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Playwrights Chisa Hutchinson, Nikkole Salter, and David Lee White.

New Jersey Performing Arts Center Launches Commissioning Program

The NJPAC Stage Exchange: The Commissions will commission and produce plays by David Lee White, Nikkole Salter, and Chisa Hutchinson.

NEWARK, N.J.: The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), in partnership with New Jersey Theatre Alliance (NJTA) and Newark Celebration 350 (NC350), has announced the creation of a new commissioning program, called the NJPAC Stage Exchange: The Commissions. The program will work with three professional New Jersey theatres to commission new plays from local playwrights. The selected playwrights are David Lee White, Nikkole Salter, and Chisa Hutchinson.

Each play will receive a staged reading at NJPAC and a world premiere production in the 2016–17 season.

“The inaugural year of Stage Exchange was the perfect re-entry for NJPAC into the New Jersey theatre community,” said Andy Donald, NJPAC’s producer of artistic development and community programming, in a statement. “Each of our staged readings focuses on the state’s best playwrights, their newest work, and the issues they care about today. We’re thrilled to grow the program in partnership with some of the state’s finest theatres, by not only funding and supporting the creation of new plays from the very beginning, but guaranteeing them the most crucial step of all: a world premiere.”

White’s play, Sanism, will be read on April 29. It is a docu-play based on interviews with people who have suffered, or are currently suffering from mental illness.  It will be produced at Passage Theatre Company in Trenton.

Indian Head by Salter will be read on May 20. It is about a New Jersey woman who leads a charge of having an “Indian” mascot removed from a local high school. The production will play at Luna Stage in West Orange.

Surely Goodness and Mercy by Hutchinson will be read on June 24. It is about the friendship between a Newark elementary school student and the school’s lunch lady. It will be produced at Writers Theatre of New Jersey.

NJPAC began Stage Exchange in 2014, which featured staged readings of plays-in-progress by New Jersey playwrights. The program was expanded in 2015 to include commissions and teaching appointments for the playwrights. The 2016 iteration is a continuation of that program, with a guaranteed production.

“New Jersey theatres have a strong track record for incubating new works and contributing to the American theatrical canon. We believe this program is unique in its design and diverse collaborating partners, and can serve as an inspiration for other presenting houses and producing theatres,” said John McEwen, NJTA’s executive director, in a statement.

The program will kick off on March 24 with a panel discussion called Birth of a Play. The playwrights will discuss the process of playwriting and development. Professor Robert Sandberg, playwright and Acting Director of Princeton University’s Program in Theater, will moderate.

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