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Jersey Playwrights Share Their Voices

Chatham Community Players' "Jersey Voices" festival in its 17th year.

It’s not easy for a writer to get a play performed on a stage in front of audiences, but every year the gives playwrights from New Jersey an opportunity to do just that.

The “Jersey Voices One-Act Festival” at the Chatham Playhouse is an annual summer presentation of short plays written by people from New Jersey. Now in its 17th year, the festival is scheduled for July 29 through Aug. 4 and includes five short plays and a dance piece.

Bob Denmark, president of the Chatham Players and the producer of “Jersey Voices,” said the idea started when Cliff Odle, the festival’s founder, thought there should be a venue for area playwrights.

“At the time we never really did anything in the summer, our theater was dark all summer, so we thought about it and said, ‘OK let’s give it a shot,’” Denmark said.

The plays keeping Chatham Playhouse bustling this summer are “Cold Calling” by Thomas Tunnington, “Canaan Wedding or The Disciples Gone Wild” by John Dowgin, “Forsaking All Others” by G.A. Perrie, “Whatever and Delicately” by Pia Wilson, and “Mr. X” by Susan Barsky. The evening also includes “Dance of the Ahtu,” a dance piece by Desiree Caro and Anthony Rubolotta.

Bob Lukasik, the festival’s artistic director, said Tunnington’s play is a powerful story about a salesman who ends up in a phone conversation with a girl who’s around 6 or 7.

“He learns more about life from the conversation with that little girl than he has in 55 years of living,” Lukasik said. “It’s a very warm, kind of heart-wrenching, beautiful story of how no matter how old we are, we still can learn something from the beauty and youth of innocence.”

Two of the festival’s plays are about weddings. “Canaan Wedding” explores what a Biblical story would be like if it were written today. In “Forsaking All Others,” the parents of a groom and bride meet the night before their children’s wedding. “Mr. X” is a comedy about two spies meeting for a drop-off, and “Whatever and Delicately” is about a drunk woman in a restaurant who mistakenly thinks a Hispanic woman in the bathroom is an attendant.

“There’s social interplay between the two of them with the young woman looking down at the Hispanic woman because she thinks she’s just an attendant,” Lukasik said. “She really starts becoming snotty and snide and eventually comes to realize she’s made a huge mistake by generalizing.”

The five plays were chosen among 125 submissions, according to Denmark. Submissions come from writers of all backgrounds and ages. Some of the writers have had prior plays in the festival and others are from first-time submitters.

Plays of all genres are sought for the festival, but Denmark said unintentional themes tend to form. This year, he said, there are a large number of comedies.

“It’s usually more of a range from comedy to serious drama,” Denmark said. “I guess there’s really only one or so that you would say is serious this year.”

The dance piece adds another element and hearkens back to the festival’s first few years, which included dance.

“It made for a nice mix and livened up the audience,” Denmark said. “Then last year, and again this year, we had dances by a woman named Desiree Caro and last year’s was just terrific. We’re really excited about this year’s. … It’s just so much different from the other plays that we do.”

In addition to giving playwrights a stage, the festival has other benefits for the Chatham Players.

"What we like about it, both in terms of on the stage and in the audience, is that it’s often somewhat different people (going to the festival) than we’re used to seeing for our main stage shows," Demark said. "One of the abiding principles of ‘Jersey Voices’ has to do with the word ‘new.’ We like to do new things, we like to see new people and we like to see old friends in new roles. So somebody who’s acted for us might get a chance to direct or might turn up with a script."

This year, for example, Jon DeAngelis, who has written plays for the festival and has acted at Chatham Playhouse, is getting a chance to direct with “Canaan Wedding.”

“He’s kind of moved around and experienced ‘Jersey Voices’ from all different perspectives,” Denmark said. “And that’s what we like, we like people to be able to get a chance to do something that they’ve not done before or have not tried before.”

The Chatham Community Players will host the 17th Annual Jersey Voices One-Act Festival at the , 23 N. Passaic Ave. in Chatham, on July 29, 30 and Augl 4 through 6. All performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15, or $10 for youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased at ChathamPlayers.org. For information, call 973-635-7363.

ON STAGE SCOOP

New Season at the Barn Theatre: in Montville has announced its 2011-12 season. Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” will kick off the season with a run starting Sept. 9 and continuing through Oct. 1. Musical favorite “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will take stage Nov. 11 through Dec. 3. Next up is Scott McPherson’s “Marvin’s Room” from Jan. 13 through Feb. 4. Ken Ludwig’s comedy “Lend Me a Tenor” is after that, March 16 through April 7. Stephen Sondheim’s musical, “Assassins” will wrap up the season from May 18 through June 9. For information, go to BarnTheatre.org.

Dover Little Theatre’s Season Announcement: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” will open Dover Little Theatre’s new season, starting Sept. 10 and continuing through Sept. 24. Next will be the world premiere of “An Act of Will” by Grace Wessbecher, Nov. 11 through 20. Ken Ludwing’s “Moon Over Buffalo” will take stage from March 4 through 11. Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” will close out the season, May 5 through 20. For information, go to DoverLittleTheatre.org.

Casting For Next Show at Shakespeare Theatre: in Madison has announced the cast for its production of Dario Fo’s “Accidental Death of an Anarchist.” Kevin Isola returns for his fourth season with theater as the “Maniac” attempting to outsmart police investigators. Isola has appeared in “Around the World in Eighty Days,” “King Lear” and “As You Like It” at the theater. Philip Goodwin will play Inspector Bertozzo. Goodwin’s Broadway credits include “Tartuffe,” “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “The School for Scanda.” He previously appeared at the Shakespeare Theatre in “The Little Foxes.” He’s also appeared in films, including “The Pink Panther” and “Men in Black II.” Edmond Genest returns for his 16th season at the Shakespeare Theatre to play the Superintendent. Andrew Weems sill place the “Inspector in the Sports Jacket.” Jeff M. Bender will play the Constable and Kristie Kale Sanders plays journalist Maria Feletti. Performances are Aug. 3 through 28. For information, see ShakespeareNJ.org.

Relatively Speaking: The Chester Theatre Group is offering the musical “Grey Gardens” at the Black River Playhouse through July 24. The show is partly based on a documentary by Albert and David Maysels about an aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who became recluses, living in a mansion with stray animals. The theater is located at the corner of Grove Street and Maple Avenue in Chester. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For information, go to ChesterTheatreGroup.org or call 908-879-7304.

Merry Wanderers of the Night:  is presenting its annual outdoor show, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” through July 31. Performances are at the Greek amphitheater at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morris Township. The theater promotes the 90-minute production as being perfect for children and families of all ages. For tickets and information, call 973-408-5600 or go to ShakespeareNJ.org.

Get Outside and Hear the Music: , the Arts Council of the Morris Area and the United Methodist Church present their second annual Music Without Borders free summer outdoor lunchtime concert series on the Morristown Green. The series runs every other Wednesday through Aug. 3. Concerts run from noon to 1:30 p.m. July 20 will feature a concert by Music From China, a chamber ensemble that performs repertoire from traditional and contemporary Chinese musical styles. Go to MayoArts.org for more information.

Arabian Nights (and some matinees): Brundage Park Playhouse is staging “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” at its playhouse on Carrell Road in Randolph through July 23. The show is based on the classic Disney film and is the Playhouse’s By Kids For Kids production for this summer. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. There is an additional 8 p.m. performance on Thursday, July 14. For tickets and information, call 973-989-7092 or go to BrundageParkPlayouse.org.

If the Slipper Fits: Pax Amicus Castle Theatre in Budd Lake is presenting “Cinderella” through July 23. Performances are scheduled for the following dates: July 12 and 14 at 10 a.m., July 20 through 22 at 10 a.m.; and July 23 at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $12. Pax Amicus Castle Theatre is located at 23 Lake Shore Road in Budd Lake. For information, call 973-691-2100 or go to PaxAmicus.com.

Greek Tragedy:  is presenting Shakespeare’s rarely produced “Timon of Athens,” through July 24 at the in Madison. This marks the first time the play has been presented during Bonnie J. Monte’s 21-year tenure as the theater’s artistic director. The 90-minute staging is adapted by Brian B. Crow (who also directs) and blends various theatrical styles to tell the story of Timon and his turn from innocence to despair. Tickets start at $32. For tickets, call 973-408-5600, go to ShakespeareNJ.org or e-mail boxoffice@shakespearenj.org.

A “Cicurious” Route: Circus and illusion are coming to Morristown when Circurious takes stage at on July 20 at 10:30 a.m. The theater's website describes the act as a “mesmerizing, mind-boggling display of artistry and athleticism, featuring circus aerialists and an illusionist who will dazzle and delight children and adults of all ages!” The performance will include three performers: Two aerialists and an MC/illusionist/magician. Tickets cost $10. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Audition Alert, “The Wars of the Roses: Henry VI, Part I:” The Shakespeare Initiative will hold auditions for its production of “The Wars of the Roses: Henry VI, Part I” at Brundage Park Playhouse in Randolph on July 20, 7 to 9 p.m. The play charts the origins of the bloody Wars of the Roses, and features the young Shakespeare’s portrayal of Joan of Arc. Auditioners are requested to prepare a Shakespearean monologue (it doesn’t have to be memorized). Since the production will be quite physical, a movement/stage combat section to the audition will also be conducted. Auditioners should bring a headshot/snapshot (if available) and a theatrical resume. Appointments are not required. Auditioners should also be familiar with Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” cycle. Performances are Sept. 30 through Oct. 9. Auditions will be held at the Brundage Park Playhouse, Carrell Road, Randolph. A proposed character breakdown can be found here. For more information, e-mail to director@theshakespeareinitiative.org.

An Adventure for the Kids: Crabgrass Puppet Theatre will present its adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Jaberwocky” at in Morris Township on July 20 with performances scheduled for 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Aimed for kids ages 5 to 10, the story shares the tale of a boy who goes on a quest for the legendary creature, the Jabberwock. Crabgrass Puppet Theatre describes the staging as a “fabulous and funny adventure tale filled with stunning puppets and fantastical scenery.” Tickets cost $12. For tickets and information, call 973-971-3706 or go to MorrisMuseum.org.

Everybody Cut: Ridge Light Opera of New Jersey and the Bernards Township Department of Recreation are presenting “Footloose” at the outdoor amphitheater at Pleasant Valley Park on Valley Road, July 21 and 23 with performances starting at 8 p.m. Admission is free, donations are accepted. Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating. Call 908-204-3003 for information.

Continuing the Outlaw Tradition: Travis Tritt will mix the sounds of Southern rock and honky tonk to  on July 21 for an 8 p.m. concert. Following influences like Waylon Jennings, Tritt’s hits include “Help Me Hold,” “Can I Trust You With My Heart” and “Foolish Pride.” Tickets cost $42 to $87. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

What Time is It? It’s Ragtime: in Morris Township will present its Ragtime program on July 21, 6 to 7 p.m. The program will feature demonstrations of musical boxes, player pianos and nickelodeans from the museum’s Guinness collection of musical instruments. Tickets cost $9, $7 members. Reservations are required (limited to 20 per program). Call 973-971-3706 for tickets.

“Last Bastions of Rock” Film Screening: As part of its “Jersey Rocks” lecture series, the will host a screening of Fritch Clark’s documentary, “The Last Bastions of Rock” on July 21. The 2010 documentary is about New Jersey’s rock venues of the past and present. The movie tells stories behind clubs like the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, as well a long-gone spots like New Brunswick’s Melody Bar, and City Gardens in Trenton. Clark will be at the screening to talk about the film and take questions from the audience.  The lecture series continues with a talk by Dewar MacLeod, professor of William Paterson University, and Claudia Ocello, project coordinator for the museum’s “Jersey Rocks” exhibit. The July 28 talk will be about the rock ’n’ roll clubs in New Jersey, including “Disc-O-Teen,” a Newark-based TV dance show and the Capitol Theater in Passaic. Both programs will start at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and information, all 973-971-3706.

Ready for an Adventure? Then go see "Tom Sawyer:" will stage  a musical adaptation of Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” starting July 22 through Aug. 7. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. All tickets cost $12. For information, call 908-369-7469 or go to SVPTheatre.org.

Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Young Performers Theatre Company will present a non-musical version of “Peter Pan” at the Darress Theatre, 615 Main St. in Boonton, on July 22 at 8 p.m. and July 23 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Call 973-334-9292 for more information.

The Jazz is Back at the Bickford: The Full Count Big Band will perform at the in Morris Township as part of the Jazz SummerFest. The 18-piece band will perform swing standards July 25, 8 p.m. Tickets cost $18 at the door, $15 in advance. The Bickford is located at the , 6 Normandy Heights Road. Call 973-971-3706 or go to MorrisMuseum.org for more information.

Cure Your Cat Scratch Fever by Seeing Ted Nugent: Rock legend Ted Nugent will bring his hard-rock guitar sounds to on July 26 at 8 p.m. Nugent’s well-known songs include “Stranglehold,” “Cat Scratch Fever,” and the songs he recorded with Damn Yankees. Tickets cost $47 to $87. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Add Some Magic to Your Summer: in Morris Township will host “Choo Choo Charlie’s Magic Show” as part of the Summer Theatre Series for Children, on July 26 with performances at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The show promises to take kids on a magical and funny ride. For ages 3 to 8. For tickets, call 973-971-3706 or go to MorrisMuseum.org.

Open Mic Nights at the Darress Theatre: The Morris County Center for the Arts at the Darress Theatre will be experimenting with regularly scheduled open mic nights at the theater. The first event is scheduled for July 28, 8 to 10 p.m. There will be a $10 admission charge, which will be refunded to anyone who performs during the evening. The host for these events will be Tommy Mahoney. Mahoney has been a member of the The Folk Project since 2005 and is an active volunteer with the Minstrel concert series. If there is enough interest in these open mic events, they will be held twice a month, on the second and fourth Thursdays. The Darress Theatre is located at 615 Main St., Boonton. For more information, call 973-334-9292 or go to DarressTheater.com.

Love and Music: Villagers Theatre in Somerset is presenting “The Wedding Singer” as part of its TeensVill series from July 29 through Aug. 14. Based on the Adam Sandler movie comedy, the musical is about Robbie Hart, a wedding singer who longs to be a rock singer whose fiancée leaves him at the alter. Robbie makes himself, and everyone else, miserable until he meets Juia, who he’s attracted to but who is about to get married. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $16. For reservations, call 732-873-2710 or go to VillagersTheatre.com.

Acapella Concert at the Morris Museum: Sammy and the Del-Larks, Quiet Storm, Joe Z and Bobby Thomas’ Tribute to the Orioles are on the bill for an evening of a capella music at the  in Morris Township on July 29 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $25, $20 members. For information, go to MorrisMuseum.org or call 973-971-3706.

Go See the Wizard: Kaleidoscope Theatre of Youth is presenting “The Wizard of Oz” at , July 29 through Aug. 7. The show features music and lyrics from the famous MGM movie. Performances are July 29 and 30, and Aug. 2, 3, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m., as well as July 31 and Aug. 7 at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $15. The theater is located at 10 New England Ave. in Summit. For tickets, call 908-273-2192 or go to SummitPlayhouse.org.

Prepare Ye the Way to “Godspell:” Pax Amicus Castle Theatre in Budd Lake is performing “Godspell” for a run starting July 30 through Aug. 20. The show adapts the Gospel According to St. Matthew into a rock musical where Jesus and his disciples sing and act in various theatrical styles. Its songs by Stephen Schwartz include the hit “Day By Day” and “All for the Best.” Performances are July 30, Aug. 6, 13, 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 7 and 14 at 2 p.m. Pax Amicus Castle Theatre is located at 23 Lake Shore Road. Tickets cost $25. Call 973-691-2100 to purchase tickets. For more information, go to PaxAmicus.com.

Picnic and Play: will present the second of its free Picnic Series performance of season with Molière’s “Tartuffe” on Aug. 6 at 5:30 p.m. Picnic Series performances are held on the lawn outside the , 36 Madison Ave. (at Lancaster Road) in Madison. Performances of The Picnic Series are free of charge and patrons are invited to bring a picnic blanket or lawn chair. Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis. In the event of rain, the performance will be held in an indoor venue. For more information, visit ShakespeareNJ.org or call 973-408-5600.

Mayo Center Tickets on Sale: Tickets for ’s 2011-12 season are on sale now. The schedule includes KD Lang on Sept. 22, Diana Ross on Oct. 2, Willie Nelson on Oct. 27, Tracy Mogan on Oct. 29, Larry King on Nov. 11, Joan Baez on Nov. 16 and Chicago on Nov. 25. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information about the entire season, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Chatham Community Players Announce 2011-12 Season: Tracey Letts’ “Bug” will kick off new season with a run starting Oct. 14 and continuing through Oct. 29. The play from the writer of “August: Osage County” follows a middle-aged waitress with a terrible past and a Gulf War veteran who enters her life. Next up is Frank Galati’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” March 2 through 17. The season will conclude with a run of the classic musical “Cabaret” May 4 through 19. For more information, go to ChathamPlayers.org.

Got news for On Stage? E-mail Louis@Patch.com.

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