Union Mayor's Day 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, September 20th (Rain or Shine)
Union High School
Cooke Drive, Union
For more info:
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The Theater Project is proud to be a sponsor at the
Union Mayor's Day 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, September 20th (Rain or Shine)
Union High School
Cooke Drive, Union
For more info:
“It’s like falling in love with your best friend,” said New Jersey screenwriter and contest judge Bill Mesce, Jr, recalling how his love affair with movies began at Saturday matinees in the 1960s and led to his becoming a writer for and about film. “You wake up one morning, and realize that what you feel is more than friendship. It’s love, and you have to go after it.”
His audience was teenaged filmmakers, all finalists in The Theater Project’s first annual Young Filmmakers’ Competition. Also present were the films’ casts and crews, friends and families, all gathered at Café Mondo in Summit on June 22 for the screening and to find out who would win the Judges’ Pick award. The event was also supported by the Summit Film Society.
Mesce encouraged his young audience to explore their love of film and storytelling. “The skills you develop in this kind of creative process will serve you your whole life in any career you choose or in achieving any goal you set.”
Mesce and contest coordinator Will Budnikov presented certificates to finalists after their films were screened. The finalists were:
The students of Mr. Jim Kelly, Nutley High School, submitted an impressive group effort: a public service film about the dangers of distracted driving.
These mini-movies were evaluated by Theater Project’s contest coordinator, filmmaker Will Budnikov (Woodbridge); novelist, playwright and screenwriter Bill Mesce, Jr, (Linden); and actor/producer Matt Farnsworth (Los Angeles) whose most recent film is THE ORPHAN KILLER. John General of Hackettstown and Ethan Lynch of Randolph tied for the Judges’ Pick. Gabriella Grinwald-Alves of Toms River was selected by attendees to win the Audience Favorite Award.
“Film and theater are both concerned with telling stories and exchanging ideas,” says competition coordinator Will Budnikov. “Both give kids the chance to develop critical thinking skills as they pick and choose the words and images that will tell their story.”
“The goal of all our programs – mainstage productions, playwrights workshops, classes and competitions for kids, artist panels and discussions – is to build a creative community that can support the artist in each one of us,” according to the company’s artistic director, Mark Spina.
Past winners of their Young Playwrights Competition have gone on to pursue degrees in theater and playwriting, and they often return to The Theater Project to present prizes and share their journeys with the newest honorees. The Theater Project hopes the same will hold true for the participants in the new filmmaking competition.
Written by Mark Spina
You are cordially invited to The Theater Project’s Black & White Gala with a POP of Red, Thursday, May 15th at the exquisite Wilshire Grand in West Orange, NJ! We are excited to celebrate 20 years with our friends and supporters – please join our patrons, supporters, actors, directors, writers and our keynote speaker, KINKY BOOTS producer Ken Davenport, in honoring eight very special people who have helped us achieve all that we have in the last two decades. Our honorees all have one thing in common: they have chosen to invest their time, talent and resources in The Theater Project … and we are ever so grateful. Together, we are making a difference. We’re looking forward to sharing stories of impact and inspiration, our current events, our aspirations and hopes for the future of our organization, and the foundation we’re laying for the next 20 years of thought provoking theater! The Theater Project, which was dubbed “the little engine that could” by one of our funders for having such big dreams and wide ranging programs, is looking forward to the next 20 years of theater that expands our minds and imaginations while it entertains. All funds raised by this event will support this effort. So please join us for a special evening of performances by your favorite actors, beautiful music, cocktails, hors d' oeuvres, a delectable dinner, exciting auctions, and special tributes … simply a night of memorable moments with friends of the Arts!
DATE: Thursday, May 15, 2014, @ 6:30
VENUE: The Wilshire Grand, West Orange, NJ
TICKETS: $100 per person Get Them Here
* Black, White or Red Evening Attire Optional. Translation: Suit & Tie, Dresses, Something Nice.
Keynote by Ken Davenport, "Tony Award Winning Broadway Producer" (Kinky Boots)
For over half a century, researchers have been probing the preserved segments of the brain of Albert Einstein looking for the seat of genius in one of history’s greatest scientific minds. Einstein’s brain is, indeed, different, but not in the ways one might expect. It was not those segments of the brain we associate with math or logic that appeared more developed than average brains, but the lobes that are home to imagination. To quote from an April 2013 New Jersey Monthly story (“The Secret Life of Einstein’s Brain”): “It wasn’t mathematics that made Einstein a genius. Equations were merely tools. It was the pictures in his head…”
Einstein, it should be remembered, didn’t spend every conscious hour noodling numbers. He enjoyed playing the violin and sailing; activities which allowed that massive intellect of his the opportunity to play and percolate.
The connection between science and creativity is not singular to Einstein. Astronomer Carl Sagan found poetry in the mechanics of the universe and was thus able to make the mysteries of the cosmos understandable and entrancing to the masses. The same can be said for physics and our modern-day version of Einstein, Stephen Hawking. Or go back five centuries to da Vinci, whose art fueled his scientific inquiries which, in turn, informed his art.
Or, to find a less heady example, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was always fond of telling interviewers of the letters he received in his later years from people who credited watching his show as kids with sparking them toward careers in the sciences and space exploration-related technologies.
It is worth remembering, through these examples, the connection between the creative and the practical during these times when the arts and humanities find themselves, on a number of campuses, struggling to justify their existence. There are those from the business world as well as academics in the professional fields who advocate a “teaching to the task” model for higher education, streamlining – or stripping out – humanities requirements to provide a faster, cheaper path to graduation, and produce graduates focused on practical application of their newly-learned skills.
But the arts and humanities do have a practical application; a supremely vital application. Consider this excerpt from a 2013 op-ed piece (“Don’t Forget Humanities”) by one-time Clinton White House spokesman Robert Weiner and policy analyst Jaime Ravenet:
One need only look at companies such as Apple and Facebook to understand the importance of having a strong humanities education. Both are tech companies. However, what distinguished them from the start was an emphasis on creative applications of science and technology…Steve Jobs’ amazing and persuasive speeches…were not math formulas; they were verbal masterpieces. China’s educational and economic climate, as rich as it is in science and math education, has never produced a company as innovative as Apple or Facebook.
One can find an emphatic confirmation of the Weiner/Ravenet thesis in an 11/18/13 Time article by Michael Schuman entitled, “Why China Can’t Create Anything,” which also takes the view that unless China can learn to innovate instead of simply produce, its long-term economic prospects are less than rosy. And innovation – those quantum leaps of imagination wherein a visionary looks into empty space and sees the devices and systems and methodologies of the future – is fueled not by a mastery of equations and formulae, but by those things which stretch, twist, bend and stoke the intellect.
It is in the interest of the sciences and the science-based industries to support the arts and humanities, to nurture an interest in them not out of some abstract moral purpose, but as a real and concrete investment in cultivating the next generation of innovators and inventors, of scientific explorers and experimenters, the imagination-fueled visionaries who will keep the science and technology industries competitive through their creativity.
The Theater Project is no stranger to hot potato topics. As you probably know, we’ve presented productions and readings of plays tackling marriage and income inequality, not to mention war and peace.
Now, we’re looking at political terrorism in a stage reading of TWO ROOMS by Lee Blessing. After the reading, Gary Glor, General Manager, will lead the discussion which we expect will be lively.
The play examines a husband and wife separated by an act of political violence. The two rooms of the title are a windowless cubicle in Beirut where an American hostage is being held by Arab terrorists and a room in his home in the United States.
The wife’s room has been stripped of furniture so that, at least symbolically, she can share his ordeal. While he languishes in confinement, she does all she can to pressure the government to take action.
The play will be presented as a script in hand performance at the Maplewood Memorial Library, 51 Baker Street, at 2 PM, Saturday, May 3. Admission is free.
Actors Jessica O'Hara-Baker, Elissa Strell, Scott Cagney and Jerome Shuler will perform the reading which will be directed by Nick Wolf of Bloomfield.
You may have recently seen Wolf in our fall main stage production of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES.
Gary Glor and Daaimah Talley have appeared onstage over The Theater Project's twenty year history. J.Edward Cecala, Diane Fairfax, Stephanie Fein, Bohdan Lukachewsky, Deborah Pires and Dick Mattfield have not. But all will be honorees at TTP's twentieth anniversary gala on Thursday, May 15.
At the risk of sounding too much like an echo of the recent Oscar ceremony -- held by an upstart art form that dates only to the 1890s -- we note that those TTP honorees who play their roles offstage outnumber the onstage performers by a ratio of 3 to 1. Or, to put it another way, actors are necessary but not sufficient for a theater company to succeed.
To prove that point even further, the keynote speaker will be a producer, Ken Davenport, producer of Kinky Boots, which won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical. Davenport was also named one of Crain’s “Forty Under 40″, and is one of the Co-Organizers of TEDxBroadway. He has written articles for Forbes, Mashable, Imedia and others; his blog, TheProducersPerspective.com, has been featured in Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, The Gothamist and more.
The Theater Project, a professional theater company, is based at the Burgdorff Cultural for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, New Jersey. The Star-Ledger has recognized the Project's outstanding work with awards for best production, best performer and best director. Begun in 1994 with the goal of presenting the best contemporary plays, it now presents more than 50 performances a year on five stages in two counties. In addition to stage productions, it offers extensive programs serving local playwrights, people with disabilities, children and seniors.
The gala honorees have contributed to that mission in a variety of ways. In addition to their onstage roles, honorees Glor and Talley helped create The Theater Project, as did honoree Deborah Pires. Bohdan Lukaschewsky served as president of TTP's board. J.Edward Cecala and Stephanie Fein supported the project in their roles as philanthropists and community activists. Diane Fairfax and the late Dick Mattfield, who will be represented at the event by Catherine Mattfield, were the creators and coordinators of The Theater Project’s programs for people with vision limitations.
The evening will include live music and a lineup of many favorite actors who’ve appeared in Theater Project productions over the past 20 years. The event, which will be at the Wilshire Grand in West Orange, New Jersey will begin with a cocktail hour, followed by a sit down dinner; an open bar will be available throughout the evening. Guests also can take part in a silent auction that includes a getaway weekend and other offerings. Tickets are $100 per person.
The funds raised will sustain the Theater Project’s mission of serving New Jersey audiences with professionally staged contemporary plays. In the last 20 years, this mission has grown into bringing the live theater experience to children – in their schools and through afterschool classes, and making theater accessible for people with physical disabilities, or with visual or hearing limitations.
“This gala is a milestone for us. We want to mark our 20th anniversary by celebrating and honoring the impressive people who have helped us bring live theater to more and more diverse audiences,” said Mark Spina, Founder and Artistic Director. “Our theater company is fortunate to have our friends who have helped us create exciting theater programs. On May 15th we are thanking them for their generosity as we continue to raise money for our important mission: nurturing and challenging the creative artist in each one of us.”
In addition to attending the Gala, anyone can support The Theater Project by becoming a Gala Sponsor, placing an ad in the evening’s program, or donating items for the Silent Auction. Information on Sponsorships, advertising and auction donations can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase tickets for the Gala, or to learn more about The Theater Project, please visit thetheaterproject.org.
Novels are frequently turned into movies (sometimes to the novelist's regret), but less often into plays (a fact which those novelists may also regret). Barbara Ehrenreich's book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," on which The Theater Project's upcoming production is based, is non-fiction, but is a storybook nonetheless. Ehrenreich, who has a Ph.D, in biology but has focused her writing career on economic and social issues, took on low income jobs and in "Nickel and Dimed" told the stories of her co-workers' efforts to survive or support families on as little as 6 or 7 dollars an hour.
The play "Nickel and Dimed," written by Joan Holden, features a successful writer named Barbara, who over an expansive expense account lunch with an editor, proposes to investigate the lives of low-wage workers by trying to survive on minimum wage jobs herself. The editor scoffs at the idea, but Barbara goes ahead with it. Thus the play frames its main theme (the book's story of underpaid workers struggling to get by) within a story of how such a book came to be written.
The Theater Project is known for presenting both outrageous comedy and productions which focus on social commentary. In the case of "Nickel and Dimed," it does both at once. “A big surprise for many is that this play is a comedy," says Theater Project artistic director Mark Spina. “It looks at underemployment, income inequality and the need for living wages – huge economic issues being debated right now. But it dramatizes the lives of struggling workers with empathy and humor.”
TIME Magazine called the play, "A rare example of theater that tries to open people's eyes to the way life is lived in the real world—and maybe even rouse them to action."
Bev Sheehan (Maplewood) plays Barbara; Gary Glor (Union), Barbara Guidi (Scotch Plains), Gail Lou (Teaneck), Daaimah Talley (Plainfield), Sarah Brooke Vanaman (Jersey City), play the people who cross her path. The production is directed by Spina (Union).
NICKEL AND DIMED plays March 20 through April 6 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, 10 Durand Rd, Maplewood, NJ. Performances are on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM. There will be a talk-back with actors after each Friday night performance, and the actors greet the audience in the lobby after every show. Tickets ($30 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $15 for students) may be purchased online at.thetheaterproject.org or by phone: (908) 809-8865
The Theater Project inaugurates first annual
Young FilmMakers Competition
Open to all NJ secondary school students, ages 13 to 18.
(NEW JERSEY) Having encouraged young writers for a dozen years through its annual contest for high school playwrights, The Theater Project is reaching out to young movie enthusiasts as well in a Young Filmmakers Competition.
“Film and theater are both concerned with telling stories and exchanging ideas,” says competition coordinator Will Budnikov of Woodbridge. “Both mediums give kids the chance to develop critical thinking skills as they pick and choose the words and images that will tell their story.”
The Theater Project is an award-winning professional company in residence at The Burgdorff Cultural Center in Maplewood, NJ. Past winners of the Playwrights Competition have gone on to pursue degrees in theater and playwriting, and they often return to The Theater Project to present prizes and share their journeys with the newest honorees. The Theater Project hopes the same will hold true for the participants in the new filmmaking competition.
“The goal of all our programs – mainstage productions, playwrights workshops, classes and competitions for kids, artist panels and discussions – is to build a creative community that can support the artist in each one of us,” according to the company’s director, Mark Spina.
The competition will begin accepting submissions on March 1, 2014. New Jersey’s high school filmmakers may submit their DVDs via US mail no later than April 21. Films entered in the contest must be between 5 and 12 minutes long. There is a $20 entry fee. Finalists will be notified by May 15, and invited to the June screening of their work where the winners will be judged and prizes awarded. The screening will be open to the public.
DVD entries can be mailed to THE THEATER PROJECT, Box 101, Union, NJ 07083. Entrants should include a cover letter with a short biography of the entrant, including contact information and school attended, and a statement saying the film is being submitted by its owner or licensee, giving The Theater Project the right to publicly screen the film as part of the festival. DVD entries will not be returned.
“We want to make sure that kids know how appreciated their creative efforts are by showcasing them in front of the community,” says Budnikov. “In tough economic times, the arts sometimes get short changed as people struggle to make ends meet and schools see their budgets shrink. But when kids lose out on arts experiences, they miss opportunities to develop critical thinking and reading skills that are needed now more than ever.”
Among the judges of the competition will be Linden resident Bill Mesce, Jr., an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, whose recent short story collection, PRECIS, was published by Stephen F. Austin University Press. He is also the author of OVERKILL: THE RISE AND FALL OF THRILLER CINEMA, and writes regularly about film and television for the award-winning website, Sound on Sight.
Complete competition guidelines are available at TheTheaterProject.org.
WHAT: Young Filmmakers Competition
WHEN: April 21, 2014 Submission Deadline
WHO: NJ High School Students
INFO: www.thetheaterproject.org, 908 809-8865
One act plays present a special challenge to a playwright. As playwright Michael McGoldrick described the challenge, it is "developing a clearly defined dramatic situation and clearly defined characters in just a few pages" without "being overly expository or 'gimmicky.'" A related difficulty, as Joseph Vitale, also a playwright, characterizes it, is that "there is no time for convoluted plots. The dialogue must reveal the essence within a page or two at the start and then provide the means for quickly resolving it."
On February 14-16, theatergoers will be able to judge for themselves how well eight playwrights met those challenges. The Theater Project, an award-winning, professional theater in Maplewood, NJ, has announced the eight short plays that will take part in Think Fast, its first one-act competition, at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts.
In addition to the challenges they pose to playwrights, one act plays offer one to theatergoers as well: finding a production of one. They are not produced nearly as often as longer works. As Theater Project artistic director Mark Spina put it, "we are proud to be one of the few New Jersey theaters featuring a one-act competition of original works.”
Spina points out that the shorter form presents opportunities for playwrights as well as challenges. "One-acts," he notes, "give authors an opportunity to flirt with themes and characters that they may return to in other plays."
The plays to be presented include Adulation by Elan Garonzik, Queue by Jon Citron, How Persephone Learned to Listen by Brandon Monokian,Bell by Dolly Williams, My Sister's Back is Killing Me by Mary Jane Walsh, Exhibit This! by Charles Denk, Phylis and Peter by Shane Mullery andAnother Day in Paradise by Joe Starzyk.
Performances will take place on Friday, February 14 at 8 p.m, Saturday, February 15 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 16 at 2 p.m. In addition to Best Play, which will garner a $500 prize for its author, a panel of judges will bestow awards for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director. In addition, members of the audience will be asked to vote for their favorite plays after each show and an “Audience Favorite” award will also be announced after the February 16 performance.
Tickets, priced at $20 and $10 for students, may be purchased online at TheTheaterProject.org or at the box office before each performance at the Burgdorff Center, 10 Durand Rd, Maplewood, NJ.
Two actors will perform and two professors will ponder ethical questions of war when The Theater Project presents readings of Peter Morris's play GUARDIANS on February 7 and 8, followed by a discussion. One focus of GUARDIANS is on events which closely parallel those at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where American soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners. The two character play examines the motives of a male journalist who fabricates evidence of military abuse and a female soldier involved in what seems to be the Abu Ghraib torture scandals, and will be followed by a discussion by
Dr. Robert Pallitto of Seton Hall University and Madelyn Hoffman, executive director of New Jersey Peace Action and adjunct professor of political science.
GUARDIANS premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it won the Fringe First Award and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and has since been performed in London and New York.
Mark Spina, director of the readings and The Theater Project's artistic director, views GUARDIANS as one of many instances in which art (in this case theater) allows observers (in this case theatergoers) to "see the world through another's eyes." In this
case, those others include the unreliable journalist, the accused soldier, and the playwright himself. The observers must choose whether to rely on any of their accounts, or simply to ignore all of their reports and absolve themselves of responsibility for the acts of their leaders.
presents many questions for the post-reading discussions, which may include whether and where there is a line between interrogation ("enhanced" or not) and torture, whether torture can ever be justified to prevent a catastrophic act of terror, whether military culture can foster legitimate battle aggressiveness without encouraging abusive aggression, and perhaps even whether military force is ever legitimate. It may also refer to whether there is less public concern about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than there was about the Vietnam war, and if so why.
Professor Pallitto recently published Torture and State Violence in the United States. His first book, State Secrets and Executive Power (co-authored with William Weaver) was featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Ms. Hoffman's group, NJ Peace Action, founded in 1957 as New Jersey SANE, has fought for nuclear disarmament and prevention of war, and protested the use of drones and torture.
The Theater Project, an award-winning New Jersey theater company at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, is known for presenting outrageous comedy as well as drama with social commentary. The Theater Project believes in using drama as a springboard to community discussion and interaction. The company regularly presents staged readings of plays dealing with current affairs: PROP 8
(Marriage equality) STUFF HAPPENS (the lead-up to the Iraq war) and TIGER LILIES OUT OF SEASON (breast cancer treatment alternatives).
Spina, the director of these readings, was awarded a 2012 best director award by the
Star-Ledger. Each script-in-hand performance will be followed by a discussion with the audience and the guest panel, February 7 at 8 pm, and Feb 8 at 2 PM at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, 10 Durand Road, Maplewood, NJ.
Tickets ($20) may be reserved by calling 973.763.4029 or
purchased through The Theater Project website, www.thetheaterproject.org.