Theater J Announces its 2015-2016 Season

From Amy Friedman, Director of Marketing & Communications, Theater J:


Theater J today announces its 2015-2016 season, a lineup of seven diverse plays ranging from personal, intimate explorations to sweeping, cross-cultural journeys. The season will explore the effects of war and violence on those who experience it close-up; the intersection of African-American and Jewish culture; the timeless questions with which generations of women grapple; the way illness and loss affects families; and much more.

The season includes two world premieres: Falling Out of Time, based on the novel by Israeli author David Grossman, newly adapted for the stage by Derek Goldman; and Theater J’s entry into the citywide Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, the autobiographical coming of age story Queens Girl in the World by Caleen Sinnette-Jennings and starring Dawn Ursula. In recognition of the 10th anniversary of Wendy Wasserstein’s death, Theater J will produce her classic family comedy The Sisters Rosensweig. Stephen Karam’s laugh-out-loud, dark comedy Sons of the Prophet and Anna Ziegler’s poignant drama Another Way Home present two different faces of American families. The Body of an American, Dan O’Brien’s breathtakingly provocative docudrama, offers a glimpse at the effects of war as seen through a camera lens; and the season will also include a limited engagement holiday treat –Stars of David: Story to Song, a musical revue celebrating the lives of Jewish public figures and celebrities.

Shirley Serotsky.
Acting Artistic Director Shirley Serotsky.

“This season’s line-up is an exciting one full of dynamic, theatrical and important works,” said Shirley Serotsky, Theater J Acting Artistic Director. “We have world and regional premiers in addition to  important second productions as well as plays already—or well on their way—to being considered modern classics.” Serotsky continues, “Our characters, this season, are each bound to their memories, legacies and stories through objects, images and sounds: an iconic photograph, the youthful voices of a college a cappella group, a starkly emotional letter from home, stashed away in a camp bunk bed, a shared grape popsicle, a picture of a lesser-known saint, a massive wall of rock. Are we haunted by these legacies or propelled by them? ”

“It’s an honor to launch the year with Caleen’s play, now titled Queens Girl in the World. We’ve long admired this DC-based playwright for her talents and her commitment to the community. We first got to work with her through our Locally Grown Festival in 2013, when we matched this moving semi-autobiographical solo show with the powerhouse team of director Eleanor Holdridge and actor Dawn Ursula—and we’re thrilled to now present it on our main stage, as our entry into the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. From Queens, NY we move to Eastern Pennsylvania for Karam’s Sons of the Prophet. The play continues our examination of identity stories in the US (think Yellow Face in our 2013-2014 season) and does so with a fresh and insightful (and incredibly funny) voice. In the New Year, we’ll present The Sisters Rosensweig, revisiting a Wendy Wasserstein play for the first time since 2004, when Theater J presented the premieres of two Wasserstein one-acts (one of which became her final produced play, Third). Wasserstein is so often labeled with a series of qualifiers—she was a ‘Jewish playwright’ a ‘female writer’ and a ‘comedic genius.’ But she was also, quite simply, one of the most important American playwrights of our time. Her ability to reflect and engage with the changing landscape of gender roles makes her a natural fit for Theater J, where conversations about diversity and inclusion play out on our stage with great theatrical sparks.”

Serotsky continued: “In March we’ll open our second world premiere, a brand new adaptation of Israeli novelist David Grossman’s pivotal work on transcending loss and parental grief, Falling out of Time. We welcome Derek Goldman back to Theater J to helm, as both director and adapter, this exciting work—I can’t imagine a better fit, as Derek is internationally known for his stunning adaptations of essential literary works. From Israel we head to Somalia, in The Body of an American, where we meet photojournalist Paul Watson, who is both inspired and haunted by the famous photograph he took there of the body of an American serviceman being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Playwright Dan O’Brien’s revolutionary play —equal parts harrowing and gracefully poetic—will make its regional premiere here. And finally we welcome back playwright Anna Ziegler (whose playPhotograph 51 we produced in 2011, now on its way to a West End premiere in the fall) for the second production of her play Another Way Home. Anna cracks open the traditional family drama—telling the story of a parental visit to summer camp in a way that ripples with feeling, humor and honesty. If you don’t recognize yourself in this play, we promise you’ll recognize in it someone you know. In addition we’ll spend a week over the Christmas holidays revisiting the musical revue Stars of David: Story to Song. When we presented a staged reading of this piece for our benefit last year we immediately recognized the power of these incredible stories set to music by some of the most accomplished composers and lyricists in the business. It’s bound to be a real treat.”

As previously announced, Theater J is in the midst of a national search for a new artistic director, and meanwhile continues to operate fully under Serotsky’s leadership.


A world premiere by Caleen Sinnette Jennings
Directed by Eleanor Holdridge
Starring Dawn Ursula

It’s summer 1962 in Queens, New York. The sounds of doo-wop music fill the night and 12-year-old Jacqueline Marie Butler is on the verge of adulthood. When Jacqueline’s parents abruptly transfer her to a progressive, predominantly Jewish school in Greenwich Village, she is thrust out of her comfort zone. As one of only four black students, Jacqueline discovers a new city and a whole new world.

Part of Locally Grown: Community Supported Art Initiative and 2015 Women’s Voices Theatre Festival


By Stephen Karam
Directed by Gregg Henry

After Joseph’s father dies in the wake of a freak accident involving a plastic deer decoy, he’s pretty sure lightning won’t strike twice. But it does, as Joseph’s health, sanity and family are called into question. Add in fending off his off-kilter boss, and Joseph’s to-do list is looking pretty long. But he’ll get to everything – just as soon as he can get someone from his insurance company on the phone. A 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist dark comedy that laughs in the face of human suffering.

Featuring Sherri L. Edelen, Emily Levey, and Aaron Serotsky



Based on the book by Abigail Pogrebin
Conceived by Aaron Harnick and Abigail Pogrebin

A funny and captivating musical revue celebrating the lives of your favorite Jewish public figures. This adaptation of Abigail Pogrebin’s best-selling book is a celebration of Jewish identity drawn from interviews with famous American Jews – from Gwyneth Paltrow to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and everyone in between, including Gloria Steinem, Joan Rivers, Aaron Sorkin, Leonard Nimoy, Fran Drescher and more.

With original music by an all-star lineup of composers and lyricists including Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line), Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home), Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater (Spring Awakening), and Tom Kitt (Next to Normal).

JANUARY 13 – FEBRUARY 21, 2016
By Wendy Wasserstein
Directed by Kasi Campbell

The Rosensweig sisters are different as can be – a no-nonsense international banker, a kvelling mother of four and a bohemian world-traveling journalist. When the three hilariously reunite at Sara’s London home for her 54th birthday celebration, a barrage of suitors and unexpected revelations make for one interesting weekend. A heartfelt comedy about women grappling with their life choices.

MARCH 17 – APRIL 17, 2016
Based on the novel by David Grossman
Translation by Jessica Cohen
Adapted and Directed by Derek Goldman

The Walking Man leaves on an expedition to find his lost son in that shadowy and mysterious place where the living and the dead may meet again. As he paces in ever-widening circles, townsfolk fall into step with him and share their grief over their own departed loved ones. A new adaptation of acclaimed Israeli author David Grossman’s novel about enduring loss. This incandescent fable of parental grief powerfully distills the experience of accepting death in a way that is moving, beautiful and timely in Israeli society, and across cultures.

“A richly emotional, mystical and philosophical tapestry… [in the] tradition of art that pushes back against catastrophe.” – The Jewish Daily Forward

APRIL 27 – MAY 29, 2016
By Dan O’Brien
Directed by José Carrasquillo

War reporter Paul Watson has been haunted since the day he snapped his Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Playwright Dan O’Brien has also felt haunted by his own past for years. The two form a friendship and begin a journey that spans from Rwanda to Afghanistan to the Canadian Arctic. A breathtakingly provocative drama, based on a true story, about the resonance of history.

“A play that tightens its grip as it probes where war lives, and discovers we each carry it inside ourselves.” –The Guardian

JUNE 23 – JULY 24, 2016
By Anna Ziegler
Directed by Shirley Serotsky

Featuring Rick Foucheux

It’s visiting day at Camp Kickapoo, and Joey Nadelman is nowhere to be found. As the search parties come up empty, Joey’s parents are left wondering – where he’s gone, why their marriage feels lacking, and what might have happened if they had taken a different path. An insightful, sardonic drama about the strangers we all live with – our family.



[Illustrations are by Donald Ely]


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