful Playwrights Workshop and Young Playwrights Competition, is the second summer offering, July 28-30. Ken Davenport and Sarah Saltzberg’s Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage! described as ‘Dr. Ruth meets Emily Post,’ rounds out the summer performances, August 17-27. The season also includes two special events: Broadway Jukebox, an evening of show tunes by former Theater Project Jr students, and Black Lives/Blue Lives, an interactive theater piece/discussion.

Made possible by funds from the Essex County Division of Cultural Affairs, and the New Jersey Arts and Cultural Renewal Fund, show times are Thursday-Saturday at 8:00pm with a 2:00pm Sunday matinee. Sunset and Miss Abigail will feature post-show ‘talkbacks’ each Friday night while Kabaret will have meet-and-greets after each performance.

The Theater Project, which received another prestigious National Endowment for the Arts grant in 2021, has gained regional and national recognition for its ongoing projects including its annual Young Playwrights Competition, ARK (Actors Reading with Kids) program, the Think Fast short play competition—which attracted writers from throughout the county—and its The Theater Project Thinks About … podcasts.

The Theater Project—a 501(c)3 non-profit, professional theater producing off-Broadway quality shows for New Jersey audiences—is offering a multi-show FlexPass as well as discounted pricing for students and seniors. Single ticket prices are $32 for general admission, $25 for seniors and students. Senior Sunday prices—the first Sunday of each play performance—are $20. FlexPasses are $75 for a three-play pass and $55 for a two-play pass.

Tickets are available online at or by calling the box office, 908-809-8865 

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