Nyesha McCormick, Natasha Roland and Chloe Rice in “Daxton on the Night Shift at 7/11” by Riley Elton McCarthy during the 2022 INKubator New Play Festival.
"And where are the new plays? The new directors?" - Elia Kazan, 1993
Are you looking for new, challenging theater that makes you think and feel something ... different? Sure, all theatre should probably do that, but a lot of long-run and revival offerings out there are as comfortable as an old shoe. Not necessarily a bad thing (I love old shoes), but nostalgia and familiarity are not the only flavors that can satisfy a palate. And some palates can only be satisfied by something really new. The 2023 INKubator New Play Festival is precisely what Hollywood giant Elia Kazan was looking for when he said that 30 years ago. Art House Productions is bringing you a festival of six brand-new plays by New Jersey-connected authors.
The six playwrights (Micharne Cloughley, Amir-Gabriel Gad, Adin Lenahan, Iraisa Ann Reilly, Edwin Rivera-Arias and Emmy Weissman) met with program director Alex Tobey monthly for nearly a year to share new material, receive criticism and develop new plays. Now, each writer has partnered with a director and actors to present a public reading as a part of Art House Productions' fifth Annual INKubator New Play Festival May 8-17.
The 2022-2023 INKubator Cohort: Edwin Rivera-Arias, Amir-Gabriel Gad, Adin Lenahan, Emmy Weissman, Iraisa Ann Reilly and Micharne Cloughley.
Alex Tobey is the program director for INKubator. “My goal as a facilitator in INKubator is to focus on a playwright’s intention and tailor my resources, questions and suggestions toward helping them fulfill their individual goals,” says Tobey. “The beginning of the process is all about listening: what do they imagine this play is about? You need to know what journey they’ve set out on if you want to help them navigate it.”
“I think my biggest challenge was writing about real people,” says playwright Iraisa Ann Reilly. “I had to do a considerable amount of research for my piece. This was the first stop on what I imagine will be a longer process for this play.”
Reilly wrote the play “Eminent Domain,” in which during a rainstorm, several people have been summoned to the Brigantine-Atlantic City Connector tunnel to defend their property in a board game resembling Monopoly.
“I'd also like to share a little piece of Atlantic City and stories we may not know about with people who are in the audience,” says Reilly.
Kevin R. Free, Artistic Director of Mile Square Theatre, and the 2022-2023 INKubator Cohort.
“It’s so incredibly satisfying to watch a play grow and develop over time and get to witness the new relationships and communities that are formed,” says Tobey. “Through INKubator, we’ve had the privilege of hosting 32 playwrights in residence over the past five years.”
Emmy Weissman wrote “Mikvah Girls” in which two orthodox Jewish women from New Jersey who are supposed to perform a monthly cleansing ritual at a mikvah. Instead, they use this time to hold meetings of their two-person Bruce Springsteen fan club.
“I entered the INKubator process with ideas and a rough plan for what the play would be,” said Weissman. “This plan transformed and shifted due to the insightful, keen feedback from Alex and my fellow writers. I have been surprised and thrilled by the new shape the play has taken and am grateful to the cohort for helping to deepen my writing and expand my voice.”
“I am really excited to share this work with the community and friends at the reading,” says Weissman. “I'm also looking forward to seeing how our actors' performances will influence the play and its characters.”
The cast of “Flowers for Men” by Christian Mendonça during the 2022 INKubator New Play Festival.
“Audiences at INKubator play a crucial role in the development of a new play,” says Tobey. “These readings are the first time that the writer is hearing the play out loud and watching the play be brought to life. The chance to experience that accompanied by a live audience’s laughter, gasps and applause helps inform what’s working well and what they can focus on during their next round of revisions.”
“My hopes for the reading are to hear the words out loud with wonderful actors and to get to know my play better,” says Reilly.
Audiences who attend the festival can participate in conversations with the writers, directors and actors following each performance.
“The biggest challenge to developing a new play is always time, space and money – three things that it seems like we never have enough of in the theatre,” says program director Alex Tobey. “That’s why INKubator is so special and important to me. We’re working directly with playwrights, directors and actors to provide all three of those things and create something special that’s never been seen before.”
ArtHouse will present the INKubator New Play Festival in their brand-new 99-seat black box theater located at 345 Marin Boulevard, in the Hendrix high-rise residence, in Jersey City.
Monday, May 8, at 7:30 p.m. - "Eminent Domain" by Iraisa Ann Reilly; Directed by Angela Longo. Amid a giant rainstorm, several citizens from Atlantic City's past have been summoned to the Brigantine-Atlantic City Connector tunnel to defend their property in a board game resembling Monopoly. As each individual pulls the dreaded "Eminent Domain" card, these characters (based on real individuals) tell the story of the last time they had to defend their homes against the dreaded Eminent Domain law. This game within a play examines the history of Atlantic City and the people who called America's Favorite Playground home.
Tuesday, May 9, at 7:30 p.m. - "Stubbornness & Bone" by Edwin Rivera-Arias; Directed by Nelson Isava. A supervisor is brutally murdered in the labor pool of a chemical company, and five Latino laborers must deal with the aftermath in a system in which "some people are born on stilts, while the rest gotta mosey along inchmeal."
Wednesday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. - "Mikvah Girls" by Emmy Weissman; Directed by Karma Masselli. “Mikvah Girls” is the story of two orthodox Jewish women from New Jersey who are supposed to perform a monthly cleansing ritual at a mikvah. Instead, they use this time to hold meetings of their two-person Bruce Springsteen fan club. Together they grapple with their religion's effects on their sexuality, desires, hopes and dreams, all while obsessing over the Boss and dreaming of a better world they could build together.
Monday, May 15, at 7:30 p.m. - "Flotsam" by Micharne Cloughley; Directed by Kevin R. Free. “Flotsam” tells the story of five objects in a thrift store in Hoboken. They have no money (because they are just objects), but they share a big dream. This is a play with songs for anyone who has ever felt lost, broken, or discarded.
Tuesday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m. - "Bunnyman" by Amir-Gabriel Gad; Directed by Tyaela Nieves. When slasher movie-obsessed RJ is attacked and stabbed by someone in a bunny mask, the universe assigns him his very own one-winged angel. Final girl Clair Combs is there to lead him on a rip-roaring revenge adventure. The only problem is RJ isn't convinced he's allowed to take it. A play about Dead By Daylight, corn syrup, D-I-Y dowsing rods and realizing you sometimes live through the things that kill you.
Wednesday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. - "The Barrens" by Adin Lenahan; Directed by Jake Beckhard. “The Barrens” is a portal fantasy about a perpetually single, hairless, nonbinary nobody who is transported to a magical version of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. There, our unlikely hero learns the thorny truth of getting everything you ever wanted—a story of self-worth and self-activation.