Company debuts with world premiere of local play
SCRANTON, PA – The city will see itself on stage March 26, when Common Play Factory presents the premiere production of White Matter Surplus, a new play by Scranton resident Alicia Grega. A staged reading of an earlier version of the play was presented at The Vintage Theatre in November 2013.
Set in a fictional, but familiar Scranton circa 2010, White Matter Surplus finds a restless young woman and her meddling aunt struggling to repair their relationship as a couple of con artists come to town and change the course of their destiny. It is recommended for mature audiences. Directed by Mark Zdancewicz, the cast includes Laura Seguin (née McGowan), Kelly Ann Walsh, Ian Loftus and Chris Eibach. Zdancewicz is also a playwright and served as director of the former Wilkes-Barre Artistic Theatre Ensemble (WATE). Local artist Stacy Grega is designing set.
This production will be staged in the round (with audience seated on all four sides) on the floor of the Koppleman Auditorium at the Jewish Community Center of Scranton, 601 Jefferson Ave. Free parking is available on the street or in the lot adjacent to the center. Performances will be offered at both 2 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 or pay-what-you-can. Various supervised activities will be available for school-aged children during the 2 p.m. performance only. Audience members are invited to stay after the matinee or arrive early for the evening performance to enjoy a crock pot soup and bread buffet offered between shows from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Donations collected for soup will benefit the Community Intervention Center.
Grega has wanted to found a new theatre company that could pick up where she left off as coordinator of the Jason Miller Playwrights’ Project at Scranton Public Theatre since she resigned from that position in 2013. Unable to find an affordable venue accessible to stage full productions of new works by regional playwrights, she finally looked to the often-quoted words of Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” It was while sitting in the audience at this year’s Scranton Fringe Festival that she casually asked Morris Mertz, who sees more local theatre than just about anybody, if he knew of a large empty room where a play could be staged in the round. This style of staging brings the audience closer to the stage, and to each other, for a more palpable experience. The actors appear to move through space in a more natural style instead of artificially playing to a “fourth wall.” Mertz not only suggested the JCC, but also gave a personal tour of the facilities and has served as a guardian ambassador to the project.
Common Play Factory (CPF) hopes to draw attention to the community’s need for a black box-style space where productions of work by local playwrights can be produced year-round. Funding is especially difficult to secure for new and unknown work, resulting in limited opportunity to develop original plays beyond readings and short play festivals. Yet, the reality is playwrights need to experience full productions of their work to improve. “A lot of theatres think giving people a reading is doing something nice for the playwright, but I think it’s kind of like calling a young landscaper over to your house to cut your lawn,” playwright and Juilliard School playwriting program co-director Marsha Norman said in 2004 in The New York Times (“Workshopped to Death,” Jesse McKinley.)
The fledgling company is thankful for the support of The Wonderstone Gallery, Scranton Fringe Festival and individual donors. Local playwrights interested in working with CPF are encouraged to attend this production to network and inquire about potential collaborations. Suggestions for venues to host future productions are welcome. Donations of soup and bread to the buffet (please call ahead) will also be gratefully accepted. Reservations are not required. Call (570) 955-5793 for more information or send email to email@example.com.
About the playwright: Formally trained in theatre arts at Drew University, Grega will return to school this summer to pursue her M.F.A. in Screenwriting and Playwriting from Point Park University’s Conservatory for the Performing Arts. She has written more than a dozen full-length and one-act plays. Most recently, Banger’s Elixir premiered at the Scranton Fringe Festival in Oct. 2015. A book of poetry and photographs titled Haptikos was released in Nov. 2015. Grega currently works as an adjunct instructor at Lackawanna College teaching fine arts and communications classes and was previously employed as a writer and editor with The Scranton Times Community Newspaper Group for more than 15 years, and as a producer at the Electric Theatre Company (The Northeast Theatre).
Before founding Common Play Factory in 2016, Grega served as coordinator of the Jason Miller Playwrights’ Project at Scranton Public Theatre from 2009-2013. She was awarded an Individual Creative Artist Fellowship for Arts Commentary from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in January 2009, and in April 2009, was one of 23 writers nationwide selected to attend the fifth NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater at USC Annenberg. She serves on the board of First Friday Scranton and is a member of the Lackawanna County Council on Arts, Culture and Education.