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Premiere Stages presents "Still" - a play based on true events in 1850s NJ

originally published: 06/18/2024

Premiere Stages presents "Still" - a play based on true events in 1850s NJ

Art by Yadira Hernández

(UNION, NJ) -- Premiere Stages at Kean University will present  the premiere production of Still by Benjamin V. Marshall, the recipient of the 2023/24 Liberty Live Commission, July 11-28 in Kean University's Bauer Boucher Theatre Center. Directed by Marshall Jones III,  Still will feature actors Ashley Nicole Baptiste, D. Malik Beckford, Brian D. Coats, Perri Gaffney, Carl Hendrick Louis, and Nafeesa Monroe.

In this new play based on true events in 1850s New Jersey, Peter has arrived at an abolitionist office seeking help from its director, William, an African American leader in the Underground Railroad. As the two men learn more about each other’s lives, they realize their vastly different pasts will lead them to a deeply connected future.

“When I first read about the life of William Still, I was not only struck by the power of his story but also the deeply dramatic encounter with a man coming to him for help ” stated John J. Wooten, Premiere Stages Producing Artistic Director. “Ben’s moving and thought-provoking play provides an important study about one of New Jersey’s most consequential figures.”

Benjamin V. Marshall’s plays include Absolutions and ParadiseBoom BoxBuenas Smooches Piscataway NJCarlos and LaVonneCorn Bread with Raisins and AlmondsFive HusbandsHenry’s BridgeDad’s VisionGalilee HouseA Goat on the BalconyPurchasing PowerThe Red Train Café, and Homestar. His work has been performed and developed at the HBO New Writers Workshop, WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, Theatre for the New City in NYC, Luna Stage, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Interact Theatre in Philadelphia, The Warner’s International Playwrights, The Berrie Center, The National Playwrights Symposium at Cape May and the Kennedy Center.

Director Marshall Jones III directed the developmental workshop of Still in November 2023. Prior to the workshop, he directed the New Jersey premiere of Dominique Morriseau’s Mud Row in Premiere Stages’ 2022 season. Marshall Jones serves as the Associate Dean for Equity at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. For 13 years (2007-2019), he was the Producing Artistic Director for the Tony® Award-winning Crossroads Theatre Company where he directed several shows including the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center’s inaugural production – Paul Robeson. He was also the replacement director for the 2018 play with music Little Rock, which was a NY Times Critic Pick. Marshall proudly serves as the president of the NJ Theatre Alliance and is a 2020 Inductee in the Rutgers African-American Hall of Fame.

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The accomplished cast includes Ashley Nicole Baptiste, whose theatre credits include Chicken & Biscuits (Crossroads Theatre Company) and Mud Row (Premiere Stages); D. Malik Beckford, an educator and director whose acting credits include Blue Bloods (CBS);  Brian D. Coats, whose theatre credits include Gem of the Ocean (currently running at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ) and Jitney (Manhattan Theatre Club / US Tour); Perri Gaffney, whose theatre credits include STAFF MEAL (Playwrights Horizons) and Shadow/Land (The Public Theater); Carl Hendrick Louis, whose theatre credits include Broadway’s 1984 and The Cherry Orchard; and Nafeesa Monroe whose acting credits include Manifest (Netflix) and Madam Secretary (CBS).

Understudies for the production are Kean Theatre Conservatory alum Lucien Edme and current Kean Theatre Conservatory student Nijah Muhammad.

The professional design team includes Set Designer David Barber, Costume Designer Ali Turns, Lighting Designer Zack Gage, Projection Designer Taj Rauch, Sound Designer David Wright, Hair and Make-up Designer Rachelle Dorce, Mask Designer Marlon Campbell and Props Master Jennifer Bonilla. Casting is by Stephanie Klapper, CSA. Dale Smallwood is the Production Stage Manager.

Still runs July 11-July 28 in the Bauer Boucher Theatre Center on the Kean University main campus in Union, N.J. The performance schedule is Thursday, July 11 at 7:30pm, Thursdays, July 18 and 25 at 1:30pm,  Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm & 8:00pm and Sundays at 3:00pm. Bauer Boucher Theatre Center. is located at Vaughn Eames Hall, 1000 Morris Avenue in Union, New Jersey.

Celebrate Premiere Stages’ 19th Season at the Opening Night of Still on Friday, July 12. Join Premiere Stages for a pre-show cocktail party with live music at the Liberty Hall Museum in Union, across the street from Kean University’s main campus. Step back in time with a guided candlelight tour of Liberty Hall before heading to the Bauer Boucher Theatre Center for the show.  Following the performance, mingle with the cast in the theatre lobby while enjoying champagne and dessert.

Tickets for the Opening Night of Still are $100. Tickets for all other performances are $35 standard, $25 for senior citizens and Kean alumni and staff, $20 for patrons with disabilities and $15 for students. Significant discounts for groups of ten or more apply. To purchase tickets, please call the box office at 908-737-7469 or visit

All Premiere Stages facilities are fully accessible spaces, and companion seating is available for patrons with disabilities. Assistive listening devices and large print programs are available at all times; publications in alternate formats are available with advance notice. Sign-interpreted and audio described performances are available by request, at least two weeks in advance. Please call 908-737-4077 or email to request these services.

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Premiere Stages is made possible in part through funding from W. John Bauer and Nancy Boucher, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, Carole Shaffer-Koros and Robert Koros and ExxonMobil Foundation, The Dubose and Dorothy Heyward Foundation, Blue Foundry Charitable Foundation, The Northfield Bank Foundation, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Union Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, The Union County HEART Grant and through the generous support of individual patrons and local organizations. Discover Jersey Arts is our marketing partner. Visit for more information about other arts programming happening around the Garden State.

Premiere Stages is committed to producing topical plays and interactive programs that reflect people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, national origins, nationalities, ancestry, religious groups, gender expression or identities, sexual orientation, political beliefs, ages, abilities and disabilities.

Created in 2004, Premiere Stages is the professional Equity theatre in residence at Kean University. Through its unique partnership with Kean, Premiere’s play development programs, educational initiatives, and professional development opportunities actively embrace the university's academic curriculum while expanding the scope, accessibility, and prestige of the professional programming on campus.

Kean University, New Jersey’s urban research university, is a national institution of higher education recognized for its diversity, innovation and the social mobility of its graduates. Founded in 1855 as a teachers college, Kean has evolved into a thriving research university that supports students as they persist to graduation, give back to their communities and launch successful careers. Kean’s six colleges offer more than 50 undergraduate programs, six doctoral degree programs and more than 70 options leading to master’s degrees, professional diplomas or certifications, across a full range of academic subjects. With campuses in Union, Toms River and Manahawkin, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, as well as Kean Online, the University provides students of all backgrounds an affordable and accessible world-class education.



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The new season of Premiere Stages at Kean University opens with with a powerful production of Benjamin V. Marshall's play Still. This play is the true story of William Still, a man who ran an abolitionist office in Philadelphia. Kept under wraps but shown in this play is the work he does as an African American leader in the Underground Railroad. It is said that he helped over 600 slaves escape to freedom. The intensity of all that these pieces of Still's life entails is brought out through fine theatrical crafting including the use of well written dialog and strong theatrical components.

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