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Black Box presents The Writers Project

originally published: 01/23/2024

Black Box presents The Writers Project

Photo, courtesy of Danny Hamilton, featuring Black Box Rep Co. actors in a recent staged reading performance at Teaneck's Debonair Music Hall.

(TEANECK, NJ) -- The first installment of The Writers Project will take place on Tuesday, January 30, 2024 at Debonair Music Hall.  This special evening, the first in an ongoing series, will feature Black Box performers including Ilana Schimmel, J Niles, Danielle MacMath, Justin Jager, and Joseph Liberti performing segments of the original work of writers such as Michael Gardiner, Jakob Holder (Executive Director of The Edward F. Albee Foundation), James O'Connor (Edward F. Albee Fellowship Recipient), Matt Okin, and Steven Sarao. Showtime is 7:30pm.

Michael Gardiner is an actor, director, writer, teaching artist, as well as Co-Managing Director of Black Box PAC. With Black Box, he has helped develop new or under-produced work by John Patrick Shanley, Eric Bogosian, Paul Schrader, Beth Henley, the Estates of Edward Albee and Sam Shepard, and others. His plays include Frankenstein Unleashed and The Crab Wife — both developed at Black Box. His screenplay “As Dead as Disco,” is also in development.

Jakob Holder was Edward Albee’s longest serving personal assistant and is currently the Executive Director of the Edward F. Albee Foundation. He is also an internationally produced playwright and a member of the Dramatists Guild. His plays have had productions and readings throughout the U.S., the U.K., in Helsinki and Rome. He is a two-time winner of the Last Frontier Theatre Conference Playlab Award and a three-time winner of the NAAA New Play Competition. In 2009, he was selected to be the sole Cherry Lane Theatre Mentor Project playwright for his play Housebreaking. His full-program plays include: Bedtime Solos; Housebreaking (Dramatists Play Service, 2012); Repeat Play; Green Setting Sun; The Shoulder;  The Open Circuit, To the Sea in a Sieve and The Agatha Shadow. His short plays include: One Slip; Darktime in Skipland; Ersatz; Findings; and Sumatra Mandheling. He has led playwriting workshops for children in Alaska, teenagers in Florida, and adults in Finland, and continues to mentor new playwrights through his work with the Dramatists Guild Institute. A resident of Edgewater, NJ, he was a Dramatists Guild Fellow, a Lark Theatre Fellow, and an Oriveden Opisto Resident Artist.

James O’Connor is a poet, playwright, and translator based in New York City. He was awarded an Edward F. Albee Fellowship for his play Timor Mortis, and more recently he completed The Goddess Trilogy, a series of tragicomic plays that include Goddess, American Father, and Revenge. His plays have been read at the Lark Play Development Center, the Black Box Performing Arts Center, and Scene & Heard in London. Absolute Solitude, his translations of the Cuban poet Dulce María Loynaz, was a finalist for the 2017 Pen America Award for Poetry in Translation. His translations and book reviews have appeared in Guernica, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, Seneca Review, Poetry International, and England’s Poetry Nation Review.

Matt Okin's recent directing credits include Sam Shepard's Action, the U.S. Premiere of Little Ocean, and The Unseen Hand; each monthly installment of 'From A To Zoo: An Exclusive Staged Reading Series of Edward Albee's Plays'; and the initial workshop of The Lost Years by John Patrick Shanley.  His original plays showcased in NYC, NJ, and on tours include Cherry Hill; Beltsville/Rockville, Part One: Rise Of The Goatman; #OneInnocentWoman; Twist Of Faith; and Walter Liked To Sit In His Big Backyard.  Original musicals include Soul Searching and A Match Made In Manhattan: The Interactive Jewish Wedding Experience.  Matt received a BFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University's Tisch School of The Arts; he is a long-time Teaching Artist for select theater programs for teens and adults in Bergen County; and his screenplay, the comedy 'Issues', is in development.

Steven Sarao is pleased to reunite with Matt Okin and Black Box PAC, a partnership that began nearly three decades ago at a black box theater on the third floor of 720 Broadway in lower Manhattan. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Steven Sarao has appeared in productions Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway including Twist of Faith, The Ugly Wife, and Pigs: An experience with Steve Sarao. Sarao is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and later served as a Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice Policy & Management where he concentrated his scholarship on the intersection between sub Saharan Africa, terrorism, and government reform. Sarao’s writing has been published in the Harvard Kennedy School Review, Harvard Africa Policy Journal, American Police Beat, The Jewish Week, and The Star Ledger.  Sarao is currently completing his first non-fiction novel, The Dreams of Little Boys Create Men.

Tickets are $15 and available for purchase online. Debonair Music Hall is located at 1409 Queen Anne Road b/w State Street and Walraven Drive in Teaneck, New Jersey.  Debonair is adjacent to free street and lot parking, and the venue offers ground floor entry.

Viewer discretion is advised for some content that will be presented.

Since Fall 2021, Black Box PAC has incubated new and under-produced plays by world-class artists such as Eric Bogosian, Paul Schrader, Beth Henley, Craig Lucas, Neil Labute, Daniel Handler, Ken Levine, and most recently John Patrick Shanley. Collaborations are underway with The Estates of Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, and IB Singer as well as with artists including John Lahr, Halley Feiffer, Billy Martin, and more.

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