The Department of Theatre & Dance at Montclair State University has announced a new commissioning project in 2022–2023 in partnership with The New Jersey Play Lab and Jersey City Theater Center. With this new strategic partnership, the Department will collaborate with The New Jersey Play Lab to commission, develop, and produce New Jersey stories in New Jersey communities, written by New Jersey playwrights.
This inaugural commission has been awarded to playwright Ravin Paterson to write about Jersey City with a workshop production at Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) in December 2023. The play will be inspired by conversations with the Jersey City community at JCTC, and developed with The New Jersey Play Lab, with the subsequent production directed by MSU Theatre Studies Program Coordinator Dr. Jessica Brater and performed by BA Theatre Studies students.
The commission is the newest of the flagship community-based theatre initiatives spearheaded by Dr. Jessica Brater as part of the BA Theatre Studies program, which encourages students to connect the work they make onstage with the larger world around them. This partnership underscores the shared investment amongst these organizations in artistically rigorous, community-engaged work in New Jersey.
Montclair State’s commitment to engage beyond the campus is central to its mission as a public institution of higher education, and is a particular priority of newly invested MSU President Jonathan GS Koppell. As stated by the University’s dedicated Center for Community Engagement, “Community-engaged learning not only provides students an opportunity to connect course content to real-world issues, but it also offers an invaluable window into the roles and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society—a core value of any liberal education.”
Likewise, the College of the Arts’ Department of Theatre & Dance is committed to melding intensive training in live theatrical performance and production with a strong foundation in critical analysis and the study of social and historical contexts. The B.A. Theatre Studies program offers a comprehensive and individualized education in theatre, focused on the relationship between what happens on stage and what happens in the world around us, supported by a broad and meaningful liberal arts curriculum. Students are challenged to develop and define their own artistry in terms of the kinds of work they want to make and the kinds of impact they want to have.
Jersey City Theater Center’s mission is to inspire conversations about the issues of our time through the arts. Co-founded by Executive Producer Olga Levina, a Ukranian immigrant raised in Belarus, Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) produces and presents universal yet locally relevant works, emphasizing social justice and human rights.
Since 2006, JCTC has provided a platform for all artistic voices to be heard. JCTC believes that when we share stories through the arts, we spark meaningful dialogue that leads to greater understanding and respect. And, as a result, we build better communities together. Core programs include Voices International Theatre Festival, Stories of Greenville, as well as original works. JCTC also provides youth arts education, artist support, and community outreach. In 2021, JCTC worked with over 400 artists, and over 9,100 engaged with JCTC programs.
The New Jersey Play Lab is dedicated to developing production-ready plays through comprehensive hands-on dramaturgy, to mentoring emerging dramaturgs in play development, and to supporting the creation and production of dramaturgically sound, impactful new work in The Garden State. Formerly the artistic leadership of Luna Stage in West Orange, NJPL co-founders Cheryl Katz and Kaitlin Stilwell have spent years building connections between community and art, grounding their work in hands-on partnership, deep questioning, and the rigor of craft. The New Jersey Play Lab is a home for playwrights and dramaturgs of all career levels who seek collaboration, methodology, and excellence in their work.
Ravin Patterson is a playwright, actor and producer. Her one-act play, Monk and the Man, was accepted into the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival. Buddy (2020) and The Butterfly Effect (2021), both one-acts, were commissioned by Nomad Theatrical Company, with The Butterfly Effect also sponsored by The Working Theater. She has had many other plays run in festivals with The Acting Studio New York’s Chelsea Rep Lab. Ravin also co-produced a web series streaming on Amazon Prime, called SPACE AVAILABLE. She was raised in Penns Grove, NJ, went to Salem Community College and holds a BA in Communications: Radio/TV/Film from Rowan University. www.ravinpatterson.com
The commissioned new work will premiere at Jersey City Theater Center in December 2023, and will be open to the public. Further details will be made available as the project develops.