Premiere Stages at Kean University Announces 2018 Season

Clockwise from top left: playwrights Deneen Reynolds-Knott, Craig Garcia, Nicole Pandolfo and Martin Casella. Photos by Ian Alfano.

UNION, N.J. – Premiere Stages at Kean University has announced the winner of the 2018 Premiere Play Festival, its annual competition for unproduced scripts written by playwrights affiliated with the greater metropolitan area. The theatre has named Linger by Glen Ridge resident Craig Garcia this year’s winner, and will present the play’s first professional production this summer as part of the theatre’s 14th season in residence at Kean University. The season, which runs June-October, will also feature full productions of Brick City by Ridgewood resident Nicole Pandolfo and Black Tom Island by Jersey City resident Martin Casella, as well as a developmental workshop of this year’s runner-up for the Premiere Play Festival, Baton by Brooklyn resident Deneen Reynolds-Knott.

Clockwise from top left: playwrights Deneen Reynolds-Knott, Craig Garcia, Nicole Pandolfo and Martin Casella. Photos by Ian Alfano.

“We are excited to feature a season of all new works,” stated John J. Wooten, producing artistic director of Premiere Stages. “For the first time in Premiere Stages’ history, all three plays that we are producing are written by New Jersey playwrights and two are plays that we have commissioned over a two-year cycle. Craig’s topical play Lingerembodies our mission and is the ideal play to celebrate the newly christened Bauer Boucher Theatre Center.”

In Mr. Garcia’s Linger (July 12-29, Bauer Boucher Theatre Center), Maryanne and James are forced to confront the possibility that their popular son is capable of a horrible act. As social media explodes over the incident, the couple struggles to hold their splintering family together. A screenwriter, filmmaker and producer as well as playwright, Mr. Garcia’s work has been developed through the TRU New Voices Reading Series and Luna Stage’s New Moon Short Play Festival. Linger will be directed by Mr. Wooten, whose previous productions at Premiere include American Theatre Critics Association honorees The Beautiful Dark, The Good Counselor and Follow Me to Nellie’s.

“I’m so happy to be named the winner of the Premiere Play Festival,” Mr. Garcia said in a statement. “As a New Jersey playwright, working with Premiere Stages means so much. It has already been a terrific experience collaborating with John [Wooten] and the team, and I couldn’t be more excited to bring my work to the stage this summer.”

The season continues with Ms. Pandolfo’s Brick City (September 6-23, Bauer Boucher Theatre Center), recipient of a 2017 NJPAC Stage Exchange Commission in partnership with NJPAC and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance. Worlds collide in this topical and compelling new play when Jessie, a combative high school senior with a disability, and Darnell, the star player of the high school basketball team, find themselves together in extended study hall during the most important marking period of their lives. As Darnell inches dangerously close to throwing away a lucrative college scholarship and Jessie a potential career as an artist, both discover things aren’t always as simple as they may seem. A 2017 Dramatist Guild Fellow, Ms. Pandolfo is a past finalist for the Stanley Drama Award, the Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship, and the Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers. Jessi D. Hill, who helmed last season’s workshop of 1980 (Or Why I’m Voting for John Anderson) and currently serves as literary team director for Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, directs.

For the final production, Premiere will present a full production of the 2017/2018 Liberty Live Commission, Martin Casella’s Black Tom Island (October 11-21), in the 1882 Carriage House at Kean University’s Liberty Hall Museum. Based on an actual incident that took place in Jersey City in 1916, Black Tom Island explores the first documented terrorist attack on American soil through the lens of a fictionalized Slovak immigrant and his wife who may or may not be involved in the attack. Directed by Mr. Wooten, the production will run in conjunction with Liberty Hall Museum’s ongoing World War I exhibit, Brothers in Arms: Memories of the Great War. Mr. Casella’s writing for the stage and screen includes the GLAAD-nominated The Irish Curse, published by Samuel French, and the teleplay for the upcoming film The Land of Sometimes, starring Ewan McGregor and Helena Bonham Carter.

The season also includes a free staged reading of Ms. Reynolds-Knott’s runner-up Baton (June 15-17, Bauer Boucher Theatre Center). In this timely and provocative new play, Ava, an African-American woman living in New York, is forced to revisit feelings from the past while on a date. News of unrest in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s funeral leads to the revelation that she was previously engaged to a white cop, detonating a night of accusations, interrogations and confessions. A co-creator and executive producer of the web series Bulk, Ms. Reynolds-Knott has read or developed work with Frank Silvera Workshop’s 3in3 Playwright Residency, The Dennis & Victoria Ross Foundation, Little Black Dress INK and Primary Stages/ESPA. Ms. Hill returns to direct.

Tickets for Premiere Stages’ 2018 season go on sale May 1. Prices range from $15 – $30, with deep discounts available for season packages, groups, seniors, and students;admission to the staged reading of Baton is free. Premiere Stages also offers a series of free interactive lobby talks and post-show discussions in conjunction with select performances. To purchase tickets or inquire about season packages, please call the box office at 908-737-7469 or visit

Premiere Stages offers affordable prices, air-conditioned facilities and free parking close to the theatre. Premiere Stages also provides free or discounted tickets to patrons with disabilities. All Premiere Stages facilities are fully accessible spaces, and companion seating is available for patrons with disabilities. Assistive listening devices and large print programs are available at all times; publications in alternate formats are available with advance notice. Please call 908-737-4077 for a list of sign-interpreted, audio-described or open-captioned performances. For more information, please visit Premiere Stages online at

Premiere Stages is made possible in part through funding from W. John Bauer and Nancy Boucher, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, The Northfield Bank Foundation, The Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Union Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, Investors Foundation, The Union County HEART Grant, Les Malamut Art Gallery, Actors’ Equity Association Foundation, and through the generous support of individual patrons and local organizations. Discover Jersey Arts is our marketing partner. Visit for more information about other arts programming happening around the Garden State.