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Press Articles 2019

BWW Review: THE SOURCE by Jack Canfora Makes its Stunning World Premiere Now at NJ Rep

www.broadwayworld.com




"There's no excuse for excuses."
-by Eleanor in THE SOURCE

New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) is now presenting the world premiere of Jack Canfora's The Source through April 7. This outstanding play has received the prestigious Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. Superbly directed by the Company's Associate Artistic Director, Evan Bergman, it features an exceptional three-person cast. Put this one on your entertainment schedule. It is an intriguing story of a modern news organization in the throes of an ethical dilemma.

Media mogul Roland is a sharp, strategic businessman whose enterprises are in peril. A source has revealed that one of his newspapers published a victim's text messages that had been illicitly obtained from the local police. The scandal threatens the reputation of the company and their proposed deal to acquire the media giant, Clear Sky. In a contentious meeting, Roland, his son Andrew who is an executive of the company, and the newspaper's savvy editor, Eleanor decide that there must be a "bold stroke" to deflect public attention from the issue. With tensions running high, it is anyone's guess if there can be a resolution. This keenly written play, with its contemporary subject matter, well-developed characters, and plot twists, will keep you enthralled from the first minute to the last.

The cast of The Source couldn't be better with Eleanor Handley as Eleanor; Andrew Rein as Andrew; and Conan McCarty as Roland. They master Canfora's intense, sharp, and witty dialogue. The scenes shift from May of 2013 to July of 2011 and then to August of 2014. This timeline offers a perspective on the characters' personal relationships and business dealings. Handley, Rein, and McCarty bring their characters to life with such exactness, you will believe that the events are unfolding in real time.

The Creative Team has done a fantastic job of creating the setting for The Source. They include scenic design by Jessica Parks; lighting design by Jill Nagle; costume design by Patricia E. Doherty; sound design and Webmaster, Merek Royce Press; Technical Director, Brian P. Snyder; Production Stage Manager, Kristen Pfeifer; and Assistant Stage Manager/Company Manager, Adam von Pier.

With the increasing influence of media and our individual privacies is at risk, The Source is a powerful story that is reflects our times. The play is the fourth one by Jack Canfora that has premiered at NJ Rep. We applaud Executive Producer, Gabor Barabas and Artistic Director, Suzanne Barabas for continuing to bring the best in new theatre to the Long Branch Stage.


The Two River Times: 'THE SOURCE' AT NEW JERSEY REP

by Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen


Conan McCarty (Roland), Andrew Rein (Andrew) and Eleanor Handley (Eleanor) star in New Jersey Repertory Company's "The Source." Courtesy NJ Repertory Company

In the New Jersey Repertory Company's excellent, nicely staged, absorbing world premiere "The Source," a newspaper mogul calls a late-night meeting with two of his top executives to plan a strategy to deal with a serious and potentially illegal issue.

Allegations soon will be leveled that his company hacked into the cellphone of a murdered 14-year-old girl to obtain her voice mail messages.

Illegal or not says Roland (Conan McCarty), the mogul, the company is not going to look good to the public whose sympathies will be with the dead girl's family.

And that's not all.

He tells Eleanor (Eleanor Handley) and Andrew (Andrew Rein) the allegations allege his news organization not only knew about the voicemail hacking, it also knew police were paid for information, and the hacking of Prince William, Paul McCartney during his divorce, Gulf War vets and families of the Fort Hood massacre.

If this sounds vaguely familiar that's because the Australian-born American media mogul Rupert Murdoch's companies faced the same dilemma when they were accused of regularly hacking the phones of celebrities, royalty and public citizens.

There are more similarities, but to reveal them would spoil the fun of seeing this well-written, intelligent, often very funny – but serious – play from Jack Canfora.

For instance, after Roland comments his newspaper-owner father never had as great a view of New York City as the one in Eleanor's office, Andrew dryly responds, "That'd be asking a lot of Missouri."


"The Source," starring Conan McCarty and Eleanor Handley, will run through April 7 at New Jersey Repertory Company. Courtesy NJ Repertory Company

Eleanor asks Andrew how his walk was and he responds, "Pretty appalling, actually. In midtown, surrounded by some of the world's great restaurants and Applebee's is packed."

When Roland arrives – late – to the meeting he notes, "This is potentially a very serious legal matter. I want to talk frankly to you about it, and I want you to talk frankly with me about it. So the last thing I want in the room is a lawyer."

Andrew, as the underappreciated son, says, "If I don't make myself the center of everything, how can I expect anyone else to?"

The two-hour work is a winner of the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award (30 previous winners made it to Broadway) and two of his three plays staged here made the move to off-Broadway.

I'd be surprised if this work did not transfer as well. The dialogue is snappy, but believable. You don't see the plot twists coming, unless you're very familiar with Murdoch's story (so don't Google it!). And there's an intriguing, enigmatic ending nicely delivered by Handley.

I mean, really. I'm ready for "The Source, Part 2." And I'm not just saying that because I'm a journalist intrigued by "the forces that shape our views of the world and the influence of the media on our society," as the press release described the play.

Jessica Parks' set design of a luxury office and lighting by Jill Nagle made the stage feel spacious, which is not easy in this intimate theater. Costumes by Patricia E. Doherty not only looked great, they enabled several quick changes.


The LINK News

Theater Review: Ripped from the headlines, The Source is a ripping drama

By Madeline Schulman

Conan McCarty, Eleanor Handley, and Andrew Rein in a scene from the world premiere of Jack Canfora's The Source. (SuzAnne Barabas photo)


Long Branch — Ching, ching!

That is the sound of Law & Order, in tribute to The Source, which is ripped from the headlines, specifically the headlines of 2007, when the British tabloid News of the World, one of Rupert Murdoch's properties, was revealed to have hacked into the phone of murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002. There were other hacking victims, and the scandal led to the demise of News of the World in 2011.

The brilliant cast of the world premiere of The Source at the New Jersey Repertory Company consists of Eleanor Handley as Eleanor and Andrew Rein as Andrew, executives of a huge international news organization, and Conan McCarty as Roland McCabe, owner of the giant corporation. Roland and Andrew hate each other so much I was naively surprised to learn they were father and son. No one will be surprised that beautiful, British Eleanor and Andrew have a romantic history, although Eleanor has an offstage husband.

Bringing the three of them together one night in May, 2013 is the emergence of an anonymous source claiming (truthfully) that Roland, as the owner, and Eleanor, as the editor of the guilty newspaper, were much more involved in a 2011 scandal (which echoes the Milly Dowler case) than they claimed at the time (shown in a 2011 flashback).

Roland is negotiating a merger which will bring billions of dollars, and the new information can ruin the deal, so he has called Eleanor and Andrew for damage control.

After the performance I attended, there was a discussion with the playwright, Jack Canfora, the director, Evan Bergman, the actors, and Judy Feeney, former editor of the Asbury Park Press. Feeney talked about the intersection of journalism and commerce, and the conflict that intersection causes. The very timely Source illustrates how journalistic integrity easily yields to profit.

Conan McCarty, in response to an audience question, cited Russell Crowe as saying an actor didn't have to love a character, just act that character. I am glad McCarty doesn't have to love Roland McCabe, because McCabe is a fascinating monster, with a disconcerting habit of looking into the distance rather than the person he is addressing. He may be contemplating his own greatness, or looking to the next move in his game of staying ahead of everyone. Go to The Source to see if anyone dares to outplay him.


Want some journalistic intrigue? Go to "The Source"

Scene on Stage, by Philip Dorian

March 15, 2019

There is some real good acting on display these days at New Jersey Repertory Company. Not only do the three cast members of "The Source," Jack Canfora's trippy excursion into the world of news management, toss off their snappy dialogue with wit and precision, they also appear comfortable with the inter-twined plot that might stymie lesser talents. In a scenario that swings non-sequentially among places and dates, that plot hinges on the ethics of gathering the news versus the business of disseminating it. It would seem that in Canfora's view, 'journalistic integrity' is an oxymoron. (I will forgo a riposte.)

A two-year old phone-hacking issue, for which media giant International News Corporation had apologized, is back in the news via a leak by an unknown source, threatening INC's acquisition of media giant Clear Sky. If that sounds vaguely familiar, any similarity to real Murdochs – er, persons – is intentional.


Conan McCarty, left, Eleanor Handley, Andrew Rein [Photos: SuzAnne Barabas]

 

The underlying journalistic malfeasance, phone-hacking, is pretty much generic, but Canfora puts his own spin on it. Eleanor Brock (Eleanor Handley)'s high-up corporate position puts her just below mogul-in-chief Roland (Conan McCarty) and slightly above co-exec Andrew (Andrew Rein), whose relationship to Roland makes for an interesting dynamic. In the course of a meeting in Eleanor's office high above Manhattan (Jessica Parks' sleek set design) over how to deal with the leak, Eleanor becomes Roland's unsuspecting scapegoat, hoist by her own petard*. The maneuver is totally implausible, but the rest of the play depends on it, so moving on…

We're brought back two years to the London site of the original journalistic sin, then ahead a few days, still in London, and finally back to the NYC office, now Andrew's, 15 months after the first scene, where Roland gets his comeuppance…sort of. (Allaying our confusion, dates and locations are projected along a front border.) It could end there, but in a belated "the plot thickens" coda, the manipulation of Eleanor and Andrew's years-ago intimacy is yet to be revealed. It's all complex beyond necessity, but there's no denying the intrigue at its core, which some judicious paring should enhance.

Handley leaves no doubt about Eleanor's intelligence, competence and equal-footing status…until she is conned by a master manipulator, which inspires her to revenge. And fortunately for everyone in the building, Eleanor is going to the opera after the opening-scene meeting, because Ms. Handley does "gussied up," as Andrew calls it, very well indeed. As her cryptic co-exec, Rein finds the balance between loyalty to her and the character's self-interest. The Andrew-Eleanor chemistry is never far from the surface. (I can't resist mentioning that those are also the actors' first names. Could you?)

McCarty plays Roland as the nefarious scoundrel Canfora wrote. You can practically see his take-no-prisoners brain at work, as Roland over-compensates for his somewhat short stature. (Creative casting all 'round.)



Canfora would be wise to keep these three actors on board. Also, who knows if another director could bind them to the play as well as does Evan Bergman, who downplays the characters' types without negating them?

A goodly portion of the repartee is whip-smart. Having been summoned to Eleanor's office, Andrew thinks he might be in trouble "considering all the other times you have had me in here for a drink." "I've never had you in here for a drink," she counters. "Exactly." Other exchanges contain more than a kernel of wisdom. When Andrew questions a business prognosis, Roland asserts the prediction was made "By the smartest people in the world." "The smartest people in the world," retorts Andrew, "don't make predictions."

The final scene of "The Source" leaves a question hanging. Depending on your need for a tidy ending, this can be thought-provoking or frustrating. Someone asked me what I thought might happen with Eleanor after the events of the play. The smartest people in the world don't make predictions, I told her. Nor shall I.


upperWETside

CONSIDER THE SOURCE: NJ REP PREMIERE IS RIPPED FROM (AND RIPS) THE NEWS


L-R: Conan McCarty, Andrew Rein, and Eleanor Handley co-star in THE SOURCE, the new play by Jack Canfora that enters its world premiere engagement this weekend at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. Photos by SuzAnne Barabas

"SAFE" — it's a word that somehow applies itself very well to New Jersey Repertory Company, nearly every bit as much as it doesn't.

After all, as the area's sole theatrical troupe dedicated exclusively to the promotion of new and original works for the stage, the Long Branch-based professional playhouse has seldom played it safe in its choice of edgy and unorthodox scripts — taking things far afield of the family musicals, drawing-room mysteries, and Neil Simon sitcoms that once comprised what we thought of as "local Shore theater." In the process, founders SuzAnne and Gabor Barabas have continued to cheerfully challenge their faithful audiences with deeply adult themes, complex characters, you-can't-DO-that-on-stage tech work, language as salty as the briny Atlantic surf, and the occasional flash of full frontal.

When Jack Canfora refers to New Jersey Repertory as "safe," he's talking about a creative concern that's offered snug harbor to the Huntington, NY-based playwright and his body of work throughout the years — a place of "insightful, talented artists who are all working toward the same goal…they've been very supportive and tremendously generous to me, and whatever my career is, I owe it to them."

It was NJ Rep that first committed to a full staging of a script by the young writer, actor and musician from Long Island, with a production of the drama Poetic License that almost didn't make curtain when the lead actor had to bow out at the eleventh hour. The show would actually go on to an Off Broadway run in NYC — as would Jericho,another Canfora work that faced its first sudience in Long Branch — and in between those two scripts, NJ Rep would premiere Place Setting, a cocktail-saturated suburban storm that counted Jack Canfora himself among its ensemble cast.

In addition to establishing a fruitful working relationship with "Gabe and SuzAnne," the Jack-of-many-trades found a likeminded creative collaborator in Evan Bergman, the in-demand director whose projects as a Rep regular number more than a dozen — and who helmed every one of Canfora's productions in downtown Long Branch and at New York's 59E59 stage. For his first project at NJ Rep in some eight years (not counting a contribution to one of the company's short play festivals at their new West End Arts Center facility), the playwright reunites once more with Bergman and the Barabas team, for the world premiere of The Source, an intimate drama that's been described as being "ripped from the headlines" — or, perhaps more to the point, the moral gray areas behind the black-and-white headlines.

Freely inspired by the phone-hacking scandal that rocked the international empire of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his family a few years back, the play that goes up in previews tonight, March 7 (and opens officially on Saturday night, March 9) germinated when its author found himself "quite taken with that story…it said a lot about us; the way the media shapes our collective narratives."

While the not-always-visible media landscape represents the geographical setting of The Source, Canfora emphasizes that the play takes place more at the crossroads of "human nature and the pursuit of power."

"For the protagonists, it's about the acquisition and retaining of power…looking at life like a zero-sum game," explains Canfora, placing the play's themes squarely within the playing field of contemporary politics, business, and public life. But, while much of how the press operates comes in for some well-deserved criticism, the writer stresses that "what's happening right now…the constant attacks on the media…is shameful and really dangerous."

In the play that won a prestigious Edgerton Foundation Award in the nationwide 2017 competition, Conan McCarty makes his NJ Rep debut as media mogul Roland McCabe — note the initials — owner of major newspapers in cities around the world, in addition to a cable news operation of considerable political influence.

When an ethically questionable practice exposes the lengths to which McCabe will go to score a story — and, in the process, threatens to shake his empire to its foundations — the old man summons a pair of trusted lieutenants to enact damage control: his heir-apparent son (Andrew Rein), and a young female protege (Eleanor Handley).

Rep regulars may recall Rein from his role in Jericho— but the actor's connection to Canfora extends as well to their collaboration as co-creators of the web series The Small Time, a Webby Award winning project whose pilot (and thus far only completed episode) boasts the participation of LA Law castmates and husband/wife team of actors, authors and entrepreneurs Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry.

The "Tuckerberrys" (whose own collaborations with NJ Rep include last season's Fern Hill) appear in the story of "a literary agent whose only successful clients are his parents," and the episode can be viewed online at smalltimeseries.com.

The branching out into different dramatic realms — in this case one that exists at a remove from the live stage — falls well within the creative comfort zone of a playwright who, while he enjoyed a stint as a teacher of great modern American plays to high school students, "didn't grow up going to the theater…I wanted to be a songwriter."

Having cited a short list of influences that leans more to the Beatles, the Boss, Bob Dylan, and Elvis (Costello that is; possessor of "a poetic, savage wit") than to Shakespeare, Canfora still endeavors to get in front of audiences to sing and play guitar whenever his busy schedule allows — and has applied his skills as a composer of incidental music to some of his past productions.

For the moment, the new world premiere play remains priority A-1 on the jukebox — and, as his custom, Canfora has been sitting in on rehearsals as much as possible; discussing the script with his actors and director, and marveling at the dexterity of the tech team as they address the challenges of an intimate play that unfolds within three different locations.

"I think that Evan has a better handle on this play than I do, and the actors have been great," he says. "I'm fine tuning throughout; mostly by making cuts and trims."

"These are very smart people who are making suggestions…and I'd be wrong to ignore them!"


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. www.andrewrein.com

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.


BWW Interview: Jack Canfora and THE SOURCE at NJ Rep

www.broadwayworld.com



New Jersey Repertory Company will present the world premiere of Jack Canfora's The Source from March 7 through April 7. It has the distinction of being the winner of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.

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 License and Jericho both moved to Off-Broadway after their original productions at NJ Rep.

Canfora's plays include: Off Broadway - Poetic License (59E59), Jericho (59E59) (New York Times Critics' Pick) Regional - Fellow Travelers (Bay Street Theatre), Barroom Sonata (New Jersey Repertory 2017 Theatre Brut Festival), Jericho (2010 Edgerton Award Winner) (New Jersey Repertory, Florida Repertory Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Minnesota Jewish Theatre, UpstART Theater Colorado), Poetic License (New Jersey Repertory), Place Setting (New Jersey Repertory) His web series "The Small Time" (co-created with Andrew Rein) won the 2016 Webby Award for "Best Writing" He is thrilled to be working with New Jersey Repertory once again. He lives in New York with his dog, Daisy.

When did you first realize that you were destined to be a writer?

Since I was a child, I had an interest in writing in some form. It's taken many permutations - fiction, songwriting, etc. Finally, my career as an actor, such as it was, made the transition to playwriting sort of natural.

We'd love to know how your education contributed to your craft.

Depends on what you mean by education. I was lucky to have good teachers, both in and out of school. Certainly they cultivated a love of reading that has no doubt deeply influenced me. I haven't really had any formal training as a playwright, but I think my formal training as an actor was actually quite useful to me as a writer. Being inside a play really gives you a good sense of their structures and rhythms. I also taught literature for a while, and teaching plays by the greats, like Miller, Williams, Kushner, really taught me about their architecture on a granular level that no doubt has seeped inside my head in a very helpful way.

What would you advise aspiring playwrights about the profession?

I would advise anyone wanting to be a playwright to read as many plays as possible, see as much theater as they can, and, most critically, write as much as possible. Write and write and write. I'm a partial subscriber to the 10,000 hour rule. Hemingway said "the shortest answer is doing the thing," and while I wouldn't look to him as a role model in many things, this strikes me as true.

The Source is a very timely piece. What are some of the challenges of developing a play that mirrors contemporary society?

Well, I think anything someone writes is a reflection in some way of contemporary society. Even intensely personal-seeming stories are influenced by our socio-political atmosphere. At the same time, overtly political plays should still be rooted, in my view, in human relationships. Usually, I try to come at issues more obliquely than I have in this play. But I think the issues at the heart of this play, which are how media shapes our collective narrative and the vanishing concept of privacy, are also mixed in with the age old questions of the will to power. That's always timely.


The Source: an invasion of privacy


NJ Stage
By Gary Wien
originally published: 02/23/2019
 

Ever since our lives became intertwined with cellphones, the issue of privacy has moved to the forefront. Just imagine someone hacking into your phone, seeing or stealing your photos, text and voice messages, and contact information. It's a scenario that can keep you up all night. And rightfully so, because hackers have already shown the ability to do this.

The concept of privacy, and the invasion of privacy, inspired playwright Jack Canfora to create The Source. It's the latest World Premiere play at New Jersey Repertory Company and one of five World Premieres to take place in March throughout the Garden State.

"A few years ago there was a big scandal involving some of the newspapers in England owned by Robert Murdoch," explained Canfora. "They had hacked people's voice mails and used them in the service of getting scoops. When they were eventually caught doing it, it raised a lot of questions about privacy and the role of the media has in shaping our understanding of the world around us. So, I set off to write something loosely based on that."

In his play, media czar Roland McCabe owns dozens of newspapers around the globe, not to mention the most powerful and influential cable news network in the world: and his empire is about to grow. But when a controversy from the past threatens to topple it all, he summons his son as well as his most trusted protege to diffuse the crisis, regardless of how they might feel about it.

The Source will be presented from March 7 to April 7 at NJ Rep in Long Branch. The play, which won an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, is Canfora's fourth to be produced at the theatre. As with the others, The Source will be directed by Evan Bergman. The cast includes Eleanor Handley, Conan McCarty, and Andrew Rein.

"The entire team at New Jersey Rep is not only highly professional and skilled, but also nice which is a rare combination," said Canfora. "It is incredibly gratifying and I think I owe a lot of my career to the support I've gotten at NJ Rep."

Canfora said he gets very involved with the World Premieres of his work. He has a very good relationship with the director (Bergman), is part of the casting process and attends most rehearsals.

"I tend to be involved pretty heavily," said Canfora. "But I don't want to ever be in a position where I'm stepping on anyone's toes creatively."

For one of his last plays, Fellow Travelers, Canfora said he did a fair amount of rewriting. He recalls rewriting right up until opening night. For The Source, it's almost the opposite. Instead of changing text or adding text, he's been trying to find places to cut.

"When I'm at rehearsal, it's very useful for me to hear what the actors are doing," explained Canfora. "Very often they can communicate something behaviorally that I was communicating through text, so the text becomes redundant. I may hit a snag and have to do some rewrites along the way, but, by and large, for me it's been figuring out what I can cut."

Even though audience members may picture Murdoch when they see the Roland McCabe character, the play is a fictional account. Canfora says he took the actual news account as the inspiration, but it's very much a work of fiction.

Canfora originally set out to be an actor, receiving training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He acted in regional theatre and was part of sketch groups before concentrating on writing. Canfora believes his acting experience has helped him as a playwright.

"I think it gives me a good sense of structure for plays," he explained. "Having been in a lot of them, you sort of see how they're built. Also, I try to be very sensitive to the actor's needs - as much as possible. By that I mean, I try to always write characters that have enough meat on the bone for an actor to pry his or her trade as well as deeply as possible."

In addition to his acting background, Canfora's work is also inspired by music. Described as a Beatles addict on his Twitter feed, he has mentioned inspiration from artists like John Lennon and Elvis Costello in the past.

"In terms of someone like Lennon or Costello or Dylan, it's in the relationship with language that I find pretty intoxicating," said Canfora. "They've shaped my tastes in terms of what I find compelling linguistically and conceptually. I try to draw inspiration from wherever I can. I was raised not with show tunes or Broadway shows, I was raised listening to Elvis Costello and The Beatles and stuff like that. So they shaped the lens from which I view things artistically. I think it brings more of a rock and roll aesthetic to my sense of what makes a good play. It's got to have a good beat, you know."

 


APPLE SEASON has an Outstanding World Premiere at NJ Rep

www.broadwayworld.com




"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.


The Two River Times: 'APPLE SEASON' IN NEW JERSEY

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.


www.NJ.com

'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 - jerseyarts.com arts weekly

IT'S "APPLE SEASON" AT NJREP

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."


upperWETside

ANGRY ORCHARD: SECRETS, PAIN RIPE FOR THE PICKING AT NJ REP


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

www.broadwayworld.com



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.

Broadwayworld.com 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: www.emlewisplaywright.com


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

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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 www.njrep.org.

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. www.christophersmithactor.com

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.