"StageX" sneak peek

NJPAC Stage Exchange hosts the 2017 Commissions Kick-off of 3 new plays


Three cutting-edge playwrights have less “drama” to deal with in their creative process thanks to the resources provided by the NJPAC Stage Exchange. A partnership of New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, “StageX” has supported fledgling works, from script to spotlight, for the past three seasons.


Jersey-based dramatists with Jersey-centric stories to tell are placed under the wing of professional theaters that guide the play from writing and readings to a full production during their mainstage seasons. The latest alumni have seen their work come to life during 2016-17 (for example, Nikkole Salter’s Indian Head, recently at Luna Stage in West Orange), and this new trio is anticipating 2017-18 stagings.


On March 16, an audience in NJPAC’s Chase Room was the first to witness free dramatic readings of the plays’ opening scenes. Actors, representatives of partnering theaters, authors and producers mingled over desserts and coffee following a talkback.


With a nod to funders that include the National Endowment for the Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Theatre Alliance Executive Director John McEwen told attendees that while his organization provides services and consultation to 32 professional stages from Sussex County to Cape May, “we stay away from the art; that’s what they do best.”


“This program helps us nurture the incredible talent right here in New Jersey,” he added.  


Donna Walker-Kuhne, NJPAC’s Community Engagement Consultant, said the preview and subsequent feedback will help the commissioned plays to “eventually thrive outside these walls.”


Moderator Rodney Gilbert of Yendor Productions joined playwrights Nicole Pandolfo, Joel Stone and Pia Wilson on the dais, where each discussed their plays’ development and the importance of arts funding to sustaining their careers. Excerpts were performed from Pandolfo’s Brick City, Stone’s The Calling and Wilson’s Return to Real.


Each of the works will receive a full reading at NJPAC in the coming weeks, followed by a conversation with the playwright and artists. The start time is 7pm and admission is $5. The Friday evening schedule includes:


  • April 21: The Calling by Joel Stone, co-commissioned by New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. The Calling is a ripped-from-the-headlines drama about a male nurse whose connection to a recently deceased patient may not have been so benevolent.


  • May 5: Brick City by Nicole Pandolfo, co-commissioned by Premiere Stages in Union. Worlds collide in a failing Newark school when two students form a friendship that alters the course of their lives.


  • June 23: Return to Real by Pia Wilson, co-commissioned by Crossroads Theatre Company in New Brunswick. Wilson’s new work examines race, identity and acceptance of others as seen through the eyes of a brother and sister.


March 22, 2017