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'The Jesus Hickey' Wins Inaugural Ehrlich Award

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The first annual Joel and Phyllis Ehrlich Award for a promising new play that deals with socially relevant subject matter was presented Wednesday to The Jesus Hickey by Luke Yankee, a comedy that "takes a hard but humorous look at issues of celebrity and faith in a small Irish town." The play was selected for the TRU Series out of more than 50 entries. It was presented in a developmental reading on June 11, 2007, part of the TRU VOICES 9th Annual TRU Plays Reading Series sponsored by Bob Ost and Theater Resources Unlimited, at The Players Theater, 115 MacDougal Street.

In its initial New York presentation, The Jesus Hickey starred Merle Louise (Sweeney Todd, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Into the Woods), Matthew Arkin (Dinner with Friends), Liz Morton, Sean Dugan, Malachy McCourt and Todd Conner. The director was Casey Childs, founder and executive producer of Primary Stages, one of off-Broadway's most successful not-for-profit theater companies, now in its 23rd year. The Jesus Hickey is, according to press materials, "about religious fanaticism and the unwanted fame that comes to a young lady when a hickey, with the likeness of Jesus, appears on her neck after a rendezvous with her boyfriend. Writer Yankee must know what it feels like to live in the limelight ­– his mother was Broadway acting legend, the late Eileen Heckart."

Joel Ehrlich is president of The Harmony Entertainment Group—dedicated to theatrical producing and marketing.  Previously, Ehrlich was Senior Vice President at Warner Bros. and Marvel Entertainment.  He has been named New York State Teacher of the Year and winner of the prestigious Brandweek Magazine's Youth Marketer of the Year award. He is now president of The Harmony Entertainment Group, developing and producing a wide variety of exciting projects in New York City and around the country. Phyllis is an award-winning cable television writer and a Senior Vice President for the Cartoon Network and Adult Swim TV Network. The husband-and-wife team has recently started collaborating as theater producers and developers of new talent. "We felt The Jesus Hickey was entertaining as well as compelling and are pleased to help TRU nurture and encourage new works for theater," states Phyllis.

Their award for The Jesus Hickey will provide incentive for producers Jack W. Batman and Jaye Maynard to work on its next steps in development. Batman has been represented on Broadway as a producer of Enchanted April; off-Broadway credits include Brian Dykstra's Clean Alternatives and the recent 2007 Gayfest. Jaye Maynard, producer of Angry Girl Gang, a musical in the 2005 NY Fringe Festival, was a 2007 recipient of a TRU scholarship to the Commercial Theater Institute, and is currently in the TRU Producer Mentorship program.

Submissions are now being accepted for the 2007 TRU Musicals Series, which will take place this December at The Players Theatre. Application and guidelines can be downloaded off the TRU website at www.truonline.org or by sending an SASE to Theater Resources Unlimited/TRU Voices, 309 W. 104th Street 1D, NYC NY 10025. One of this year's selections will be eligible for the annual Howard L. Blau Award, given for a new work with strong commercial potential; non-tradition works and shows with multi-cultrual themes are also being sought. Submission deadline is August 31, 2007.

TRU (Theater Resources Unlimited) was organized in March 1992 by Bob Ost, TRU's current president and a national award-winning playwright, composer and lyrist. He founded the organization with his partner Gary Hughes and writer friend Cheryl Davis, a recipient of last year's prestigious Kleban Award for the libretto of the new musical Barnstormer. TRU's goal is to promote a spirit of cooperation and support within the general theater community by providing information and a variety of entertainment-related services and resources that strengthen the capacity of producers, artists and theater professionals.  Inquiries may be left at 212/714-7628.

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