You'll Want To Pay Attention to 'Distracted'
Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre sets up temporary shop at Playwrights Theatre with a modern family comedy.
When does a child have a learning disability and when is he just being a rambunctious kid?
That’s the question posed by Lisa Loomer’s “Distracted,” which Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre is staging at the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, March 4 to 20. The play, which had a successful run off-Broadway starring Cynthia Nixon last year, looks into attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and how it affects a child and his parents.
Pretty serious stuff, but Harriet Trangucci, who plays the boy’s mother, said the play is a comedy.
“It’s a serious subject, and it’s one that I know some people personally who are going through this, so it’s right on the money I think,” Trangucci said. “But it’s funny and it’s very well written.”
In the play, a 9-year-old boy named Jessie has problems with school and at home. Everything is a struggle for him, school, obviously, but even simple things like getting him to dress and eat become frustrating for his parents.
Humor arises, Trangucci said, as the parents work their way through the thicket of information and options that are available. They look into medications, New Age therapies and behavioral modifications. “They go through all the options,” Trangucci said.
The adult characters in the play offer plenty of humor, as well as frustration for Jessie’s parents. Everyone seems to to have an opinion or something to say about the child and his condition. And it seems plenty of these adults have learning disabilities themselves.
“I think it’s pretty clear that I’m ADD as well,” Trangucci said of her character. “My mind goes off in a million different directions, even as I’m trying to get information about my son’s possible condition. She loves her son just to death … that feeling in your heart, she loves her kid and so does the dad.”
Director Laura Ekstrand said Jessie’s father was similar to his son as a child—lots of energy—and he’s convinced that Jessie is fine.
“He feels strongly that there’s nothing wrong with him,” Ekstrand said during an interview she conducted while shopping for props at Toys R Us. “He’s insisting there’s nothing wrong with him, but what happens is, as we meet them, Jessie is having problems at school where the teacher wants to classify him as special ed. So the parents are becoming afraid that it’s not just going to be a quirk in his personality; that it’s going to be a real impediment to his functioning in the world.”
Ekstrand, who is also Dreamcatcher’s artistic director, said the company chose the play because it had success with a production of “Expecting Isabel,” another parent-themed play written by Loomer. That one is about a couple who desperately want a child. Another benefit to “Distracted” is that it had enough roles for the members of Dreamcatcher’s company of actors.
Being parents themselves, Trangucci and Ekstrand said they’re able to relate to the mother and father in Loomer’s play. Ekstrand said all parents, not just those whose children may have learning disabilities, will be able to relate with the couple.
“The responsibility you feel to keep your kids happy and healthy is enormous, and when you feel like you’re failing at that, there’s really no way to feel good, there’s no way to feel peaceful about it until you feel like you’ve fixed it,” she said.
Dreamcatcher had some off-stage drama to deal with just days before rehearsals for “Distracted” were set to start when it found out its regular venue, the Baird Center in South Orange had to be shut down because of asbestos. That eventually led to the arrangement with Playwrights. (Help also came from Luna Stage in West Orange, which provided rehearsal space.)
“I got on the phone and called all my friends,” Ekstrand said. “And John Pietrowski (the artistic director) at Playwrights was really generous and said we could do the whole thing there.”
Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre will perform “Distracted” at Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, 33 Green Village Road, Madison, March 4 to March 20. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $30, or $25 for seniors and students. You can save $3 by buying tickets at www.dreamcatcherrep.org or by calling 1-800-838-3006.
THE ON STAGE SCOOP
Do You Have A Jersey Voice? The Chatham Community Players group is seeking original, one-act plays, short musicals or original dance pieces, written by New Jersey authors, for the 17th annual "Jersey Voices." Play submissions of any genre, style and length up to 20 minutes maximum running time will be accepted through March 15. E-mail submissions in Microsoft Word or PDF format to: email@example.com. For more information on the festival itself, see here.
Celebrating Young Talent: The Madison Young Playwrights Festival will soon be taking reservations. It's a day-long festival celebrating work written by students in Madison schools. Watch this space for more information.
Get Schooled: The educational touring wing of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Shakespeare LIVE!, presents abridged productions of the Bard's work that keeps Shakespeare's language intact. It's offering A Midsummer Night's Dream and Julius Caesar through June 10. For more info and bookings, see here.
Paper Mill's New Season: Paper Mill Playhouse has announced its 2011-2012 season, which will include four musicals (including a world premiere) and one comedy. The season will kick off with the debut of “Newsies The Musical,” based on the 1992 Disney movie, and written by Harvey Fierstein (book), Jack Feldman (lyrics) and Alan Menken (music). Paper Mill’s holiday offering is “White Christmas,” based on the movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Next up is Marc Canoletti’s 1960 comedy “Boeing Boeing,” (which recently had a successful Broadway revival) in January. Just in time for the baseball season is the classic musical “Damn Yankees” March 7 through April 1, and the season will wrap up with “Once on this Island,” May 30 through June 24. Meanwhile, there are two more shows to go before the current season ends. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” March 16 through April 10 and “Curtains” April 27 through May 22. See our full story on the season for more information.
Talent On Display: Morristown’s Got Talent will take place at The Mayo Center in Morristown Feb. 23, 7 p.m. The evening promises the best amateur talent from Morristown, Morris Plains and Morris Township. Tickets cost $20 to $75. For information, go to mayoarts.org or call the box office at 973-539-8008. And see our ongoing profiles of the talent itself here.
If Music Be the Food of Love, then go see “Twelfth Night,” performed by the Drew University Theatre Arts Department, Feb. 23 to 26 at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre on the Drew University Campus in Madison. Call 973-408-3030 for more information.
Service With A Smile: Brad Zimmerman will present “My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy” at the Mayo Center in Morristown Feb. 24. In the show, the comedian shares the story of his struggle to make it as an actor in New York. Zimmerman has opened for Joan Rivers, Brad Garrett and Susie Essman, and was George Carlin’s regular opening act for two years. Tom Cotter is Zimmerman’s opening act. Tickets cost $25, for information, call 973-539-8008 or go to www.mayoarts.org.
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! Beatlemania is back, kind of, when The Fab Four: The Ultimate Tribute comes to The Mayo Center in Morristown, Feb. 25. The multi-media theatrical productions features classic Beatle tunes from the band's earliest hits to Abbey Road, and features former members of the Broadway show “Beatlemania.” Tickets cost $37-$57.
You Gotta Go … To Urinetown: The Chester Theatre Group at the Black River Playhouse will present “Urinetown: The Musical,” Feb. 25 to March 19. The Tony-winning musical satire features music and lyrics by Mark Hollman and a book and lyrics by Greg Kotis. The title may sound icky, but “Urinetown” is a actually a funny musical about a city that charges citizens to perform the most basic of functions, because of a water shortage. Bobby Strong (played by Brian Hill) takes on the powers that be so that everyone in the city can get some relief. The cast and crew of Urinetown have developed a special humanitarian project dubbed "Pennies for Potties." Named by cast member Roxanna Wagner, who is heading up the effort, P4P is collecting money to to the international non-profit organization, Foundation for Peace, based in Ironia. The Foundation for Peace has provided much needed emergency care to many materially impoverished countries. Coin drops will be placed at the public rest rooms in the theater through the run of the show. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $24, or $22 for seniors and students. Reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling the box office at 908-879-7304.
One Day of “Arabian Nights:” The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will perform “Arabian Nights,” Jacques Lacombe conductor, Feb. 26, p.m. at the Mayo Center in Morristown. The program includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherezade,” Nielsen’s “Aladdin Suite” and Behzad Ranjbaran’s music based on an 11th-century epic Persian poem, fusing ancient and modern sounds. For more information, go to www.njsymphony.org.
Let Your Hair Down with Rapunzel: Pax Amicus Castle Theatre in Budd Lake will present Richard Boyer’s “Rapunzel: A Brush With Fate,” Feb. 26 and March 5 and 12, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Bring your kids to see the story (which also inspired the recent hit movie “Tangled”) of a confident girl trapped in a tower who’s determined to be free. Tickets cost $12. For information, call 973-691-2100 or go to www.paxamicus.com.
Political Intrigue, 1920 Style: Villagers Theatre in Somerset will present “Fifteen Men in a Smoke-Filled Room” by Colin Speer Crowley, Feb. 28 as part of its 2011 New Playwrights Series. Directed by Fred Halperin, the play follows Warren Harding on the eve of his nomination for president, and his being under pressure from his campaign manager, his domineering wife and his hero-worshipping young mistress. Admission is free. For information, go to www.villagerstheatre.com for more information.
Audition Alert, "Enchanted:" The Women’s Theater Company in Parsippany is holding auditions for “Enchanted” in February. Equity and non-equity roles are available. Auditions will be held at the Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Parsippany. Bring a picture and resume, stapled together. E-mail an audition time and any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the Proof: Nutley Little Theatre will stage “Proof,” David Auburn’s 2001 Tony winner for Best Play, through Feb. 26. Tickets cost $15, $13 seniors/students. For tickets and information, go to nutleylittletheatre.com
"The World Goes Round," You Go To Parsippany: The Women's Theater Company in Parsippany presents "And The World Goes Round, The Songs of Kander and Ebb" through Feb. 27. The revue features songs from "Cabaret," "Chicago," "Funny Lady," "Kiss Of The Spiderwoman" and other Broadway hits. Performances are Feb. 25, 26 and 27. Friday and Saturday performances are 8 p.m. Sundays are 3 p.m. The show is at the Parsippany Community Center, 1140 Knoll Road, Lake Hiawatha. Tickets are $18, $15 for seniors and $12 for students. Call 973-316-3033 or e-mail email@example.com.
Audition Alert, “The Mousetrap:” Brundage Park Playhouse will hold auditions for its production of “The Mousetrap” March 2, 7 to 9 p.m. Those auditioning are requested to bring a headshot or snapshot to the audition. Cold readings will be provided. No appointments are necessary. The mystery written by Agatha Christie features five male roles (three in their 20s, two who are older) and three female roles (two in their 20s and one who is older). Performances are May 5 through 15. For more information, go to brundageparkplayhouse.org
Hollywood Ending: There’s no business like show business, especially when David Mamet’s writing about it. Summit Playhouse will present Mamet’s 1988 play “Speed the Plow” through March 5. Filled with Mamet’s trademark, rapid-fire dialogue, it focuses on the ruthless nature of Hollywood and the movie industry. With the writer’s dialogue and taught plotting the seemingly superficial depiction of two Hollywood producers looking for a big break finds deep meaning. The show stars Robert Barwick, from Wayne, as Bob Gould; James Sloan, from New York City, as Charlie Fox; and Danielle Pennisi, from Cedar Grove, as Karen. Trey Compton is the director. Tickets cost $20, or $15 for students. For tickets: see here or call 908-273-2192. Summit Playhouse is located at 10 New England Ave., Summit
An Enterprising Adventure. Mad Science Productions will present “Star Trek Live,” March 2, 10 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. at the Mayo Center in Morristown. In this program for grades 3-8, Romulan forces invade, and the new members of Starfleet Academy (also known as “the audience”) must save Earth. They’ll have help from a time-traveling Vulcan and the Starfleet commander. Tickets cost $8. For more information, call 973-539-0345, ext. 6517 or go to www.mayoarts.org.
What Do I Say Now? “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Stars Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood return to the Mayo Center in Morristown for an evening of improv comedy based on audience suggestions and participation, March 3, 8 p.m. Tickets cost $47-$77. More information can be found here.
Isn’t It Romantic? Two-time Tony winner Christine Ebersole (“Grey Gardens,” “42nd Street”) will perform an evening of romantic music from the Great American Songbook at the Mayo Center in MOrristown, March 4, 8 p.m. Tickets cost $37-$62. Go to www.mayoarts.org for more information.
A Gala Evening: The Growing Stage children’s theater in Netcong will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the re-opening of the Palace Theatre with a gala on March 5. The evening includes cocktails, hors d ‘oeuvres, buffet dinner and dessert catered by the Black Forest Inn in Stanhope, a silent auction and performances by cast members of the theater’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Tickets cost $125, with proceeds benefiting The Growing Stages’ programs. RSVP by Feb. 19. Contact Managing Director Tom Romano at 973-347-4946 or firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
Hey, Watch Your Language: The Chatham Players will perform David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Glengarry Glen Ross,” March 4 to 19, directed by Chase Newhart. The play follows four unethical real estate agents who are desperate to sell undesirable properties to prospective buyers. It was adapted into a 1992 movie featuring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin and Kevin Spacey. Performances are March 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 8 p.m. and March 13, 3 p.m. Tickets cost $20, $18 seniors/youth. (Because of its strong language, “Glengarry Glen Ross” is not appropriate for young children.) Reservations can be made by calling 973-635-7363. Tickets can also be purchased here.
Getting “Dark” in Dover: Dover Little Theatre will present William Inge’s “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,” March 5 to 19. The theater’s website describes the comedy-drama as a series of short stories. Those stories include a fight between a husband and wife, the fear of a shy girl going to a dance, the problems of an introverted boy who feels the world is against him, and others. The play debuted on Broadway in 1957 and won the Tony Award for Best Play. Performances are Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. For tickets and information call 973-328-9202 or go to www.doverlittletheatre.org.
Cajun Tunes: BeauSoleil’s 35th Anniversary Tour will make a stop at the Mayo Center in Morristown, March 5, 8 p.m. The Grammy winners follow the Cajun music tradition while keeping things interesting with elements of zydeco, Tex-Mex, country, blues and other genres. Featuring special guests Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Mardi Gras Indians, Don Vappie, and Roswell Rudd. Tickets cost $42-$67. See www.mayoarts.org for more information.
Audition Alert, “RUTHLESS! The Musical:” Dover Little Theatre will hold auditions for RUTHLESS! The Musical, March 6 at 5:30 p.m. and March 7 at 7 p.m. Call backs are March 9 from 7 to 10 p.m. (if necessary). Auditions are open to everyone. Auditioners are asked to familiarize themselves with the script ahead of time and know a little bit about the play and characters. Performances will take pace during three weekends starting May 7 and continuing through May 21. The theater is seeking eight female actors, including an 8- to 12-year-old “triple threat” who can act, sing and dance. Children auditioning for Tina should prepare a short tap combination, and bring taped accompaniment on a cassette or CD. The theater is ideally looking for someone between the ages of 8 and 12, but would consider someone older. Range: F# below middle C to E one octave above middle C. For the audition, bring sheet music in the appropriate key for one uptempo musical theater standard, in the style of “Gypsy,” “Mame,” “Hello Dolly,” “Annie,” etc. Do not bring music from this show. An audition pianist will be provided, and no recorded accompaniment for the singing portion will be used. The other female roles vary in age and all require solo songs, except for one non-singing role. No dancing is required at the audition, except for the role of Tina. A male performer is also needed. Auditions will be held at Dover Little Theatre, Elliott Street, Dover. Technical and backstage volunteers are also needed. E-mail the director, Tom Blewitt, at email@example.com with any audition questions, concerns or to volunteer. If you need to speak to a person, call Dover Little Theatre at 973-328-9202 and your call will be returned.
Audition Alert, “Jewtopia:” Somerset Valley Players will hold open auditions for “Jewtopia” at its playhouse in Hillsborough, March 3, 8 p.m. and March 6, 7 p.m. (Call backs are March 7, 8 p.m.). Needed are four adult males ages 28-75, four to seven adult females ages 20-60 and one girl age 15-18. SVP describes the play as a politically incorrect comedy where “stereotypes are savagely skewered, traditions are lustily lampooned, role models are relentlessly ravaged, and not a single irreverent stone remains unturned.” Performances are May 6-22. For information, go to www.svptheatre.org or call 908-369-7469.
Songs From the Golden Age: The Bickford Theatre’s A La Carte Series continues with “Hooray for Hollywood,” starring Gay Willis, March 6, 2 p.m. This salute to Hollywood’s golden years features songs made famous by Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Mario Lanza and Carol Channing. Ms. Willis will be accompanied by baritone James Michael and pianist David Maiullo. Tickets cost $20-$30. The Bickford Theatre is located at the Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morris Township (Punching it into your GPS? It's got a Morristown mailing address). For information, call 973-971-3706 or go to www.morrismuseum.org.
She’s Got Spunk. “Pippi Longstocking,” an original musical based on Astrid Lindgren’s classic story about an adventurous and mischievous girl will come to the Mayo Center in Morristown, March 6, 1:30 and 4 p.m. Tickets cost $12. Go to www.mayoarts.org for more information.
It's Better Than Even Money: West Morris Central High School's musical for this year will be "Guys and Dolls," March 10, 11 and 12 at 7 p.m.; a matinee will also be March 12 at 2 p.m. Shows are in the West Morris Central High School Auditorium. More information here.
Auditions Alert, “The Boys Next Door:” Somerset Valley Players is casting Tom Griffin’s’ “The Boys Next Door,” March 12-13, 3-5 p.m. Director Christopher Rollings is seeking seven males and two females (ages 25-50) for what SVP’s website describes as a gentle comedy about four special young men living together in support and trust. All ethnicities are encouraged to audition. Reading the play prior to auditioning is recommended. 2-3 minute monologues are also recommended for the audition. Performances are June 10-26. For information, call 908-369-7469.
Audition Alert, Blithe Spirit:" Studio Players in Montclair is holding auditions for Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” March 13, 7 p.m. and March 15, 7:30 p.m. at the theater, located at 14 Alvin Place. Performances are May 20 to June 11. Female roles range from 25 to late 40s or 50s and males ranging from 40ish to 50s. All characters except Edith (female, 25-plus) speak with an educated, English accent. Sides are available here. Call 973-744-9752 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Audition Alert, “Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight:” Pax Amicus Castle Theatre in Budd Lake is holding auditions for Peter Ackerman’s “Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight,” Feb. 26, 3 p.m. and Feb. 28, 7 p.m. For information, call 973-291-2100.
Registration for Summer Theater Camps:. Brundage Park Playhouse in Randolph has announced its 30th season of summer performing arts education with the return of three programs. Summer Stages is a workshop for young performers ages 8 through 14 who have completed second grade or higher during the 2010-11 school year; staff instructs students in acting, music and dance, and each two-week session will end with a production for audiences of parents, relatives and friends. The Advanced Performers Workshop is open to students who are already at least 12 and will be entering seventh through 11th grades in the 2011-2012 season. Admission is by audition and interview. Students will spend part of their time in rehearsal for whatever show they are working on, and part of their time in workshops on various aspects of theater arts. The Budding Stars program is designed for children ages 5 to 7. Students will also create simple props and costumes for skits, fairy tales and children’s stories they perform. For pricing, schedules and registration, go to www.randolphnj.org , click on “Parks and Recreation,” and click on “Online Registration.” You can also register in person at the Parks and Recreation Department, located in the Senior Community Center on Calais Road, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 973-989-7092
Doobie Brothers Tickets on Sale: Tickes for The Doobie Brothers’ April 22 concert at the Mayo Center in Morristown are on sale. The legendary band’s hits include “China Grove,” “Takin’ It To the Streets” and “Jesus is Just All Right With Me.” Tickets cost $69-$109. For information, go to mayoarts.org or call the box office at 973-539-8008.
With a Banjo on His Knee: There’ll be nothing wild and crazy going on when Steve Martin comes to the Mayo Center in Morristown. Tickets for his concert of bluegrass and banjo music are on sale now. The concert is June 28. Martin’s 2009 album, “The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo,” won the 2009 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. For information on all shows at the Mayo Center, go to mayoarts.org or call the box office at 973-539-8008.
Registration Open for Villagers Summer Theater Programs. The Villagers Theatre in Somerset has announced its summer programs for training in theater arts, preparing young performers for the stage. Actors ages 9 to 12 who have demonstrated desire and talent for the performing arts will discover many aspects of theater, including acting, dance, voice, and musical theater, and production arts through both instruction and experience. The program will begin June 28 with two 3-week sessions, Monday through Friday. Li’l Villagers half-day sessions are offered from 9 a.m.-noon for younger performers, 6-8 years old; Villagers Apprentice full-day sessions are offered from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Each session will culminate in a performance on the Villagers Main Stage on the final Friday at 1:30 p.m. and Saturday at noon. Overture care and encore care are available for an additional fee. Students will be grouped for instruction by age, ability or experience. Arts educators will be assisted by college interns and high school counselors. Students are required to provide their own transportation and brown bag lunches. Session 1 will take place July 5-23. Session II: July 23-Aug. 13. For more information, go to www.villagerstheatre.com.
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