Premiere Stages will open its ninth season as the professional theatre company in residence at Kean University with a free staged reading of Darren Canady’s powerful new play “Ontario Was Here.” Selected from over 400 submissions, Ontario Was Here is the first of two scripts scheduled for expanded development as part of the 2013 Premiere Stages Play Festival. The Festival is an annual competition for unproduced scripts by playwrights with ties to the greater metropolitan area (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut), and perfectly embodies the theatre’s passionate and longstanding commitment to supporting emerging artists through the development and production of new plays.
In Mr. Canady’s scintillating new work, two bright Kansas City social workers, Nathan and Penni, give their all for the children they serve, determined to make a difference. But when a case blurs the lines between romance, work, and friendship, their dreams of changing the world are put to the test. “What drew us to the script is the heartfelt way in which it explores the craft of social work, and the contradictory challenges case workers often face,” stated Clare Drobot, Premiere’s Producing Associate and Resident Dramaturg. “Nathan and Penni are incredibly richly drawn characters; you can’t help but be moved by their stories.”
Directed by Jade King Carroll, the reading will feature Joniece Abbott-Pratt as Penni and Warner Miller as Nathan. Ms. Abbott-Pratt and Mr. Miller previously appeared together in Mr. Canady’s play False Creeds at the Alliance Theatre Company in Atlanta, where it won the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition.
Each reading concludes with a post-show discussion between the playwright and audience; patrons will also be afforded the opportunity to provide written evaluations. “We are excited to have the opportunity to share Darren’s work with our audience and solicit feedback,” said Ms. Drobot. “It’s such a vital step in the development process, and an excellent launching point to our 2013 season.”
A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, and the Juilliard School, Darren Canady currently teaches playwriting at the University of Kansas. His play Brothers of the Dust was recently produced by the acclaimed Congo Square Theatre in Chicago (Black Excellence Award, Black Theatre Alliance Award, ATCA Osborn Award), and has received recognition in the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Competition, the James W. Rodgers Playwriting Competition, and was awarded the Theodore Ward Prize for African-American Playwriting. Another play, He Was Mine but Then You Took Him, was named a finalist for the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s prestigious Heidelman Playwriting Award.
Premiere’s patrons will recognize actor Warner Miller from Premiere Stages’ popular productions of Follow Me to Nellie’s and Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods. Actress Joniece Abbott-Pratt recently appeared in the World Premiere of award-winning playwright Chisa Hutchinson’s Alondra Was Here at The Wild Project in New York, also directed by Jade King Carroll, who is a former recipient of the TCG New Generations Future Leader Award, as well as the Paul Green Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Professional from the National Theatre Conference and The Estate of August Wilson.
“Ontario Was Here” runs Friday, June 21 at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 22 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, June 23 at 3 p.m. in the Murphy Dunn Theatre, located in Kean University’s Vaughn Eames Building, 1000 Morris Avenue, Union, N.J. Admission and parking are free. Reservations are strongly recommended, as seating is limited. Please call 908-737-4092 to reserve, or visit www.kean.edu/premierestages for more information.