Midtown Direct Rep presents a series of readings of new plays and musicals in development on Sunday evenings. With a cash bar and lively post-show discussions with the cast and creative team, Theater in the Loft readings foster a fun and collaborative environment to be a part of the development of vital new works. Many of the shows presented through Theater in the Loft have gone on to major productions off-Broadway, in regional theaters, and beyond.
WHAT GOD HATH WROUGHT – A TRANSATLANTIC FARCE by John Walch
As an overly-dedicated Customer Service Rep, there’s no complaint Meg can’t resolve. But when an unresolved message from 1857 comes across her screen, she journeys back to the laying of the first Transatlantic telegraph cable when Ireland and the New World shared their first electronic kiss. This modern farce by John Walch, with music by Rachel Peters, mingles the sublime and the silly, weaving olden dances with the digital orgy of today, as characters desperately seek connections to those they love, no matter the distance.
Written by John Walch, with music by Rachel Peters, and directed by Shana Gold, What Hath God Wrought was performed on Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 7pm at SOPAC.
The cast of What God Hath Wrought! featured MDR members Michelle Federer, Danielle Ferland, Jamie LaVerdiere, Josephine Roberts, Matthew Shepard Smith, Matt Yeager, and guest artist Patrick Burr. The stage manager was Gwen Gilliam and MDR’s Allison Posner read stage Directions.
THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF NOW by Y York
Sunday, October 18, 2015 at 7:00 PM Midtown Direct Rep presented a staged reading of Y York’s play The Impossibility of Now. Directed by Will Pomerantz, the cast featured Geoffrey Arend, Sebastian Arcelus and Stephanie J. Block.
In Y York’s charmingly funny and well-observed new play, words have lost their meaning and dreams are blurring with movies for Carl, a brilliant science writer suffering memory loss and facing a life he cannot quite recall. Before the accident, his worldview was clouded with darkness, but now, through fresh eyes and childlike discovery, he navigates his strange Las Vegas neighborhood in a surprising bright light. As the new Carl woos his longtime wife, Miranda, his unexpected demeanor upends her plans for a future with the tall attractive pediatric dentist. It is a comedy of remembering and forgetting.
Photos by Matt Yeager
STRUCK by Sandy Rustin
Sunday, March 8 at 7:00 PM Midtown Direct Rep presented a staged reading of Sandy Rustin’s newest play, Struck. Directed by Will Pomerantz, the cast featured Adam Dannheisser, Michelle Federer, Stephanie Kurtzuba, and additional cast members.
After being struck by a bicycle while crossing an East Village intersection, Vera Resnick feels a strange and out-of- character connection to the college-aged kid responsible for the collision. Is this mysterious connection real? Is it coincidence that brought Vera and the biker together? Or, are larger forces at play?
In this surprising and soulful Manhattan serio- comedy, Vera, her husband, and their hippy-chic Texan neighbor seek truth in the face of deception, exploring matters of fate, family, and self-identity that affect all of their lives.
HELEN OF TROY – A New Musical based on The Iliad by Homer
Music/Lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen
Book/Lyrics by Zoe Samuel
Helen of Troy is a fresh take on the ancient story of a beautiful but spoiled princess, a tale that has previously been narrated for thousands of years by an extremely biased Greek Chorus. When Helen runs away from an arranged marriage, her brother-in-law Agamemnon launches a thousand ships to bring her back. Helen finds herself trapped between a self-obsessed Trojan prince, Greek soldiers thirsting for plunder, and meddlesome deities. If she is to undo the mess she has created, Helen will have to become more than just a pretty face.
As the Chorus sees Helen’s story unfold one more time, they come to understand that they have been telling an outdated version of the tale that glamorizes the brutality of Agamemnon over unsung acts of heroism performed by Helen and friends. The Chorus learn that while they cannot change what has happened, they can tell a new, fairer version of the story more suited to today’s audience.
THE ROAD DOWN THE MOUNTAIN by Jack Canfora
Sunday, November 2nd at 7 PM Midtown Direct Rep presented a staged reading of Jack Canfora’s newest play, The Road Down The Mountain with direction by Michelle Tattenbaum. A rock journalist with one last shot at redemption travels to interview a legendary musician living in seclusion with his caregiver wife and a live-in assistant. Public legend collides with private realities in this new play from Jack Canfora (Jericho, Poetic License) that explores love, art, and intimate secrets.
THE SUBJECT by Chisa Hutchinson
Sunday, October 12th at 7 PM Midtown presented a staged reading of Chisa Hutchinson’s newest play, The Subject with direction by Jade King Carroll. An upstart documentarian builds his success on the death of one of his teenage subjects, and wrestles with the consequences in this thrilling new play that deals with race, privilege and ambition. Playwright Chisa Hutchinson, a true product of New Jersey, grew up in various situations in Newark, Short Hills, Millburn, Montclair and Maplewood — in that order. She currently resides in Perth Amboy and is a resident playwright at New Dramatists.
SEXTET by Bradley Dean
Sunday, February 9th at 7 PM Midtown Direct Rep presented a staged reading of the new musical Sextet, based on an original story by Chad Hardin, with music and lyrics by Hardin, and book plus additional music, lyrics and direction by Bradley Dean. The performance played the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) and was followed by a discussion with the playwright, the cast and creative team.
The reading of Sextet stared Bradley Dean (Evita/A Little Night Music), Becky Gulsvig (Bullets Over Broadway/Legally Blonde), Michael St. John (Les Miserables) and Matt Leisy (The Fantasticks).
Long before St. Valentine brought lovers together, the Greek God, Zeus, split us in two with a lightning bolt… and we have been searching for our other halves ever since. Love, sexuality, mortality, and desire upturn the life of a long-married professor on the Upper West Side in this passionate new chamber musical.
ABSENCE by Peter M. Floyd
On Sunday, January 5th, 2014, Midtown Direct Rep presented Peter M. Floyd’s play Absence as a part of their Theatre in the Loft series. The staged reading starred Academy Award-winning actress, Olympia Dukakis and was directed by TV/Film/Broadway legend Margaret Whitton. Absence explores aging, power, grace and imagination as Helen, played by Ms. Dukakis, struggles to find meaning when her sense of self dissolves with her memories.
Joining Ms. Dukakis on the SOPAC stage was Midtown Direct Rep members Sebastian Arcelus (currently starring on Netflix’s “House of Cards”), Jenny Bacon (Jefferson Award Nominee for Best Actress), and Stephanie Kurtzuba (currently featured in Martin Scorcese’s The Wolf of Wall Street). Other special stars include local teenage actress, Kendra Jain and Dan Ziskie (perhaps best known for his role in War of the Worlds).
photos by Jeff Larkin
LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT by Kara Lee Corthon
On Sunday, November 3rd, 2013, Midtown Direct Rep presented Kara Lee Corthon’s new play Listen for the Light, a blazingly theatrical look at God, faith and redemption.
It’s 1844 and the word of God has been revealed to Joseph Smith, making him a prophet to some and a lightning rod to others. He must fight his inner and outer demons as a free black man with a tragic past questions his faith, and a precocious young woman locked in a room reluctantly awaits word from God.
God is watching and the holiest of holy revelations can happen at any time. So can its opposite.
The reading stared MDR members Jessamyn Blakeslee (The Adding Machine), Bradley Dean (Evita; A Little Night Music), Becky Gulsvig (Legally Blonde), David Hess (Sweeny Todd), and Joanna Young (The Drowsy Chaperone; Grease; Rated P) with special guests Jim McDaniel (“NYPD Blue,” “Orange is the New Black”) and Anna O’Donoghue (“Rock N’ Roll”).
FROM UNDER THE TREE by David Myers
On Sunday, October 6th, 2013, Midtown Direct Rep presented David Myers new play From Under the Tree. Directed by Will Pomerantz, the cast was led by Tony Award Winner Kelly Bishop (A Chorus Line, “Gilmore Girls”) and Michelle Hurst (“Orange is the New Black”), and also included Jessamyn Blakeslee, Joanna Carpenter, Dwayne Clark, Mitchell Greenberg, and Jason Loughlin.
In From Under the Tree, the pursuit of energy ruptures a Lousiana family who must answer the question: To frack, or not to frack? Drilling promises security and wealth for the next generation – but at what cost? When a matriarch and her son struggle over the natural gas thirteen-thousand feet underground, secrets are unearthed and unexpected consequences are revealed. Ultimately, the family forges a new relationship to their land, their legacy, and their future.
EVIL TIME by David Johnston
On September 8th, 2013, Midtown Direct Rep presented David Johnston’s new play Evil Time. The reading was directed by Robert Ross Parker.
Evil Time tells the story of Ray, a clean young Christian, arrives at King of Kings World Media Corp. (a nexus of power, media and political influence in the Christian right movement) to begin his internship. But all is not as it seems to be around the office: Dr. Billy has visions, Florence carries a gun, and before long Ray is having hot gay sex with a mysterious UPS carrier, and the two of them uncover a fiendish plot by religious conservatives to bring about the end of the world. Violence, religious extremism and black comedy all collide in this slapstick tragedy.
THE DRAMA DEPARTMENT by James Hindman
On July 14th, 2013, Midtown Direct Rep presented James Hindman’s new play The Drama Department. Directed by Peter Flynn, the reading will feature MDR members Adam Dannheisser (Rock of Ages), Danielle Ferland (Into The Woods), Jim Ferris (Lion King), Christiane Noll (Tony Nominee for Ragtime), as well as Jason Little (Hair), Sainty Reid (Finding Nemo) and special guest, All My Children star, Eric Nelsen.
Hindman describes the play as being about “a mid-west high school that takes great pride in its Debate & Dramatics teacher until the son of the school board president isn’t cast as the lead in the school musical. Slowly and insidiously rumors are spread to create dissent and scandal as we watch loyal friends, students, and teachers turn against him in this sharp and gripping comedy of suspicion and personal integrity.”
On May 19th, 2013, Midtown Direct Rep presented Kait Kerrigan’s new play Imaginary Love. Directed by Daniel Goldstein (Godspell) and performed by MDR members Michelle Federer (Wicked) and Stephen Barker Turner (The North Pool), and special guests Michael Esper (“The Lyons”) and Betty Gilpin (“Nurse Jackie”).
Kara and Lyle begin to question what love is when their friendship-turned-relationship of nearly 25 years ends. Now in new relationships, they are unable to let their vivid memories of childlike romance go. For the first time in their lives, they are forced, in both dreams and reality, to confront the question of what love is, and more, what purpose it serves.
On April 21st, 2013, Midtown Direct Rep presented Sandy Rustin’s new play The Cottage. Directed by MDR member, Adam Dannheisser (Rock of Ages) and performed by MDR members, Catherine Brunell (Mary Poppins), Adam Dannheisser (Rock of Ages), Bradley Dean (Evita), Stephanie Kurtzuba (Billy Elliot), Jamie LaVerdiere (Motown), and Sandy Rustin (Rated P … for Parenthood).
The Cottage is a rollicking farce inspired by the works of Noel Coward. Set in the English Countryside in 1923, this tale of love, sex and betrayal begins when Sylvia Van Kipness decides to expose her love affair with her husband’s brother. The true meanings of fate, identity, and marriage are all called into question as a surprising and hilarious web of secrets unravel in this ridiculous, potentially murderous, romantic comedy.
7.5 WONDROUS ACT(S) OF TRUE LOVE by Jeremy Desmon
On March 17th, 2013, Midtown Direct Rep presented Jeremy Desmon’s new play 7.5 Wondrous Act(s) of True Love. Directed by Jeremy Dobrish, the reading was performed by, Bradley Dean, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jaygee Macapugay, Sandy Rustin, Antonio Suarez and others.
About the play: Is life always more exciting wherever we aren’t? In this farcical romance of epic proportions, London leaves her suburban cocoon in a starry-eyed quest for the authentic, rapturous passion of late-night movie marathons. Along the way, she joins forces with an eclectic alliance of lost souls, including a lesbian dental hygienist, a sex-addicted violinist, a Shakespearean Casanova in a shipping crate and Hollywood actress Uma Thurman, all asking the same questions: How often does true love happen? And, who’s keeping count?
IN THE BOOK OF by John Walch
On January 13th, 2013, Midtown Direct Rep presented John Walch’s new play In The Book Of, a contemporary re-imagining of The Book of Ruth, explores the ongoing debate on Immigration.
In the play, two women, Naomi, an Army lieutenant and Anisah, her Afghan translator lose their husbands in the war. Upon discharge, the young officer sees the danger her translator is in, and brings Anisah with her to her home in Mississippi. When they arrive, this act of kindness is met with open hostility by Naomi’s sister-in-law, Gail,who is running for mayor on an anti-immigration platform, and makes the immigrant’s deportment the focus of her campaign.
But things get complicated when Gail’s own son stands up for what he thinks is right. By turns funny and moving, this timeless story adapted from the Old Testament challenges notions of what it means to be an American as it contemplates the redemptive power of welcoming the stranger.