Articles By Susan Wallner
Passage Theatre's “Babel” Explores Parenting in a "Perfect" World
Jacqueline Goldfinger’s 90-minute play "Babel" glories in rapid-fire dialogue, comic visuals, and relatable characters—but its underlying issues are deadly serious.
published on 02/17/2021
PODCAST: From Soweto to Princeton -- the Buskaid String Ensemble
The Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble was planning an in-person visit to the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) when the pandemic hit. Their visit is temporarily on hold, but Buskaid - A Musical Miracle: Brilliant Baroque to Cool Kwela! is a series of five on-demand concerts providing a wonderful introduction to this inspiring musical group.
published on 01/29/2021
Border Photographer Ada Trillo in Noyes Museum Exhibition
Ada Trillo is a bilingual documentary photographer who grew up–literally–crossing the border. Born in El Paso, her family moved to Juárez when she was young, but she attended school in Texas. It meant an hours-long commute over the border every day. Trillo went on to become a painter, but Donald Trump’s hateful comments about Mexicans when he was first running for president caused her to make a radical shift. She had to show the people she knew.
published on 12/10/2020
Playwright Adrienne Kennedy featured in a Virtual Festival at McCarter Theatre
Adrienne Kennedy is an 89-year-old playwright who is fierce, prolific, and considered one of American theatre’s most innovative voices. In 1964, Kennedy won the first of her three Obies for her very first play, Funnyhouse of a Negro. Her most recent play, Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side, will have its public premiere December 12, 2020 as the final presentation in The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration & Influence, a festival presented by Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center in partnership with Washington, D.C.’s Round House Theatre.
published on 12/03/2020
"Rent Control" Opens Fringe Festival at Centenary Stage
“In the year 2000, I moved to New York to be an actor.” So begins “Rent Control,” Evan Zes’ one-man comedy about how an Upper East Side two-bedroom he lucked into the day he arrived in the city changed his life. Only $918 a month, Zes describes finding one of the last rent-controlled apartments in New York as akin to “discovering plutonium.” He then takes the audience on a fast-paced trip through what happened next – a tale replete with shady landlords, comic roommates, and an ill-advised AirBnB scheme that almost derailed his acting career.
published on 10/09/2020
Given Circumstance: New Plays at Mile Square Theatre
According to Chris O’Connor, founder and artistic director of Mile Square Theatre, in acting, “given circumstance” means the conditions affecting a scene. For instance, is a play taking place during a deadly pandemic? A given circumstance for theatre right now is that it usually takes place on Zoom.
published on 09/17/2020
Meet New Jersey’s Arts Leaders: Alysia Souder, Executive Director, The Institute of Music for Children
Alysia Souder is like that best camp counselor you ever had.
She’s also a savvy organizer, fundraiser, and deeply committed to the transformational power of the arts.
published on 09/10/2020
"The Show Must Go On!" at the Shakespeare Theatre of NJ
“The show must go on!” is part of Bonnie Monte’s DNA. As the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey for 30 years this season, shutting down was hard for her to do. But Monte found a way out, working with a group of eight actors originally employed as part of the theatre’s “Shakespeare Live!” company. The actors formed a new troupe (the Shrewd Mechanicals, in a nod to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), and will present two evenings of classic comedies: “Verily, Madly Thine,” and a double bill featuring Molière’s farce “The Love Doctor” and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Aria Da Capo.”
published on 08/08/2020
Two River Is Rising
A new series of play readings at Two River Theater in Red Bank is generating the kind of pre-show excitement that’s been in short supply since the pandemic began. There are big stars involved (Bebe Neuwirth, Phillipa Soo, Sam Waterston) and even a world premiere (“The Hombres” by Tony Meneses). The readings will take place live on Zoom, and require tickets. The series of five plays benefits both Two River Theater and five other non-profits, including The Actors Fund and The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. Plus, the plays themselves are timely.
published on 07/23/2020
Meet New Jersey's Arts Leaders: Steve Steiner, Producing Artistic Director, Surflight Theatre
Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven may be one of the first theatres in America to reopen, tentatively as soon as early July. Known as “Broadway by the Beach,” this professional equity theatre depends on its summer season, when Long Beach Island – four to six blocks wide and 18 miles long - swells from 10,000 or so residents to 150,000 people. “It’s survival,” says Steve Steiner, the producing artistic director of Surflight. “If we do this, the theatre will lose about $100,000. But if we don’t do this, the theatre will lose a half-a-million dollars, and we can’t survive that.”
published on 05/28/2020
PODCAST: Art House Productions Goes Virtual
Art House Productions was founded after 9/11 to bring Jersey City’s community together through the arts. They’ve thrived over the years, with live theatre, dance, comedy events, and more. The coronavirus has made them return to their roots of providing connection for the community, this time through live virtual events. Executive director Meredith Burns talks to producer Susan Wallner about Virtual Drag Bingo, Virtual Story Slam, Saturday Night Online Comedy, and more.
published on 05/22/2020
Meet New Jersey's Arts Leaders: Lauren Otis, Executive Director, Artworks
Long-time Trenton resident Lauren Otis is the executive director of Artworks, a downtown arts center with the mission of connecting community, culture, and creativity through the arts. Located in a former Sears warehouse nestled between giant government buildings and the quaintly historic Mill Hill neighborhood of Trenton, Artworks’ workshops, exhibitions, and other events draw a wide cross-section of people from the city and beyond. Plus, it produces two big annual events: Art All Night, a two day “arts extravaganza” held in the Roebling Wire Works building; and Art All Day, a city-wide open studio tour. Art All Day is still tentatively scheduled to take place “in real life” this fall, but Art All Night 2020 will take place virtually the weekend of August 15-16. More about that later.
published on 05/17/2020
Meet New Jersey's Arts Leaders: Jed Gaylin, Music Director, Bay Atlantic Symphony
South Jersey’s The Bay Atlantic Symphony is guided by the philosophy that music is essential to life. As the symphony’s music director, Jed Gaylin plans and conducts more than 15 concerts during the year at venues throughout the region, including the Stockton University Performing Arts Center, where the symphony is orchestra-in-residence. Of special note are the Bay Atlantic’s free, fully symphonic Young People’s Concerts conducted by Gaylin every May in Atlantic and Cumberland counties. Every May, that is, except this one.
published on 05/07/2020
Meet New Jersey's Arts Leaders: C. Ryanne Domingues, Artistic Director, Passage Theatre Company
C. Ryanne Domingues is a relative newcomer to Trenton, New Jersey, but she’s made it her home fast. As the artistic director of Passage Theatre Company since 2017, she’s deeply invested in creating a range of theatrical experiences that speak to all of the people living in Trenton - and that’s a very diverse group.
published on 04/24/2020
Meet New Jersey's Arts Leaders: Linda C. Harrison, Director and CEO, Newark Museum of Art
In November of 2019, the Newark Museum became the Newark Museum of Art. It was a subtle but telling change, indicative of the way that the museum’s new director thinks.
published on 04/17/2020
Meet New Jersey’s Arts Leaders: A Conversation with Samuel Pott, Founding Artistic Director, Nimbus Dance
Through his company Nimbus Dance, Samuel Pott choreographs new work, such as the recent premiere of “Falling Sky” at NJPAC, and provides dance education to 4,000 students in Jersey City. As the founder and artistic director of Nimbus, Pott has also choreographed a bold new move: the creation of a permanent home for the company at The Lively in Jersey City’s Powerhouse Arts District. Located on the ground floors of a new luxury apartment complex, the Nimbus Arts Center at The Lively includes studio and rehearsal space, a 150-seat theater, and administrative offices. The center will also house new partnerships focusing on arts education and the visual arts with St. Peter’s University and Pro Arts Jersey City.
published on 04/13/2020
PODCAST: Songwriters by the Sea
Songwriters by the Sea started in Asbury Park at a coffee shop in 2008, with a tip jar passed around. Since then, it’s grown to a ticketed event, but with an informal vibe. Top name performers play alongside local favorites. It was founded by singer/songwriters Joe D’Urso and Joe Rapolla. Rapolla is also a former music industry executive, and the chair of Monmouth University’s Music & Theatre Arts Department.
published on 03/26/2020
PODCAST: Sara Holdren's "Twelfth Night" at Two River Theater
It’s been called the perfect romantic comedy. Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night" begins with sister-brother twins losing each other in a shipwreck, leading to a high-spirited tale of gender-bending and mixed-up love affairs.
published on 01/17/2020
"Dreaming of Utopia: Roosevelt, NJ" at Morven Museum & Garden
In the 1930s, America was in the midst of the Great Depression, but those dark days spurred a period of reinvention and reinvigoration. President Roosevelt’s New Deal created programs that reached out to workers and new immigrants. Artists were employed to document America and its people, and to ornament the new bridges, parks and buildings that were being constructed.
published on 12/18/2019
A Play for Our Times at Luna Stage
Hannah Arendt is a philosopher for our times, and the unlikely title character in a new play “Mrs. Stern Wanders the Prussian State Library.” Jenny Lyn Bader
published on 11/07/2019
"Gloria: A Life" Headlines Emily Mann's Last Season at the McCarter
In this special edition of the Jersey Arts Podcast, producer Susan Wallner talks with Mann about her career, her future projects, and her final season, which begins with her play “Gloria: A Life” starring Mary McDonnell (“Dances with Wolves,” “Battlestar Galactica”).
published on 09/05/2019
Songwriter Rose Marie McCoy featured in "40s to 60s, A Musical Journey" at Puffin Cultural Forum
During the era of Jim Crow, black singers were played on black radio stations, and white singers on white ones. Famously, Elvis Presley adopted the bluesy style and songs of black performers, shocking white audiences. Rose Marie McCoy wanted to be a singer, but became one of the best songwriters of the time, working on both sides of the color barrier with hits by Ike and Tina Turner, Elvis Presley, James Taylor, and Sarah Vaughn, among others.
published on 07/24/2019
Arts Luminaries at Workshop on African American History
Connecting with history through the arts can be a powerful experience. In the late 1970s, the dramatic miniseries “Roots” brought the legacy of the slave trade home to a record number of Americans. In 2018, the Princeton & Slavery Project went beyond academics by commissioning short plays and original artwork to address the roles played by slaves and slave owners in the university’s early history.
published on 05/30/2019
"The Shared Meal" at Artworks
In the age of Instagram, food is a visual obsession. “The Shared Meal,” an exhibition at Artworks in Trenton, dives deeper, exploring the meaning of food through the work of nine visual artists. Two paintings by renowned Trenton painter Mel Leipzig are included. The first pictures his family around the kitchen table in 1975, the second, his daughter’s family around her own kitchen table over 30 years later.
published on 05/19/2019
Toshiko Takaezu’s Legacy featured in “Collective Identity” Exhibition
“You know, there is always such as thing as timing. And if you let yourself, allow yourself to work on timing, you really get it.” Toshiko Takaezu, the great ceramic artist who lived and worked in New Jersey for most of her life, was full of wise observations such as this. It was one of the reasons why so many people were deeply drawn to and influenced by her. I count myself among them. A documentary about her was my first big project as a producer
published on 04/30/2019
Sound Garden: Installations by John Morton and Jacqueline Shatz At The Morris Museum
Composer John Morton has created interactive installations using sound in Central Park, Governors Island and now the Morris Museum, where two of his pieces can be “played” through February 24. “Fever Songs” uses audio gathered from different religious traditions, and “The Voyage Out” is a collaboration with figurative artist Jacqueline Shatz.
published on 01/25/2019
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
published on 11/09/2018
PODCAST: Maria Mazziotti Gillan At The Dodge Poetry Festival
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Dodge Poetry Festival is the largest poetry event in North America. Paterson-based poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan will be reading on Thursday and Friday of the four-day festival taking place October 18-21 in Newark. Maria is the force behind the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College, and the author of more than 20 books of and about poetry. Her poems are about her life, including her strong memories of childhood in Paterson’s Italian immigrant community. She likes to talk about the “cave,” that place of memories and feelings inside us all that the best poetry takes us back to. Producer Susan Wallner spoke to Maria Mazziotti Gillan at her home in Hawthorne, a suburb of Paterson.
published on 10/17/2018
Kevin Sampson: Solo Exhibitions In New Jersey and Beyond
“I’m a Civil Rights baby. I grew up laying across picket lines and blocking traffic.”
Artist Kevin Sampson’s father, Stephen, was a well-known Civil Rights leader in New Jersey, and he instilled a commitment to community that his son still honors.
published on 10/10/2018
Good Friends Bring "Turning Off The Morning News" To The Stage
Mark Twain once observed, “The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow.”
One of America’s funniest playwrights, Christopher Durang, is proof. His plays are absurd, comical, and, almost always, very dark.
published on 05/23/2018
PODCAST: "Caged" at Passage Theatre
“Caged” is a play based on the experiences of incarcerated men in New Jersey. It’s written by the New Jersey Prison Cooperative, a group of men who met in a drama class in prison taught by Chris Hedges, an author and Princeton University professor. Hedges had heard a story about a man being jailed that had affected him, and he offered it to the class as a starting point. From that beginning, the men created “Caged,” a transformative play based on their own, similar experiences of incarceration.
published on 05/03/2018
The Legacy of Hope: Carolyn Dorfman Dance at Monmouth University
“I didn’t intend to make work about my Jewish legacy. It just kind of percolated,” says Carolyn Dorfman, choreographer and artistic director of Carolyn Dorfman Dance. Now in its 35th season, Carolyn Dorfman Dance explores a wide range of subjects, including the changing nature of love, the power of the natural world, even the meaning and attraction of tattoos.
published on 02/21/2018
Sharyn Rothstein's "A Good Farmer" Raises Emotional Issues
Two women are talking, a small farmer and one of her employees. They’re also friends. Immigration officers have just raided a nearby farm, and they’re scared. Sharyn Rothstein’s play “A Good Farmer” is set in a small town in upstate New York. It’s a study in friendship, paranoia and competing loyalties that’s looking for the human experience behind the kind of big issues that fill our daily news feed.
published on 02/01/2018
PODCAST: Express Newark
Producer Susan Wallner spoke to the co-directors of Express Newark, Anne Schaper Englot and Victor Davson. They call it a “third space” – where public scholarship and community engagement are opening up an exciting new chapter in Newark’s cultural history.
published on 11/30/2017
"Sea Of Vulnerability" - An Exhibition By Scientist-Artist Brandon Ballengee At Rowan University Art Gallery
“I’m a frog guy working in a fish lab.”
That’s the truth, but a bit of an understatement, when describing Brandon Ballengée. He’s a scientist – a post-doc fellow at Louisiana State University conducting research on fish and their survival in the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He’s also an internationally acclaimed artist who’s been featured in The New York Times, the New Yorker, ARTnews, and is represented by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts.
published on 09/22/2017
Fairies Transform Trash In "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
When the days are longest, the world can magically transform. In a new production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the fairies Moth, Cobweb, Mustardseed, Peaseblossom, Puck, Oberon and Titania transform items most of us casually throw away. Old keys, straws, plastic membership and transit cards, wine corks and CDs, all combine in costumes and sets that evoke a magical world. Director and designer Bonnie Monte – a self-proclaimed collector and recycler – describes her vision of “Midsummer” to producer Susan Wallner. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jerseyperforms “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at their outdoor stage at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morris Township through July 30th.
published on 07/07/2017
PODCAST: A Tribute to Louis Armstrong at January Thaw Music Fest
Hot music for a cold month – that’s the idea behind Centenary Stage‘s January Thaw Music Fest in Hackettstown, NJ. Producer Susan Wallner talks with Eddie Allen, leader of 3hree for Louis, a six-piece ensemble playing the music of the great Louis Armstrong.
published on 01/16/2017