Archive for the ‘Illuminations’ Category
This past summer, I was blessed with the opportunity of working with Diversity Youth Theatre at Luna Stage. As a high school graduate, I was looking for a memorable summer experience before it was time to embark on my college journey. I reached out to many theatres in New Jersey and New York City alike. I remember hearing about Luna Stage when they were located in Montclair, New Jersey as I drove by it to go to school every day. Not only did Luna Stage get back to me swiftly (before any other theatre company), but also they gave me the opportunity that was most fitting for my strengths as an aspiring professional performer.
I am grateful to say I will be studying musical theatre at the New Studio on Broadway at NYU Tisch this fall. Cheryl Katz was so kind and helpful and connected me with Kathy Dee Harrison, director of Diversity Youth Theatre. I met with her and it was a perfect match. We bonded over the importance of theatre impacting society and promoting change. I told her I had worked on an original production of Macbeth before and that I started a program, called “Sharing the Arts” at my high school, for children with special needs to enhance their lives through the arts. She was looking for someone who understood the process of building a piece of work from the ground, up. As Ms. Harrison also uses her craft to inspire the world, producing theatre for change, we knew that we could work well together.
The seven week camp was an eye opening experience for me. I learned the importance of balancing out discipline with fun. I was a leader and example to the kids in the program. Luna stage was not only so kind to offer us the space, but also very supportive of the program the entire summer.
Diversity Youth Theatre put on an original production of a musical called “Think! For Yourself”. As an intern, I, myself learned a vast capacity of theatre technique and performance aspects as well. I was written into the show and got to explore a role that was evolving over the couple of weeks. I felt as if I was in camp myself. It was what work is supposed to feel like. Work is supposed to be something you enjoy and look forward to. I had the best of both worlds. Luna Stage staff and directors all came to see the show. It was so nice to have their support and kind praise for our success. Luna Stage has made a difference by providing the spot where the camper’s dreams came to life.
I could not have asked for a more exciting summer experience. The friendships and bonds formed between the camp and Luna will not be forgotten. I know I will carry all the skills I have learned as I further my studies in the near future.
Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to work with you and I will definitely come back and show Luna stage my support.
-Catherine Geller, DYT Intern
There are about a zillion great reasons to work at Luna, but after careful consideration, meditation, reflection, and a good deal of pondering whilst drinking tea and gazing into the distance (and maybe one too many sports metaphors), I’ve narrowed it down to five.
5) The Food is Unbeatable
Working at Luna in the afternoons and being a college student (and unable to cook), I frequently bought lunch around town. Many of us in the office do this; Robin generally prefers the veggie burger at Mazzi’s, Cheryl and her kids like the Mazzi old-school hotdogs, Sahoua’s always jonesing for the Spanish place, Margot a combination of all that’s nearby. I liked the coffee at Lee’s, the burgers at Mazzi Dogs, and the chicken special at the Spanish place. I heard good things about Hat City too. But better than the delicious food, the proprietors of these restaurants are Luna’s neighbors, friends, and supporters. Many of the restaurants around town support Luna through promoting us in their establishment, offering special deals to our audience, and buying ads in our programs. The love is mutual, Valley Arts district eats. Food really does bring the family together.
4) The Staff is World-Class
Not only are they really nice and incredibly welcoming, the Luna leading ladies are an artistic force to be reckoned with. Founder of Luna, Jane Mandel, recently directed a fierce production of a brand new play, Reparation, as part of our mainstage season. She routinely directs in the Luna season while shaping the artistic direction of the company. Mona Hennessey, Managing Director, not only runs a tight ship but is also a renowned actress. Associate Artistic Director and Director of Play Development Cheryl Katz has a keen eye for new plays sharper than a baseball scout looking for lefty pitchers; that perceptiveness for talent and potential has led to the development of over fifty new plays under her watch. Robin Irwin, Director of Education & Community Outreach, comes to us with Broadway experience, teaching experience at top universities around the country, and real heart for community outreach. And to top it all off, these ladies are incredibly nice and funny and witty and caring. Not a bad lineup.
3) The Intern’s Appreciated
Because Luna has a relatively small staff, I as the intern felt appreciated, needed, and I got to do a lot of cool stuff. I mainly spent my time working for Cheryl reading script submissions and researching this and that for upcoming productions. I got to research grants and write a first draft of a grant proposal for Luna. I assisted at our monthly New Moon reading series, meeting the fascinating actors, playwrights and directors who come from all over New Jersey and New York to put the plays together. Sometimes I would help Sahoua in the office (there were more than a few paper casualties, but I eventually got the hang of it—I swear that copier had it in for me), or I would get the chance to hang out with our neighbors while promoting our new and upcoming events, hanging flyers around the block. There was always something exciting to do or read or see in the office with never a dull moment, never a day where I didn’t need to bring my A-game to the table. That’s a great place to work.
2) Who Needs New York for New Work?
Luna works with some of the most exciting new playwrights around: Ben Clawson, Gino DiIorio, Nikkole Salter, Bekah Brunstetter, and Ellen Margolis, just to name a few. And Luna doesn’t just produce a playwright once in our reading series and forget about them; Luna has a history of establishing relationships with playwrights who keep coming back because of the artistic support received here. After they’re workshopped, plays don’t just disappear into the ether; Luna consistently produces promising plays that have continued their development after their New Moon reading. Some examples are The Tallest Building in the World, Reparation, and The Dangers of Electric Lighting, all of which had their start in the New Moon series and then premiered in our mainstage season. Relationships in art are sometimes overlooked or overrated today, but I think Luna’s style of development is tried and true. Slow and steady wins the race.
1) You Can Always Come Home
The one thing I don’t like about Luna is that the time has come for me to leave. I’m going to grad school in the fall, so that’s a pretty legit reason to move on, but I sure will miss Luna and all that I’ve learned and experienced here. Without a doubt if I wasn’t moving to another city, I’d still come around Luna at the end of my internship as a volunteer, an usher, a patron, and a friend. The work done here is on par with work in the best theatres in the nation, and it’s right in our New Jersey backyard. Luna is a home for artists and audiences in New Jersey alike. I feel confident that the friendships I’ve made with the people at Luna will last, and that they’re as invested in my future as I am in the future of Luna. I sure will miss it and like Arnie says, I’ll be back.
Hi everyone! I’m Luna’s new literary intern, Kathleen Burke, and I’m a senior at Drew University focusing on playwriting and acting. I found out about Luna through the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and I was thrilled at the idea of a new works theatre right here in NJ; sometimes there’s this myth that dynamic new work only happens in New York, but here it is right in our own community. My main duties include doing research and script reading for Cheryl, Luna’s Associate Artistic Director and Director of Play Development.
This past Saturday night, we had a New Moon reading of Nicky Glossman’s newest play Legion, about a seemingly innocuous homework club that cleans up schools and encourages members to stay off drugs and stay in class. This “club,” called Legion, has grown to seven thousand members and the leader, Adam Kent, is now accused of ordering an assault on a neighborhood drug dealer. The play follows Adam’s tumultuous trial as secrets about the true nature of Legion are revealed and the boundaries of friendship and loyalty pushed to the brink. The reading was an exciting night, with the playwright acting as Adam Kent, his brother as Adam’s best friend, and his father, established director James Glossman, directing the reading. To quote Cheryl at the beginning of the night, “Nicky Glossman was an emerging playwright, but I think it’s safe to say now that he has emerged.” For me, our New Moon Reading Series is my favorite part of the job. That’s when you get to see all of the hard work pay off and on its feet. It’s one thing to be in the office, reading scripts and talking shop with Cheryl — that’s certainly rewarding, but then when you get to see the script you’ve been talking about for a while put up for an audience and come alive… well, that’s why we do theatre. Legion was a great play and Glossman’s got a long future ahead of him.
Luna Stage moved into 555 Valley Road one year ago – on July 2nd, 2010. We have been taking stock of our first full year here and I felt it was important to share some of the accomplishments with you, our loyal supporters and friends. Some things I have written about in a previous post but I wanted to put them in the context of everything else we have done – in such a short time, under very challenging circumstances.
This year was pretty amazing, in my opinion, — all that we accomplished — with the help, of course, of the generous funders, donors and volunteers who carried us through a challenging move and the setting down of roots in a new community.
And what did we accomplish, besides the big move? Well, here are some of the highlights:
Four full productions — three of them world premieres and one that was named best play (and director) for 2010 by The Star Ledger’s Peter Filichia, who called The Old Settler “perfect”.
Ten readings through our monthly New Moon Reading Series, which is becoming more and more popular. One of the plays was written by an award-winning 16 year-old!
Other readings and benefits – including by special guest readers Stephen Colbert, Evelyn McGee, Ed Asner, Maryann Plunkett, and Jay O. Sanders.
A special project called Hearts for Haiti/Ke Nou Pou Ayiti which helped young Haitian students from Orange creatively express their feelings about the terrible earthquake in Haiti last year.
Classes for young and old — from Creative Drama and Acting to Improvisation and Playwriting.
Painting and photo displays from community artists.
Artists-in-residence – like Indie Music Circus, The Literary Lounge and The Creative Writer’s Circle.
A Juneteenth celebration with a one-woman Harriet Tubman play.
And there was more — community events and meetings, outreach projects in senior centers, participation in Valley Arts projects and programs, and on and on.
What a year! And it is only the beginning. As we solidify our residency in The Valley Arts District and look towards the future, we do so with great ideas and plans for new projects and programs, and with an even stronger commitment to community outreach.
Luna Stage is here to stay, and we thank you all for making it happen!
Sunday, June 12th. 5PM
I should be cleaning or doing laundry or sorting through mounds of papers, or – if I AM going to do Luna work – I should be writing letters, or working on a grant application, or figuring out next year’s budget, etc. etc. etc. But I decided to go to our website to post a few things – about a reading tomorrow night, about Harriet’s Return (the one-woman Harriet Tubman play coming to Luna this week), about the recognition Luna got from Peter Filichia in his annual awards. I then guiltily looked at my blog page. It has been AGES! Why would anyone even bother checking in anymore? Well, I think it is worth try-try-trying again – because more and more I realize the importance of connections, and we at Luna really do want to be connected to our audiences and supporters.
This has been quite a year for Luna. We actually pulled off four full productions! I cannot tell you how difficult that was — this inaugural year, after a big move, in these harsh economic times. But we did it! I go around singing (with a little license) – Sondheim’s I’m Still Here. Make that: “Good times and bum times, we’ve seen ‘em all and my dear, we’re still here!”
And we are not only here – but we are really moving forward! We just hired a new Director of Education and Community Outreach – Robin Irwin – and I feel the driving force that she is bringing to help us get a solid theatre education program in place and to more fully engage with the community. I am firmly convinced that she is just who we need for this next phase of our development!
And we are already well on our way with plans for next season – with some very exciting material! First, we are producing The Dangers of Electric Lighting by Ben Clawson. When we were moving to West Orange, Jane reached out to Ben and commissioned him to write a play for us – about Thomas Edison. Well, Ben did – and being the wonderful writer he is – it is terrific!
I will write again about the other offerings for next season – but, well, truth be told I really do have to get some cleaning done. This week is a busy one (the reading tomorrow night, meetings, a two-day workshop on Creative New Jersey, Harriet’s Return, and lots more!), so if I don’t do something now — when will it get done?? Plus – the Tony Awards are tonight!
Before I go, though — I went to Cape May last weekend and I was looking at these little stones with sayings on them. I already have one on my desk – Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. I bought another – People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it… (which I just learned is by George Bernard Shaw!). But the best one of all — I didn’t buy it – and wish I had — brings a smile to my face everytime I think of it. There I was holding this little stone and it said: Nothing is carved in stone!
I am sitting in my kitchen on Sunday morning and realizing that I haven’t posted here for a while and I think it is important that I share with you something about this amazing weekend we are in.
Luna Stage has opened its new home in the Valley Arts District of Orange and West Orange. This weekend is the actual opening weekend and we had two filled-to-capacity houses for Friday and Saturday evenings! Thrilling for us, being back to doing what we do best!
I am so proud of this production – John Henry Redwood’s The Old Settler — on many levels. Just the task of getting the building ready for the opening of the theatre has been a gargantuan undertaking. Then, when I look at the quality of the production itself — well, all I can say is that it is exceptional!
Anyone who hasn’t seen the play yet — you MUST come. The cast of The Old Settler is brilliant. The radiant Suzzanne Douglas, amazing Ami Brabson, gorgeous Nikkole Salter, and wonderful Jamahl Marsh, under the fine direction of Susan Kerner, bring this beautiful story to emotionally vibrant life with their talent and clear, accessible character-work. The design team is terrific and their work on this play is top-notch– from Robert Monaco’s living room interior (the whole ambience in the theatre is so intimate that the audience actually feels like they are in the living room/in the story); to Debra Otte’s period costumes; from Jill Nagle’s very special lighting to Steve Brown’s time-and mood-setting sound and music. Every detail of the production – including the extensive period prop and set pieces (courtesy of our own fabulous Liz Cesario) is flawless.
And then there is the play itself — a sweet, funny and moving story about love and family — and loneliness and longing and regrets and mistakes and forgiving and understanding and — well, you get the idea – it’s about emotions and relationships we all share. It brings a group of people that are in a space at the same time, together for a shared experience that is profoundly moving.
Yes. I am very proud of this play. I am proud of this company. What we have accomplished with the little resources we have is astounding, in my opinion. I am not going to say it is easy — it most definitely is not. The small staff works harder than anyone can imagine. Our consultant, Richard Bryant, goes above and beyond the call of duty to help us. Others too have shared their talents and assistance to help us get to this opening (I can’t name everyone here – I hope you know how much your help means). And juggling all the expenses entailed in such a production is, to say the least, very challenging. (I am still calling for Angels! Please come and see this play and then commit to our future). But when I sit in our new theatre and see the magical work we have all created, I believe more than ever in the future of Luna Stage. I believe we have something truly special to bring to the community and to the world of non-profit theatre. I believe in possibilities.
Come to The Old Settler. It will make a believer of you too!
Any angels out there?
How would you like to be a New Founder for Luna Stage?
As you know, we are deep in the midst of the big move – finishing our new home as a theatre-space — dimmers are in, sound system is almost completely installed, the grid is scheduled to be put up, and the painting is underway. In the meantime, our wonderful team of designers for The Old Settler have begun their work. Set Designer, Robert Monaco, has already put up the flats that make the walls of the sisters’ Harlem apartment. It’s actually fascinating watching the work go on all at once — the usual production-kind of work and the long-term, permanent, essential jobs. I am really beginning to see the future here, and it is very exciting! It will be so good to get back to what we do best – producing great plays – and The Old Settler is the perfect introduction of Luna’s work to The Valley Arts District. It is going to be a very special play – the director, cast, and design-team are all top-notch and the story is so touching and accessible. Rehearsals are underway, in fact! As I say – very exciting…
Which brings me back to my question above. Any angels out there?
I am sure you understand that running a not-for-profit theatre company in this economic climate is a challenge. When you add into the mix this huge undertaking of a move – well, it requires real commitment and determination – and lots of creativity – to ensure that solid roots are planted in our new home. It also requires money. We are very fortunate to have loyal supporters and funders encouraging us on this journey but we really do need some angels to walk with us right now. All at one time, there are immediate financial needs to be met, but box-office receipts aren’t in yet and classes haven’t started for the fall.
Wouldn’t you love to say that you helped make the new Luna Stage happen? Wouldn’t you like to know that you were among the few who led the way?
New Founders are contributors who give $5000 and more. New Founders will be acknowledged forever as the driving force of Luna Stage’s future. New Founders are angels and as such they guide and protect. I ask you - will you guide and protect the future of this excellent theatre company?
Let’s talk… 973-395-5551
I will be back with some behind-the scenes thoughts on The Old Settler - very soon!
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, there are a lot of people who are helping Luna Stage in this big transition but I absolutely cannot let another day go by without acknowledging Liz Cesario!
Liz is our Production Manager – has been since September of last year. She will finally be able to be a true Production Manager now that we are back in production mode, but for the past year – well, I don’t know what we would have done without Liz! I feel sometimes that she single-handedly moved us into this building. Of course that is not true — we had movers and helpers – and everyone who worked, worked very hard. Liz, however, has been amazing. She has overseen the move and continues to oversee the outfitting of the theatre for production (unistruts and grids and platforms – oh my!). She brought her family in to help – husband, Steve Lawler, a photographer, TV scenic and stage manager, and computer whiz set up our computer system in the new building; son Dillon built things, sawed and fitted things, and lugged things; Liz herself has spent hours lifting boxes, platforms, chairs, you name-it - and painting and organizing throughout the building.
You can’t imagine what an undertaking the actual moving of a theatre company is! And then with all the logistics of getting everything ready for actual production work to happen — well, it is huge, to say the least. We are still very much in the midst of it – now trying to coordinate the lighting and sound installations with the grid installation, with the theatre painting, with The Old Settler design team, all of whom are anxious to get into the theatre to do their work! Now Liz is working on two fronts – building and production coordination – and she continues to be efficient, professional, hard-working, frugal (thank you VERY much for that, Liz), and a genuinely great force of energy.
We owe Liz a lot — more than we can ever pay her, so I just want to say publicly a very big THANK YOU, LIZ. It is truly a gift having you on the Luna Stage team!
Okay, so I didn’t master the blogging thing yet. It actually has been a little more than busy around here, but I am determined to get back to this! I know that this little glimpse into the life behind the scenes of Luna Stage will bring us all closer – and that is very important to me/to us.
Instead of over-editing and trying to write a great essay, I am just going to start writing — what’s happening, how we’re moving along, etc. Probably these blogs will mostly be short and maybe even a little rushed at times (like me), but I really do want to reach out to you – our theatre-loving community.
So… First off, I am going to post a blog I started writing the day after our Dedication weekend — in May! I had never gotten back to finish writing it – but there are a few things in it that I want out there – and I do want to start again — this move towards our Grand Opening (which is coming up soon! - October 22!). The Dedication weekend was the beginning and I think it might be good to look back and then start the looking ahead.
Please do join me. Luna Stage is on such an amazing – and enormous – journey and we hope you’ll be there with us!
It’s Wednesday, May 19th – a whole month since I posted my first blog! So much has happened, but most significantly we just celebrated our Dedication weekend at 555! And what a weekend it was! Beginning with the wonderful street fair – ArtFest in the Valley – on Saturday afternoon, there was excitement in the air. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather. The sun poured down over everything (like butterscotch – as Joni Mitchell wrote). When we opened the doors to the building at 5PM for the ribbon cutting ceremony, it was thrilling. Our mainstage theatre filled to capacity with friends, new and old, and they all sat to hear the dedication speeches: Jane and I spoke briefly and then Mayor John McKeon, Elliot Lee from JP Morgan Chase, John Winckelmann, the architect, and Pat Morrissy from HANDS all shared their thoughts on the building, on the potential for the Valley Arts District and on their hopes for Luna’s success in our new home. Pat then led everyone in a joyous sing-along of Stand By Me, while he played guitar. I THINK he was joking when he said he’d wanted the theatre there so he’d have a place to perform.
Saturday evening we had a ticketed reception followed by a performance. Frankie R. Faison, our Board member and luminary extaordinaire, was the host and started the performances off with just the right tone – with a monologue from August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. The evening was called “Stories and Songs”, and it offered a sneak peek of our Valley Arts District inaugural season productions – with script-in-hand readings from The Old Settler by John Henry Redwood, Diary of a Dabbler by Eric Weinberger (music by Dan Acquisto; Lyrics by Sammy Buck), Mercy and the Firefly by Amy Hartman, and The Tallest Building in the World by Matt Schatz; plus musical interludes by outstanding and versatile musicians and poets. We were privileged to have so many wonderfully talented actors and performers join us for this very first event in the new space: Suzzanne Douglas, Ami Brabson, Nick Cearley, Dan Acquisto, Diane Moser, Nikkole Salter, Andrew Platner, Esther Morales, Peter Herrick, Alan Ariano, Harry Ford, Lordy Voley, Nyla Sofia, and Tamara Green all contributed to making the evening truly special.
Sunday afternoon, from noon until 3PM, we opened the doors and invited people to come in and tour the building. We also had some special events – creative improvisation with Colleen Finnegan; The Literary Lounge hosted by Dania Ramos; Indie Music Circus hosted by Michael Aquino. The talented writers and musicians who shared their work with us helped to make the Sunday dedication events as joyous and exciting as Saturday’s had been.
There are more people than I can even remember who helped to make the Dedication Weekend so special. It took a lot of coordination and commitment from staff and volunteers to help ‘pull this thing off’. Board member, Vicki Bolton, worked tirelessly planning the reception, getting donations and then working all day Saturday to help everything run smoothly. Our gratitude to Vicki often goes unspoken, but she is deeply appreciated by the Luna family. Sahoua Gboizo, our newest staff member – Office Manager – helped to keep us all organized and handled our new ticketing system, which is a HUGE job. We know that the system will soon be a real time-saver, but for computer dinosaurs like me it will take time to make it so. Sahoua is young, smart and eager to learn, and she is willing to work at anything we need her to. She coordinated our new volunteers who will be working with us as we move forward.