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Press Articles 2019

NJ Rep To Present The World Premiere of "The Source" by Jack Canfora

NJ Stage

(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- New Jersey Repertory Company will present the world premiere of Jack Canfora's The Source, winner of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, March 7 thru April 7. This powerful play examines the forces that shape our views of the world and the influence of the media on our society and individual privacy. It delves into the inner workings of a newspaper dynasty, and deals with the explosive conflict between its founding patriarch, his entitled son, and the ambitious young woman who is caught in the middle.

The Source stars Eleanor Handley, Andrew Rein, and Conan McCarty and is directed by Evan Bergman. It is the fourth play produced by NJ Rep written by the award-winning playwright. Past premieres by Canfora include Place Setting, Poetic License and Jericho. Poetic Licenseand Jericho both moved to Off-Broadway after their original productions at NJ Rep.

Jack Canfora (Playwright) Plays include: Off Broadway – Poetic License (59E59), Jericho (59E59) (New York Times Critics' Pick). Regional – Fellow Travelers (Bay Street Theatre), Barroom Sonata (NJ Repertory 2017 Theatre Brut Festival), Jericho (2010 Edgerton Award Winner) (NJ Rep, Florida Repertory Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Minnesota Jewish Theatre, UpstART Theater Colorado), Poetic License (NJ Rep), Place Setting (NJ Rep). His web series The Small Time (co-created with Andrew Rein) won the 2016 Webby Award for "Best Writing".

Evan Bergman (Director) Lemonade, Place Setting, Poetic License, Jericho, American Stare, The Tangled Skirt, A View of the Mountains, Saving Kitty, The M Spot, Substance of Bliss, Mad Love, For Worse, Mutual Philanthropy, The Calling. The Source marks his fifteenth production for NJ Rep and his fourth collaboration with Jack Canfora; New York and Los Angeles: The Director starring John Shea Gryzk. (Ensemble Studio Theater); Love Therapy, Alison Frazer (Daryl Roth Theatre); A Better Place (The Duke) The Glass House (workshops) David Strathairn, Hope Davis, Laila Robbins (Connecticut); Geraint Wyn Davies (Barrington Stage); New York Harris Yulin (Clurman Theatre); Jericho and Poetic License (59E59).

Eleanor Handley: NJ Rep Debut. New York Theater includes Tom Stoppard's The Hard Problem (Lincoln Center Theater), Chuck Mee's Limonade tous les jours (opposite Austin Pendelton) and Jack Canfora's Jericho (New York Times Critic's pick). Recent regional credits: On Golden Pond, Time Stands Still, Witness for the Prosecution (Barrymore nomination), Lost in Yonkers (Barrymore nomination). Eleanor has also performed extensively at the Hudson Valley and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festivals. Favorite roles include Cressida (Troilus and Cressida), Regan (King Lear), Maggie (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Beatrice (Much Ado about Nothing), Milady (The Three Musketeers), Elvira (Blithe Spirit), and Kate (Taming of the Shrew). Television appearances include As the World Turns, Royal Pains and Unforgettable.

Andrew Rein: For NJ Rep: Jericho, Theatre Brut. Off-Broadway: Jericho (59E59), Acts of Love (Kirk Theatre), A Midsummer Night's Dream (TBTB). Regional: TheaterWorks Hartford, Triad Stage, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, Bickford Theatre, Burning Coal Theatre Company, Washington Stage Guild, PCPA. Film: 39 and a Half, Remains, Ménage a Trois, Bobby G. Can't Swim. TV: Power, The Blacklist: Redemption, Luke Cage, Odd Mom Out, Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order, Gossip Girl. 2016 Webby Award for The Small Time, which he co-created and co-wrote with Jack Canfora, and stars in alongside Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker. Training: M.F.A., American Conservatory Theater, B.A., Duke University.

Conan McCarty: is pleased to make his New Jersey Repertory debut in The Source. He has performed in plays by Shakespeare, Shepard, O'Neill, Chekhov, Mamet, Fugard, Steinbeck, Friel, Lee Blessing, Christopher Durang, Aaron Sorkin, Steve Martin, David Lindsay-Abaire, and Brendan Behan on and Off Broadway, NYTW, Manhattan Theater Club, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Pioneer Theater, Center Stage, Cleveland Playhouse, Actors Theater of Louisville, George Street Playhouse, The Old Globe, Shadowland Stages, Indiana Repertory, and the Downstairs Theater Bar at the West Bank Cafe.

APPLE SEASON has an Outstanding World Premiere at NJ Rep

"Both of us looked over our shoulders for a long time."
By Roger in Apple Season

E.M. Lewis' Apple Season is now making its world premiere at New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep). This wonderfully crafted, emotive play is sure to make a lasting impression on metro area theatregoers. With the artful direction of Zoya Kachadurian and the show's splendid cast, it is storytelling at its best.

Apple Season tells of siblings, Roger and Lissie who return to town and their family's apple farm in Oregon after twenty years, for the funeral of their father. Roger now lives and works in Wyoming, while Lissie has stayed in the state and is a fourth grade teacher. Lissie confronts memories of her painful past when Billy, a former high school classmate and neighbor, visits her to talk and offers to purchase the apple farm. As the story unfolds, we learn about the family issues that had grim effects on Roger and Lissie. While Apple Season involves significant and serious subjects, there are many charming and humorous moments that round out this captivating tale.

Apple Season stars Kersti Bryan as Lissie, Richard Kent Green as Roger, and Christopher M. Smith as Billy. Their character portrayals are wholly genuine and bring Lewis' compelling story to life. The actors depict events from their youth and the present time with seamless transitions. Memorable scenes include Lissie and Billy first meeting in the apple orchard after the funeral; Roger and Lissie in their tree house as youngsters; Billy driving Roger home from basketball when they were in high school; Billy telling Lissie about his newly acquired ability to cook; and Billy recalling his high school infatuation with Lissie.

The Production Staff has done a top job of bringing a farm scene to the stage and setting the mood for the show. They include scenic design by Jessica Parks; lighting design by Jill Nagle; assistant lighting design by Janey Huber; sound design by Merek Royce Press; costume design by Patricia E. Doherty. The Fight Director is Brad Lemons; Technical Director is Brian P. Snyder; Production Stage Manager is Kristin Pfeifer; Stage Manager is Rose Riccardi; and the Assistant Stage Managers are Adam von Pier and Jessica Friedland.

We applaud Executive Producer Gabor Barabas and Artistic Director, Suzanne Barabas on an excellent start to their 2019 theater season. Apple Season is a poignant story that poses an age-old question. Can a person can effectively leave the past behind and heal their painful wounds? It is a play that provokes contemplation and conversation. See this outstanding production while it is on the Long Branch stage.


by Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen

Christopher M. Smith (Billy), Kersti Bryan (Lissie) and Richard Kent Green (Roger) star in "Apple Season" at New Jersey Repertory Company now through Feb. 10. Courtesy: NJ Repertory Company

There is a lot more growing in the orchards surrounding the Fogerty farm in rural Wyoming than just fruit in E.M. Lewis' new play "Apple Season," making its debut at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch.

Siblings Lissie and Roger have returned home – after they mysteriously disappeared 20 years earlier – to attend their father's funeral. But they haven't come to mourn him. More likely, they've returned to make sure he is really dead.

As the 90-minute play unfolds we learn that, as children, Lissie (Kersti Bryan) and Roger (Richard Kent Green) were terrorized by their father who had a habit of shooting a .22 caliber rifle in all directions when drunk. Which was often.

Their mother, who only spoke in a whisper, died when they were young. You get the idea she was terrorized by him as well.

Kersti Bryan stars as Lissie and Christopher M. Smith as Billy.

Roger, who was so damaged by his father that he flees town before the funeral. He was 16 when he left the first time. At 16 he could drive. He could get a job and support his little sister. At least, that was the plan.

The play opens with Lissie, who inherited the farm (the siblings pretended Roger was dead) picking and sorting apples more by rote than desire. What she really wants to do, we learn later, is to burn down her childhood home because bad things happened inside as well.

When childhood friend and neighbor Billy (Christopher M. Smith) stops by, she just may have found an arson accomplice. And, since neither married and he wants to buy the farm, maybe she found more than she bargained for.

All three actors handle their roles perfectly under the deft direction of Zoya Kachadurian. We learn about their characters' past through flashbacks to their childhood aided by projections on to the side of the shed surrounded by apple trees on the set designed by Jessica Parks and enhanced by the lighting designed by Jill Nagle. Costumes were designed by Patricia E. Doherty.

The LINK News

Theater Review: Crisp acting makes Apple Season delicious play to watch

By Madeline Schulman


Kersti Bryan (Lissie) and Christopher M. Smith (Billy) in Apple Season, now playing at NJ Rep (New Jersey Repertory Company photo)

Long Branch — A tree grows in Long Branch. Actually, two trees, with the suggestion of many more, grow in Jessica Parks's clever set, creating an apple orchard in rural Oregon. Lissie Fogerty (Kersti Bryan), a pretty woman in (as we learn) her early thirties, is on a ladder picking apples when she is startled by a visit from Billy (Christopher M. Smith), her attractive, slightly older neighbor.

Aside from her father's funeral earlier that day, this is the first time Lissie and Billy have seen each other in twenty years. Clearly, there are secrets to be revealed. Judging by the abrupt disappearance of Lissie and her brother Roger (Richard Kent Green) in their teens, those secrets are dark.

Ostensibly, Billy is there to negotiate the purchase of the Forgerty orchard from Lissie, her father's sole heir, but there is obvious chemistry and history between the self-conscious pair.

Apple Season, written by E. M. Lewis, directed by Zoya Kachadurian, and now on stage at NJ Rep, is largely a memory play. Lissie and Billy always on stage (except for a few seconds to put crates of apples in the shed), but Roger only appears in brilliantly imagined flashbacks. For example, we see him as a young boy, comforting his terrified sister while their father is drunkenly shooting at random, as a teenager in Billy's pickup truck riding back from a basketball game, and as a man enamored of Louis L'Amour's novels taking a train to his new life as a cowboy.

Richard Kent Green does a superb job throughout of acting Roger at every age, and would be recognizable as young Roger or adolescent Roger even without the costume signifiers (backward baseball cap or varsity jacket). Kersti Bryan and Christopher M. Smith are also fine re-enacting the younger versions of themselves, as they slip from the present moment into memories.

I don't think the revelation of the trauma that forced Lissie and Roger from their home will come as much of a surprise. The surprises lie more in the clever use of screen projection, the different ways that Roger and Lissie react to their dismal childhood, and the reveal of a marvelous prop on loan from Delicious Orchards.

One little criticism: at one point Lissie takes a couple of bites out of an apple and then puts it back in the crate. She says she is planning to leave the orchard permanently and go back to her fourth grade teaching job as soon as she finishes picking the apples, so what is going to become of the crate? And what will the purchaser make of an apple with a bite out of it?

Out IN Jersey

"Apple Season" explores the strong grip of the past

By Allen Neuner

The New Jersey Repertory Company starts its 21 st season of artistic excellence with Apple Season, a new play by E.M. Lewis, as its 133 rd production. This play is an exploration of the strength of long-repressed memories even over a span of decades, and how the past can continue to taint the present and threaten to mold the future. It is a play of great emotional power. It is a production that needs to be seen.

It's autumn in rural Oregon. The patriarch of a farming family has died, and his two children return to attend his funeral after a twenty year absence. Lissie Fogerty (Kersti Bryan) is picking apples from the family orchard, almost by rote, following the funeral. Neighbor and childhood friend Will (Christopher M. Smith) comes by to offer condolences. He offers to buy the land from her, intending to continue farming it. The offer and the conversation that follows trigger memories of when Lissie and her older brother Roger (Richard Kent Green) fled the family farm, disappearing for two decades.

Director Zoya Kachadurian guides her actors to performances so naturalistic that you forget you're watching actors on a stage. Miss Bryan, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Green brilliantly pull off playing their characters' current selves as well as the same characters twenty years previously. Flashback scenes weave seamlessly with current action, teasing out the long- buried secrets of the Fogerty family. The play raises the question of whether the siblings will ever be able to escape their haunted past. Its unsettling ending leaves that question unanswered.

As usual with NJ Rep productions, the small stage is transformed through the imaginative work of the design team. Jessica Parks once again works magic with her scenic design, in collaboration with Jill Nagel's lighting and Merek Royce Press' sound design. The lived-in costumes of Patricia E. Doherty are timeless, as fitting for the characters of the present as they are for the characters of two decades past.

The New Jersey Repertory Company has been honored this year by the American Theatre Wing, overseers of the Tony and Obie awards, with a National Theatre Company Grant. In giving their reasons for the grant, the Wing cited NJ Rep for "developing and producing new plays to make a lasting contribution to the American stage, enriching the cultural life of their community and acting as a catalyst for redevelopment, educating and inspiring young people in theater arts and playwriting, nurturing the work of writers from diverse backgrounds and building diverse audiences, and building a regional and national destination for the performing arts." Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have seen works produced by NJ Rep heartily concur with their opinion.

NJ Rep is part of the National New Play Network, which does "rolling world premieres" of new plays in different cities. They have been honored to be the first of four theatres which will be premiering Apple Season, and we are honored by this production. Theatregoers looking for a gripping memory play with three-dimensional characters brought to life by talented actors and a skilled director will find it in Apple Season. I strongly encourage you to see it.

'Apple Season' is about a homecoming. It's also one for the director.

Kersti Bryan as Lissie in "Apple Season," a family story that will have its world premiere run at NJ Repertory Company Jan. 12 - Feb. 10. (NJ Repertory Company)

By Natalie Pompilio

In E.M. Lewis' "Apple Season," which will have its world premiere at NJ Repertory Company Jan. 12, a brother and sister who thought they'd left their past behind find that it has instead shaped their current lives and could still alter their future.

How they deal with their childhood pain and with each other is the dramatic thrust of the story, director Zoya Kachadurian said.

"When bad things happen, it's not just the victim who is affected. That's an important message to convey and I like how this play shows that," Kachadurian said. "We think children get over things. We acknowledge basic traumas but we think they outgrow it. It colors their lives in ways we don't even realize."

The director was careful not to reveal any of the details of the show.

The general description offered by NJ Rep will have to suffice, she said: "Twenty years ago, Lissie and Roger fled from their family farm and made themselves disappear. But the family secrets haunt them still. A funeral and a question from an old friend send the two siblings tumbling down a rabbit hole of memory and grief, as they try to let go of a tangled past that refuses to release them."

Just as the play is about a homecoming for the characters, it's also one for Kachadurian, a Newark native and graduate of Barringer High School. There, she said, drama teacher Alfon Valor inspired her to follow a career in theater.

"This is my first time directing in my home state," she said. "It's nice to be back where you have your memories, just as the play is about someone going back to a place and having memories, both good and bad."

Despite being set far from Long Branch, Kachadurian is confident the play will resonate with NJ Rep's audience.

"Anytime theater is thought-provoking, it has succeeded," she said. "It makes people think of their own community."

It's "Apple Season" in Long Branch New Jersey

Scene on Stage, by Philip Dorian

January 16, 2019

At one point in E. M. Lewis's "Apple Season" at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, one of the play's several contemporaneous 'Rolling Premiere' productions, Lissie's former would-be boyfriend Billy (it's been twenty years) says of her taciturn brother Roger, "Anything there was to know about him, you had to piece together." Another time, he tells her "You are the most confusing two people I ever met," and while Roger had been mentioned just prior, Billy's plural could apply just to Lissie.

The nature of the relationships among the three "Apple Season" characters isn't always clear. Neither are the twenty-years-ago details of events that shaped those relationships both then and two decades later. That might seem like a knock on the play, but it is not. On the contrary, that's just how some people are, deep and private, and how some memories are, faded or repressed, and capturing those human elements in a one-act play is an admirable accomplishment.

It is the present day in rural Oregon, soon after Lissie and Roger Fogerty's father's funeral. She is picking apples in the family orchard, before returning to her fourth-grade teaching job in another town. Roger has already left to resume his nomadic hired-hand farming vocation, and Billy, who, at 36, lives on a neighboring farm with his parents ("again, not still"), where he tends to his Alzheimer's-afflicted mother, has come to sound out Lissie about buying the Fogerty property. And, we gradually learn, to renew contact and unburden himself of a secret that has festered over the years.

Lissie (Kersti Bryan) and Billy (Christopher J. Smith [Photos: SuzAnne Barabas]


As they banter and flirt, we learn of the Fogerty family's turbulent past, following the mother's early death, and we begin to understand why the mental and emotional upheaval has never abated. Flashbacks, enacted live and before a rear-projection screen, fill in some gaps, but most of what we learn is through the characters' behavior, their attitude toward one another and the sub-text of their conversation.

Which brings us to the performances, which are, in a word, outstanding. Kersti Bryan reveals more of Lissie's psyche than the woman herself wants known, which is, after all, the point of the play (and, it could be said, of acting). The three-woman collaboration among playwright Lewis, director Zoya Kachadurian and actor Bryan is as smooth as it is knowing. Christopher M. Smith is a charming Billy. Awkward in Lissie's presence, he's nonetheless honest and emotionally available. The two achieve the essential chemistry between Lissie and Billy over a bottle of real AppleJack (if you know, you know), aided by some light-hearted innuendo. Lissie, for example, has plenty of apples, but "I haven't got any cherries." Ms. Bryan also coaxes sexiness out of "You can tell a lot about a man by his Swiss Army knife."

Roger is a strange fellow, bedeviled by life-long anger and resentment he'd had to stifle for years. Richard Kent Smith plays him just that way, with an undercurrent of vulnerability that softens his seeming hostility.

Roger (Richard Kent Smith) and Lissie (Ms. Bryan)

The excellent technical aspects of "Apple Season" belie NJ Rep's intimate playing area. Jessica Parks' set is an apple orchard, and the projections, for which I'm assuming lighting designers Jill Nagle and Janey Huber as well as technical director Bryan P. Snyder share credit, are state-of-the-art in design and execution.

A few plot elements strain credulity. Lissie's (unseen) Aunt Sally's apparent passivity in the face of an unusual situation is glossed over; how Lissie's financial needs, including college, are met is unrealistic (not nefarious, but would be a spoiler), and the idea that the experienced and reasonably worldly teacher had never been out of the state of Oregon seems a stretch.

At 85 minutes, "Apple Season" is certainly not overlong, but tightening some of its exchanges would enhance its pace. As it stands, however, it is an incisive slice of life, staged and especially acted in an impressive less-is-more naturalism. Accepting the rationality of Lissie's final act requires major suspension of disbelief, but by then Ms. Bryan and the Misters Smith and Kent-Green have made it seem plausible.

Culture Vultures - arts weekly


Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared.

Those are often the most powerful.

"Apple Season" – a world premiere that opens at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch on Thursday, January 10 and continues through February 10 – has that clandestine kind of story at its heart. The show is a National New Play Network (NNPN) Rolling World Premiere, meaning it will be produced in three theatres in three cities during a 12-month period. This fits perfectly into NJRep's mission, part of which is "to develop and produce new plays and to make a lasting contribution to the American stage."

Written by E. M. Lewis, "Apple Season" shows a sliver of the lives of three people who reunite for a funeral at a family farm, and how they struggle with their grief and memories. It started out as a 10-minute narrative, Lewis explained, but grew from there.

"I began with just two characters and the mention of another," said Lewis, "but I couldn't let the story go. I wanted to know more about what happened to these people."

Although the play is not biographical, it is firmly rooted in a place Lewis knows well – a farm in Oregon's Willamette Valley – and in real people and circumstances.

"I grew up on a small farm in Oregon – fourth generation," she said, "and the world of 'Apple Season' is that world."

More than just a physical setting, the location is also an integral part of the story.

"It's harvest time, with all its sweetness and wistfulness, and it's also a time when things are dying down," Lewis said.

"The play takes place entirely in nature, in an apple orchard behind the farmhouse," she continued. "It never goes inside."

And that's no coincidence.

"There are things inside that you can't open the door to," Lewis said. "It goes along with the family secrets."

And while the characters are mostly fictional, they also come from Lewis' life.

"I had glimpses of recognition of people I know and situations they had to deal with as I was writing the play."

Zoya Kachadurian, who is directing the play for NJRep, agrees with Lewis about the significance of a place that feels real.

"The play is very rich in the detail of farm life in Oregon," Kachadurian said, "and speaks to a particular philosophy and way of living."

It is also a compelling study of human nature, and the situations that occur when these characters come together are very relatable.

Lewis noted that the play is an exploration of two major themes – the power of letting go of secrets and the power of truth-telling.

Kachadurian delved slightly deeper: "It's about the ripple," she said, "when a single event happens, and we fail to understand the far-reaching and long-lasting effects."

"When someone tamps down an emotion or an event, it can close them off. It can affect how they approach things throughout their lives."

Kachadurian credits the "extraordinary cast" – Kersti Bryan, Richard Kent Green and Christopher M. Smith – for the way they handled the story's sensitive subject matter and supported the overall production.

"We feel blessed to have such wonderful actors," she said. "They are smart, talented, collaborative, and caring toward one another and the crew."

"That is the beauty of working with people who are confident and able to contribute their thoughts and ideas."

When she lived in New Jersey, Lewis knew of NJRep but never worked with the company. Since then, she's returned to the Pacific Northwest and to her family's farm. Then, two years ago, "Apple Season" was accepted by NJRep. And, although her participation has been largely long-distance, she feels connected to the show.

Lewis was brought to New Jersey for the first week of rehearsals and is very excited to return for the previews and opening weekend.

"It's very hard to be away from your baby," she said.

Interestingly, there are aspects of the "Apple Season" story that resonate even more strongly now than they did when Lewis wrote the play.

"In addition to being about letting out the truth, the play is also about a woman being brave," Lewis said. "And even though a story about having the courage and facing your past is not a new one, it seems especially fitting now."

"Art often sounds off in front of what's going on in the world."



Kersti Bryan and Christopher M. Smith co-star in APPLE SEASON, the play by E.M. Lewis making its world premiere at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. Photo by New Jersey Repertory Company

The Russian master Anton Chekhov had his Cherry Orchard and its group portrait of a fast-fading aristocracy, rotting from the inside out as it falls to the axe of social change. In the latest drama to make its world premiere at New Jersey Repertory Company, it's Apple Season in the Pacific Northwest's Willamette Valley — and it's there where the low-hanging fruit of past behaviors and secrets threaten the members of one local family with a one-way trip into a wormhole of regret and suffocating grief.

Opening this weekend at the company's downtown Long Branch playhouse, the play by E.M. Lewis represents NJ Rep's first staging of a work by the the Oregon-based playwright who, by her own admission, is "the kind who goes back and forth between smaller, personal stories and bigger political plays." Describing this one as "an intimate little three character play," the award-winning dramatist declares that its themes of "the danger of secrets and the importance of truth telling" operate within her desire to "write about rural people…the ones who are less visible on most theatrical stages."

"Sam Shepard wrote about non-urban people in a way that captured the largeness of human questions," she observes. "People who live in 'small' places are people who are still wrestling with some big issues."

In the production under the direction of Zoya Kachadurian, a funeral brings a sister and brother (Kersti Bryan, Richard Kent Green) back to the family farm that they turned their backs on years ago — leading to an encounter with a neighbor (Christopher M. Smith) who shares a history with both of the siblings, and a situation in which "a legacy of violence" puts an indelible stamp on the here and now. It all unfolds within "the season when the apples are hanging and ready…with no one there to pick them."

Like so many of the scripts that have made their way to NJ Rep's mainstage through the years, Apple Season is one of the National New Play Network's "rolling world premiere" properties that debut in multiple locales, with different casts and directors — and in this case, it's the New Jersey audience that gets to see it first, with additional 2019 productions scheduled to follow in Iowa City and Los Angeles.

"This play has had a past life of readings in places like Boca Raton, and the Women Playwrights Initiative in Connecticut," explains Lewis, who like her characters resides on her family's farm in Oregon — and who also spent three years as a resident of Princeton. "It's exciting to have three theaters tackle my play, with three different directors' perspectives…but I'm especially delighted to have it seen at New Jersey Rep!"

The months ahead also promise to see Lewis continue work on "two opera commissions and a few new plays," among them a "big new political play" entitled The Great Divide. Inspired by the 2016 armed occupation of Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and "set against our crazy election…neither of which turned out the way most of us thought they would," the work in progress touches upon a theme that's dear to the author — that of communication and connection.

"On social media, you can shout awful things with little consequence and no visibility…but social media doesn't do what we do in a theater," says the playwright whose oft-produced The Gun Show was selected as one of the best short plays of 2015-2016. "I'm still a believer in human connection."

BWW Interview: Playwright E.M. Lewis and APPLE SEASON at NJ Rep 1/10 to 2/10

New Jersey Repertory Company will present the world premiere of E.M. Lewis' Apple Season from January 10 through February 10. Under the direction of Zoya Kachadurian, the play stars Kersti Bryan, Richard Kent Green and Christopher M. Smith.

Twenty years ago, Lissie and Roger fled from their family farm and made themselves disappear. But the family secrets haunt them still. A funeral and a question from an old friend send the two siblings tumbling down a rabbit hole of memory and grief, as they try to let go of a tangled past that refuses to release them. had the pleasure of interviewing E.M. Lewis about her career and Apple Season at NJ Rep.

Lewis is an award-winning playwright, teacher, and opera librettist. Her work has been produced around the world, and is published by Samuel French. Plays include: Magellanica, The Gun Show, Song of Extinction, True Story, and You Can See All the Stars. Awards include: Steinberg Award and Primus Prize from the American Theater Critics Association, Ted Schmitt Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, playwriting fellowship from NJ State Arts Commission, 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama, Edgerton Award. Member: Dramatists Guild. Lewis lives on her family's farm in Oregon.

When did you first realize your talent for writing?

I've always loved stories. My parents read to me when I was little, and I placed great value on my library card from the moment I received it! I began writing short stories and poetry when I was in elementary school, and continued through high school and college - taking every writing class I could. But coming from rural Oregon, the idea of becoming a writer - a real writer - myself never occurred to me. I thought I'd become a teacher or a nurse or a housewife. That was the whole list of what seemed possible. But gradually, with encouragement from teachers I had along the way, and peers, I began to gain confidence... or at least a strong desire to pursue the craft I loved so much. I went to graduate school, studying writing, at University of Southern California. After taking a playwriting class with Paul Zindel (who wrote "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds," amongst other wonderful plays), I knew that playwriting specifically was the way I wanted to tell stories. I love the theater! I love telling stories for the stage.

What playwrights have you come to admire?

I love Edward Albee's work, especially "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" He was so fierce and smart, and was never afraid to go FARTHER. Sam Shepard was certainly an influence - "Curse of the Starving Class" resonates, especially the desperation of its characters. Lanford Wilson's "The Fifth of July" is a particular favorite of mine. For more recent works, Lucas Hnath's "The Christians" is a play I'm still thinking about, as is Jackie Subblies Drury's "We Are Proud to Present..." I admire plays that ask difficult human questions or ethical questions or societal questions, and aren't afraid of the complexity and complication of the answers.

How does your teaching career and work as a librettist complement your writing?

I love teaching. I feel so lucky to have found a place in the theater world, for myself and my voice - I want to help others find their own voices, if I can. Teaching inspires me. And talking about craft with my students as we look at their plays-in-progress helps me understand what I'm trying to do with my own plays. For the last five years, I've been learning the art of working with composers to create operas. It is an amazing new world to explore! An entirely different way of writing for the stage. Less lonely, more complicated than the work of the playwright. Working as a librettist has made me think about structure in ways I never had before, and the power of things other than the spoken word. It's a very fun and interesting side job for a playwright!

What was the inspiration for Apple Season?

"Apple Season" is very much an Oregon play. It's fictional, but set in the very real place where I grew up. A lot of hard-working, independent people own and work on the small farms in the Willamette Valley. Part of the inspiration for writing this play was wanting to capture the place and the people I grew up with. I've certainly known people like Lissie and her brother Roger, and Billy - people haunted by the ghosts of their pasts, who are trying to figure out how to own the present.

How do you like working with NJ Rep?

I'm so grateful to Suzanne and Gabor for selecting my play for their beautiful stage! They've spent years committing to new work for the theater, taking chances on new stories. I have a wonderful team! Great designers and actors. I'm glad to be here. I actually lived in New Jersey for three years - down in Princeton, when I had the Hodder Fellowship there - and I had the privilege of working with several theaters in the state - Passage Theater, and Premiere Stages... It's nice to be back here in New Jersey, making plays!

What would you like metro audiences to know about the show?

There are many families in the world, and communities, where there is a strong code of silence about certain things. "Apple Season" is about people trying to find words for the unspeakable. It's about the consequences of not taking action, and what happens when we refuse to be silent. This is a story about a woman who doesn't know how to deal with the violent past she's spent a lifetime trying to bury. It's about the devastating effects of family violence and the power of truth-telling.

Can you share any of your future plans?

I have a busy year ahead, happily! I'll be in Tulsa and Pittsburgh in the next few months with my play "The Gun Show," which will be published soon by Samuel French. I'm looking forward to a piano vocal workshop of my children's opera "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant," composed by Evan Meier, at American Lyric Theater in New York City, and a production of my opera "Town Hall," about the people in a small town dealing with big questions about health care in America, at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. I'm also working on a big new political play that I'm very excited about.

Anything else, absolutely anything you want BWW NJ readers to know!

Please join us for "Apple Season." I hope you'll enjoy the show!

For more information on E.M. Lewis, please visit her web site at:

The LINK News

Zoya takes a bite of directing 'Apple Season' at NJ Rep

By Neil Schulman


Kersti Bryan in Apple Season (Photo courtesy NJ Repertory Company)

Long Branch — Zoya Kacha­durian got her start in the world of theater in school at Newark. Now she's back in the state, directing New Jersey Repertory's latest production, "Apple Season," which premiered last week.

The Link spoke with her recently about her career, and what it's been like working on this new play, a story of family secrets coming to light.

Following her interest in high school in Newark, she went to Syracuse University, majoring in Directing. But she didn't actually become a director for quite a while.

"Most of the places wanted directors of new works," she said, which was something she didn't feel quite ready for. Instead, she worked on many productions as a stage manager, which is in many ways like being a director — maintaining the shows artistic vision, and sometimes even casting.

"The craft of directing was being exercised, but not my own vision," she said.

But working at Playwrights Horizon, the Off-Broadway Theater which is dedicated to bringing new works to the stage, was like a "masters class," Kachadurian said.

"I decided to recommit, really start directing," she said.

Since then, she's directed and been involved in many activities, including a healing event in Connecticut weeks after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. One little girl in the event had to leave each afternoon for therapy, still traumatized by what had happened in the school.

The reason that she first got involved with NJ Rep actually goes back before the theater was formed. She'd been working on a Broadway play which had not done well. A child actor associated with the show had an offer to work in Florida, but his mother couldn't come with him immediately. Instead, Kachadurian went down to supervise the child until the mother could arrive. (That actor, by the way, was Anthony Rapp, now in Star Trek Discovery.)

While there, she ran into SuzAnne Barabas, whose son was also in the performance. They spent a week together.

Decades later, after Barabas had helped found NJ Rep and become the Artistic Director, they reconnected. Kachadurian came to the theater, and directed several readings, including "We Will Not Be Silenced" by David Meyers, the story of Sophie Scholl, a German student who lead a non-violent movement to overthrow Hitler.

She was also asked to direct a comedy – which she appreciated since it's easy to typecast a director as only good in one genre. She was also involved in several short plays in Theater Brut here.

She was then asked if she'd like to direct Apple Season.

In the play, by Ellen M. Louis, 20 years ago, Lissie and Roger fled from their family farm and made themselves disappear. But the family secrets haunt them still. A funeral and a question from an old friend send the two siblings tumbling down a rabbit hole of memory and grief, as they try to let go of a tangled past that refuses to release them.

The themes of the play resonate with her, she said.

"Traumatic events, secrets that are hidden in our youth, really color our lives."

"Children, we think they get over it; they're be fine." It's often not the case.

With a new play like this, the script the actors start with often needs tweaking.

"Ellen was with us for the first week," she said. The actors –Kersti Bryan, Richard Kent Green and Christopher M. Smith, mostly did tablework then.

"It's a deep story. There's so much that needs to be discussed," she said. Based on what they discovered, Lewis did some rewriting.

Kachadurian said that putting on a play is a very different experience than most other works of art. When an author writes a book, the reader experiences the words directly. But a playwright's words are interpreted by an actor, under the guidance of a director, to an audience.

And some things that seem good on paper won't work in live theater. If the audience is pondering a line an actor said, they aren't going to be able to pay full attention to the next.

"It's not like hitting pause on a DVD," she said.

She sees one of her roles as making sure the audience will understand the intent of actors and the script.

And she has a good cast to work with.

"These three actors are so smart, so intuitive," she said. "I think it takes a special actor to do a new play and think in this atmosphere," she said.

APPLE SEASON Announced As New Jersey Repertory Company Mainstage Production

New Jersey Repertory Company, located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch, is proud to present the world premiere of E.M. Lewis' Apple Season from January 10 - February 10, 2019.

Twenty years ago, Lissie and Roger fled from their family farm and made themselves disappear. But the family secrets haunt them still. A funeral and a question from an old friend send the two siblings tumbling down a rabbit hole of memory and grief, as they try to let go of a tangled past that refuses to release them.

Apple Season stars Kersti Bryan (Lissie), Christopher M. Smith (Billy), Richard Kent Green (Roger) under the direction of Zoya Kachadurian.

Apple Season runs January 10 - February 10, 2018. Previews are Thursday and Friday, January 10 and 11 at 8:00 PM, and Saturday, January 12 at 3:00 PM. A special talk-back with the playwright and director will be held after the first preview, Thursday, January 10. Opening night with reception is Saturday, January 12 at 8:00 PM. Regular performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 PM; Saturdays at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM; Sundays at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $50 (opening night with reception, $60; premium seating + $5). All tickets may be subject to a service charge. Annual subscriptions are $225 per person. For tickets or additional information call 732-229-3166 or visit

E.M. Lewis (Playwright) an award-winning playwright, teacher, and opera librettist. Her work has been produced around the world, and is published by Samuel French. Plays include: Magellanica, The Gun Show, Song of Extinction, True Story, and You Can See All the Stars. Awards include: Steinberg Award and Primus Prize from the American Theater Critics Association, Ted Schmitt Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, playwriting fellowship from NJ State Arts Commission, 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama, Edgerton Award. Member: Dramatists Guild. Lewis lives on her family's farm in Oregon.

Zoya Kachadurian (Director) Georgia and Me,(best solo show, 2011 Midtown International Festival). The 39 Steps, Stick Fly, An Inspector Calls, King O' the Moon, The Miracle Worker, Stones in His Pockets, The Cocktail Hour;new works for the Estrogenius Festival and at EST's Octoberfest. At NJ REP, she directed Maximillian The Magnificent by L.H. Grant, Fortune's Fool by Jared Michael Delaney and Something About Eve by Lynne Halliday forTheatre Brut, and a reading of We Will Not Be Silent by David Meyers.

Kersti Bryan (Lissie) Shakespeare Theatre of DC, Commonwealth Shakespeare, Moscow Art Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Palm Beach Dramaworks, Ensemble Studio Theatre, TheaterLab, NY Classical Theatre, plus others. TV/Film include: The Deuce, The Knick, Elementary, Golden Boy, Drop Dead Diva, Law and Order, Small MIracles, Actor Seeks Role, Hell's Heart. For NJ Rep Kersti was seen as Donna in Verisimilitude at West End Arts, and most recently, she appeared in Allison Gregory's Not Medea for Art House Productions in Jersey City.

Christopher M. Smith (Billy) is honored to be a part of this World Premiere of Apple Season. Selected theatre credits include: The Gun Show (also by E.M. Lewis) - PS21/Chatham; Sex With Strangers - Portland Center Stage; Other Desert Cities - Speakeasy Stage Co., Boston; Serious Adverse Effects - National Black Theatre of Harlem; Orange Flower Water - Lyric Theatre, L.A.; Washington Square - The Actors' Ensemble, NY; Clever Little Lies - Florida Studio Theatre. TV credits include: Orange is the New Black; The Blacklist; TURN: Washington's Spies; I Love You...but I Lied. Originally from Ventura, CA, Christopher lives in Manhattan with his wife, Victoria.

Richard Kent Green (Roger) is thrilled and honored to return to NJ Rep in a new play by E. M. Lewis. He was last seen here in a reading of Selina Peake by Horton Foote, based on "So Big" by Edna Ferber.Stage: Einstein, Albert Einstein (St. Clements); March On!, White Reporter (The Apollo); Play to Win, Branch Rickey (The Promenade); The Sixth Commandment, Father Richard (BestOfFringeNYC). Film: "Giselle's Heart", "79 Parts", "Stanley Cuba", "The Fallen", "Got This!". TV: Saturday Night Live, Sex & the City New Media: "Off-Off Kilter" Company Artist at The Workshop Theater since 2002.