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Centenary Stage Company Celebrates Women's Voices with 2015-16 Season


Women's voices headline the Centenary Stage Company (CSC) 2015-16 season, with plays by Jennifer Haley, Gina Gionfriddo, newcomer Eleanor Burgess, and WPS alum Merri Biechler. The CSC season compliments a movement lead by Nan Barnett (NNPN) and the Women's Voices Theatre Festival in Washington D.C. this fall, serving to highlight the scope of plays being written by contemporary women.

In the 25th year of CSC's Women Playwright Series, the Centenary Stage Equity main-stage season now boasts 70% of its primary theatre season penned by women authors. A member of the National New Play Network, CSC subscribes to the 50/50 in 2020 movement, working toward 50% representation of female playwrights on professional stages across America by the year 2020. The company has helped to develop over 65 plays in the past 2 decades, and has produced more than 15 directly from development into the CSC mainstage Equity season, also taking the 2014 Susan Glaspell Award winner, "The English Bride" by Lucile Lichtblau, to a successful run at 59E59 Theatres in New York City.

Opening the theatre season in October, the NJ Premiere of Jennifer Haley's play, The Nether will run October 9 - 25 in the Lackland Center in Hackettstown. Winner of seven Ovation Awards in L.A, and nominated for an Olivier Award for for Best New play, The Nether was hailed as a " haunting and highly original" (Telegraph) modern crime drama that hacks into urgent questions of desire, technology, and morality. In this award-winning play, which delves into life in the virtual worlds of today's digital technology, a young detective uncovers a disturbing brand of entertainment, triggering a battle over technology and human desire. Directed by CSC Artistic Director Carl Wallnau, with a set by Emmy-Award winning Bob Phillips, the production design is inspired by creating the virtual reality world of the play as the mystery unravels. A special talkback with the audience and artists will be held on Sunday, Oct 18.

CSC Women Playwright Series alumna Merri Biechler returns to the CSC Fringe series with her new play Tammy Faye's Final Audition. Presented by CSC, Tammy Faye's Final Audition is a production from The Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble, Southeast Ohio's professional theater company which has been making the rounds of Fringe Festivals this year. Members of the Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble have written plays for, performed on, and designed productions at Tony Award winning stages, Broadway, Off-Broadway and major regional theaters, as well as Emmy Award winning television networks and series. Merri Biechler's Real Girls Can't Win was produced at Centenary in 2010 following its development in the 2009 Women Playwrights Series. Set on a college campus, Real Girls.. explores with a comic edge what it takes to be popular, the desire to fit in, and the dangers of allowing personal information to be viewed on the Internet.

Gina Gionfriddo's ferociously funny Becky Shaw will fill the winter slot for the Centenary Stage Company as another New Jersey premiere, running from February 19 - Mar. 6 in the Lackland Center. With two Pulitzer Prize nominations and New York Obie Award under her belt, Gionfriddo "is some kind of genius" says Variety. Mixing sharp wit and humor with the taught suspense of a psychological thriller, Becky Shaw is a comedy of romantic errors that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats guessing how this blind-date-gone-horribly-wrong will all end.

And from CSC's Women Playwright Series comes the Susan Glaspell Award-winning new play, Start Down, by Eleanor Burgess, premiering April 8-24. When a motivated San Francisco programmer develops exciting new software designed to help teachers in the classroom, he sets in motion a technology which promises to revolutionize the face of individualized education, but which will ultimately threaten his own fiancée's job. Start Down is a smart and funny look at work, love and get-rich-quick tech start-ups, while posing questions about the way we live, the way we educate our children, and our core values around technology. Playwright Eleanor Burgess has just returned from the National New Play Network's 2015 MFA Playwrights Workshops at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C, where Start Down was featured and received further development. In addition to the Susan Glaspell Award, Burgess is the recipient of the Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Award from the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, where Start Down will also be produced this year.

Burgess will be in residence at CSC during the rehearsal and run of Start Down and will be on hand for a special talk-back with audiences during the production. Burgess has been a playwriting fellow at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston and a member of the writers' group at the Arcola Theatre in London. Her work has been developed at the Vineyard Theatre, New Georges Theatre, and the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Festival this past summer. Burgess is originally from Brookline Massachusetts, studied history at Yale College and subsequently taught history, filmmaking and creative writing in London and New Haven. She is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts where she completed her MFA in Dramatic Writing this May.

Centenary Stage Company's Women Playwrights Series (WPS)

Now in its 25th year, the WPS, led by Catherine Rust, is a developmental program dedicated to providing a working forum for the unique and underserved voice of women writing for the theatre today. Each season new plays are selected for a collaborative workshop process, with a professional director and actors. Each year one play from the WPS is selected to go on to full production in the CSC mainstage season. As a result of the mission, over the past 15 years, 30% of each Equity main-stage CSC season has been comprised of work written by women playwrights. The 2015-16 developmental WPS will be presented on Wednesdays in April - April 13, 20 and 27 at 7:30 pm in Lackland Center. Admission to the WPS is free, and each presentation is followed by lively discussion with the playwright, director and cast.

CSC theatre productions run Thursdays through Sundays with some Wednesday matinees. Tickets range from $ 22.50 - $27.50, with discounts for students. The CSC 2015-16 season of events is made possible through the generous support of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the NJ State Council on the Arts, the Shubert Foundation, the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, the Sandra Kupperman Foundation, and CSC corporate sponsors, including Premier Season Sponsor Heath Village Retirement Community, Silver Sponsors Hackettstown Regional Medical Center, Home Instead Senior Care (Washington), The Holiday Inn in Budd Lake, and Fulton Bank of New Jersey, and Centenary Stage Company members and supporters.

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