UNION — Premiere Stages, the professional theatre in residence at Kean University presents Kathryn Grant’s “Handicapped People in Their Formal Attire” from July 12 – 29. 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 1960s, 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.
“Handicapped People in Their Formal Attire” runs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 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 in the Zella Fry Theatre of the Vaughn Eames Fine Arts Building. To make reservations call Kean Box Office at 1-908-737-7469 or visit www.kean.edu/premierestages.
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