Premiere Stages, the professional theatre in residence at Kean University presents Kathryn Grant’s Handicapped People in Their Formal Attire from July 12 - 29, 2012. This provocative new play takes place in 1968 at a black tie fundraiser for people with disabilities. The honoree is Agnes Sheenan, a quadriplegic, who is escorted by her able-bodied sister, Theresa. The siblings make the most of the celebration until unforeseen events force them to examine how fragile the bond is between them.
“The title dates the play to a specific time – the 1960’s, when the term ‘handicapped people’ was politically correct,” said John Wooten, Premiere Stages’ producing artistic director. “But the theme of the play is timeless, a testament to those who refuse to yield to labels or limitations. The playwright has infused a great deal of humor into this moving story about the true meaning of sacrifice.”
The cast of Handicapped People in Their Formal Attire features Rachel Pickup as Agnes and Lori Hammel as Theresa. Pickup is a British theatre, film and television actress, who performed off-Broadway last season in Dancing at Lughnasa at Irish Repertory Theatre. Hammel has appeared on television’s 30 Rock, As the World Turns and the Today Show and in the Coen brother’s feature film Burn After Reading.
A diverse group of actors (those with disabilities and those without) comprise the rest of the company, including David Harrell, Ed Setrakian, John McGinty and Roland Sands. Harrell, an actor who uses a prosthetic device was nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for his play: “A Little Potato and Hard to Peel.”
Ed Setrakian appeared on Broadway in Salome (with Al Pacino), Almost an Eagle, Days in the Trees and Saint Joan. John McGinty, an actor who is deaf performed in Robin Hood with Cleveland Sign Stage Theatre and Pippin with Mark Taper Forum / Deaf West. A recent graduate from Northeastern University, he’s performed with National Theatre of the Deaf, in film and on television. Roland Sands is a veteran actor seen on Broadway, off-Broadway, regionally, on television and in films that include “Ghost,” “Cotton Club” and “Do the Right Thing.”
Wooten directs Handicapped People in Their Formal Attire, the winner of Premiere Stages 2012 Play Festival, a regional competition for new scripts. In 2010, Premiere produced the first professional production of Grant’s The Good Counselor after the script won the Festival. The play was subsequently awarded the runner up for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association Best New Play Award and is being distributed by Samuel French, a national publisher of plays and musicals.
Plays cited by the American Theatre Critics Association for the 2012 prestigious Francesa Primus Prize were both first produced by Premiere Stages: Tammy Ryan’s Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods (2012 Primus Winner) and Dominique Morisseau’s Follow Me to Nellie’s (2012 Primus Runner-up). They are representative of a long list of playwrights Wooten has developed at Premiere who have gone on to be subsequently produced and published. The success of the Premiere Stages Play Festival has led to new funding in 2012 from The Shubert Foundation, The New Jersey Historical Commission, The National Science Foundation and The Provident Bank Foundation.
Handicapped People in Their Formal Attire runs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30 standard, $20 senior citizen and $15 student. Significant discounts for groups of 10 or more apply. All performances take place on the Kean University campus, located at 1000 Morris Avenue, Union in the Zella Fry Theatre of the Vaughn Eames Fine Arts Building. To make reservations call Kean Box Office at 908.737.SHOW (7469) or visit www.kean.edu/premierestages.
Premiere Stages offers air-conditioned facilities and free parking close to the fully accessible spaces. Free or discounted tickets to patrons with disabilities are available. Please call for a list of sign-interpreted, audio-described or open-captioned performances. Assistive listening devices and large print programs are available upon request. Publications in alternate forms are available with advanced notice.
Premiere Stages is made possible in part through funding from The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Shubert Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Provident Bank Foundation, The Northfield Bank Foundation, The Westfield Foundation, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, The New Jersey Historical Commission, The National Science Foundation and through the generous support of individual patrons. For further information, call Premiere Stages at 908-737-4092.
PHOTO: Playwright Kathryn Grant
CREDIT: Mary Zasse