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  • George Street Playhouse announces 2015-16 Mainstage Season


    A Musical Murder Mystery, Art and Family, Nureyev and Wyeth, And Sex With Strangers Comprise George Street Playhouse’s  2015-2016 Season

    The Musical Comedy Mystery Murder for Two To Open Season, Followed by My Name is Asher Lev, Nureyev’s Eyes, Sex With Strangers And One Additional Title to be Announced

    George Street Playhouse logo
    New Brunswick, NJ – George Street Playhouse Artistic Director David Saint has announced the slate of plays scheduled for the New Brunswick theatre’s 2015-2016 season. George Street’s 42nd Season consists of a slate of four plays ranging from Mysterious Musical Comedy Mayhem to Sex With Strangers. The season begins with the musical comedy whodunit Murder for Two, followed by the story of an artist’s struggle with faith and family, My Name is Asher Lev. 2016 brings the tale of two great artists’ – one a dancer, the other a painter -- verbal sparring and ultimate friendship with Nureyev’s Eyes, as well as the recent off-Broadway hit comedy Sex With Strangers. One additional production is yet to be selected, and will be announced at a later date. 

    “This season’s selections span the gamut from uproarious musical farce to the touching interaction between two great artists in Nureyev’s Eyes, to a real commentary on today’s technology and the times we live in with Sex With Strangers,” said Mr. Saint. “I always strive to select plays that are both thought provoking and full of heart, and think this season achieves that.”

    Five-play, three-play and flexible admission packages are currently on sale, as are tickets for groups of 10 or more. George Street Playhouse is located at 9 Livingston Avenue, in the heart of New Brunswick’s dining and entertainment district. For tickets and information, patrons may contact the Box Office directly at 732-246-7717 or may purchase online at GSPonline.org. George Street Playhouse sponsors bus and theatre packages from many active adult communities in the Monroe Township area. For information on bus and theatre packages, as well as pricing and reservation information for groups of ten or more, please contact the Group Sales office at 732-846-2895, ext. 134.

    The Plays:

    Murder for Two
    Book and Music by Joe Kinosian
    Book and Lyrics by Kellen Blair
    Directed by Scott Schwartz

    October 6 – 25, 2015

    Not exactly the happiest of birthdays! Novelist Arthur Whitney is murdered at his own birthday party, and his killer could very possibly be one of the guests. But this is not your ordinary whodunit. The entire world of this hilarious musical is brought to life by two incredible performers: one plays the detective, the other plays all 10 suspects – and they both play the piano!

    My Name Is Asher Lev
    By Aaron Posner
    Adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok
    Directed by Jim Jack

    November 10 – 29, 2015

    Faith – Tradition – Art. Which wins out?

    Asher Lev is a young Hasid growing up in post-war Brooklyn. He is a young painter of prodigious talent – he can’t imagine himself doing anything else. He must create art at any cost, regardless of the will of his family, his community and tradition. The Outer Critics Circle award-winning play by Aaron Posner based on the best-selling novel by Chaim Potok.

    Nureyev’s Eyes
    By David Rush
    Directed by Michael Mastro

    February 2 – 21, 2016

    “It’s in the eyes,” says Jamie, “they’re the hardest to get.” So says Jamie Wyeth, the son of Andrew. The visual artist’s relentless pursuit of dancer Rudolf Nureyev to sit for him as subject of a portrait has resulted in a number of sessions in which two artists trade poses, barbs, jokes, and unrevealed truths. A riveting fictional account of the very real interaction between two great artists.

    Sex With Strangers
    By Laura Eason
    Directed by David Saint

    March 8 – 27, 2016

    In an increasingly digital world where images – and your persona – can be tweaked or even totally fabricated online, it can get tricky to figure out just who is lying in bed beside you. Ethan is a hot young writer whose online accounts of his sexual escapades have garnered him likes and followers by the score – as well as a movie deal. Olivia is an attractive teacher and erstwhile writer whose career never took off. Trapped by a snowstorm in a Bed and Breakfast, opposites instantly attract, undeniable chemistry ignites and sex is imminent. Sex turns to dating, which turns into something a bit more complicated. Sex with Strangers explores what happens when our online and offline identities intersect.

    Recommended for mature audiences due to adult themes and nudity.

    One additional selection, to be announced at a later date, will run April 12 – May 1, 2016, with opening night set for Friday, April 15.

    Under the leadership of Artistic Director David Saint, George Street Playhouse has become a nationally recognized theatre, presenting an acclaimed mainstage season while providing an artistic home for established and emerging theatre artists. Kelly Ryman was appointed Managing Director in 2013. Founded in 1974, the Playhouse has been well represented by numerous productions both on and off-Broadway – recent productions include the Outer Critics’ Circle Best Musical Award-winner The Toxic Avenger; the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League nominated production of The Spitfire Grill; and the recent Broadway hit and Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof by David Auburn, which was developed at GSP during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays. In 2015, George Street Playhouse will be represented by two productions in New York: the current Broadway production of It Shoulda Been You, and Joe DiPietro’s Clever Little Lies, opening off-Broadway later this year. Both shows received their premieres at the Playhouse. In addition to its mainstage season, GSP’s Educational Touring Theatre features four issue-oriented productions that are seen by more than 40,000 students annually. George Street Playhouse programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

    George Street Playhouse/ 2015-2016 Season:

    Murder for Two/ October 6-25, 2015
    My Name is Asher Lev/ November 10 – 29, 2015
    Nureyev’s Eyes/ February 2-21, 2016
    Sex With Strangers/ March 8-27, 2016
    Title to be announced/ April 12 – May 1, 2016






  • Getaways, Broadwayshows highlight GSP Gala auction items


    George Street Playhouse’s Annual Gala – “A Starry Night” – is only a week away (Sunday, May 3), and activity in the building is at a fever pitch. Members of the staff and Gala Committee ventured to The Heldrich to taste and decide on the menu and items are flooding in for our silent auction.

    The evening honors two outstanding individuals: Stephen K. Jones, President and CEO of the Robert Wood University Hospital and Health System, and actress, author, producer and philanthropist Marlo Thomas. Mr. Jones will be honored with the Thomas H. Kean Arts Advocacy Award (presented by its namesake, Former Governor Thomas Kean), and Ms. Thomas will receive the first-ever Arthur Laurents Award for Distinguished Artistic Achievement.

    The silent auction is one of the highlights of the event, offering vacations, jewelry, tickets to hard-to-come-by Broadway shows and more. Some of this year’s highlights include tickets to It’s Only a Play, the hot comedy starring Nathan Lane; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, the new play that has generated much Tony buzz; and Fun Home, the musical that recently transferred from the Public Theatre.

    But the play isn’t the only thing – a private VIP tour for up to six people of the Bronx Zoo, valued at $2,500 is offered, as are vacation homes on Long Beach Island and a Manhattan getaway in a Lincoln Center-area apartment. There is literally something for everyone – from wine aficionados (a Napa Valley trip and tasting) to Walking Dead fans (a boxed DVD set).

    But you don’t have to wait until the event to bid on these fabulous items, the online bidding actually starts Friday, April 24. All items currently available may be viewed by visiting www.BidPal.net/GSP15.

    So mark your calendars for Sunday May 3.  It is sure to be a “Starry Night” in New Brunswick, and some lucky people will leave with some extraordinary loot – all the while helping ensure another 40 years for George Street Playhouse. For information and tickets, call Steve Barry in the Development Office, at 732-846-2895, ext. 144

  • The Enduring Legacy of Ernest Shackleton



    Lessons in perseverance and leadership learned from explorer’s expedition



    Who exactly is the man behind the name in the title Ernest Shackleton Loves Me?

    Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was born on February 15, 1874, in Kilkea, County Kildare, Ireland, and raised in London, England, where he attended Dulwich College before joining the Merchant Navy at 16 years old.

    Certified as a Master Mariner in 1898, Shackleton was accepted to join the Robert Scott-led Discovery expedition to Antarctica in 1901. He was selected to accompany Scott on his most southern march towards the South Pole for research purposes, but took ill and was sent home. Meanwhile, Scott’s march-- as planned--ended short of reaching the South Pole.

    With explorers continuing the quest to be the first to reach the South Pole, Shackleton led the Nimrod expedition to Antarctica in 1908 and became the closest to ever reach the pole at that time. However, facing starvation, the expedition turned back and made it back to the ship just in time to return to England.

    Shackleton was greeted as a hero and knighted by King Edward VII, and honored by the Royal Geographic Society. After Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1912, Shackleton planned one last Antarctic expedition to cross the continent.

    After receiving funding from mostly private sources, the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition set sail from Plymouth on August 8, 1914. The expedition included two boats carrying 28 men each: Shackleton’s boat, the Endurance, captained by Frank Worsley; and the Aurora, captained by Aeneas Mackintosh and later by Joseph Stenhouse when Mackintosh left the ship to lead the ill-fated Ross Sea Party component of the expedition.

    The Endurance became fast-frozen in an ice floe on January 19, 1915, and was stuck adrift. Shackleton hoped the ship could break free in the spring, but instead, the shifting and breaking ice began to crush the Endurance, which began taking on water. Shackleton eventually gave the order to abandon ship and the Endurance sank a few weeks later on November 21, 1915.

    The crew of the Endurance set up camps on various ice floes in the months that followed, with Shackleton hoping they would eventually drift toward Paulet Island, where he knew relief stores were cached. But when the ice floe they were on split in two in April 1916, Shackleton ordered the men into the lifeboats and to head to the nearest land. After five harrowing days, the crew landed at Elephant Island -- an inhospitable place far from any shipping routes and approximately 346 miles from where the Endurance sank.

    At this point, Shackleton decided to risk a 720-nautical-mile, open-boat journey to seek help at the whaling stations on South Georgia Island. He selected five men to join him on the dangerous journey, including Worsley and Endurance’s carpenter, Harry McNish, who retrofitted one of the lifeboats to make it more seaworthy. The lifeboat--christened the James Caird after the expedition’s primary sponsor--was launched on April 24, 1916, and reached the unoccupied side of South Georgia Island on May 9.

    After a few days of rest and recuperation, Shackleton, Worsley and second officer Tom Crean began an approximately 30-mile trek over uncharted, mountainous terrain en route to the whaling stations on the island’s northern coast. Thirty-six hours later, the three men reached the whaling station at Stromness on May 20, 1916.

    Shackleton immediately sent a boat to pick up the other three crew members of the lifeboat James Caird on the other side of South Georgia Island while he planned the rescue of the remainder of Endurance’s crew at Elephant Island.

    After a few attempts to reach Elephant Island were again thwarted by sea ice, Shackleton persuaded the Chilean government to offer the use of a small, seagoing tug boat called the Yelcho in the operation. The Yelcho and a British whaling boat, the SS Southern Sky, reached Elephant Island on August 30, 1916, and all 22 crew members of the Endurance were finally evacuated--after nearly 4 ½ months in isolation on Elephant Island.

    Shackleton later traveled to New Zealand to join the Aurora, which had returned there after many months adrift attached to an ice floe, to set about rescuing members of the Ross Sea Party. That group was charged with laying out supply depots for Shackleton’s planned cross-continent march that never happened. Despite the many hardships and the loss of three crew members--including commander Mackintosh--the Ross Sea Party successfully completed its mission. The seven survivors of the group were finally picked up by the Aurora on January 10, 1917.

    Upon his return to civilization, Shackleton embarked on the lecture circuit and published South, his personal account of the Endurance expedition. But he was in poor health and failed business ventures left him greatly in debt.

    In September 1921, Shackleton partnered with former schoolmate John Quiller Rowett on one last expedition to the Antarctic region, the Shackleton-Rowett expedition, which was funded entirely by Rowett. On September 16, 1921--just days before the expedition left, Shackleton recorded a farewell address via an “optical sound track” via a system developed by Harry Grindell Matthews, who claimed it was the world’s first “talking picture.”

    With the expedition in South Georgia, Shackleton suffered a heart attack and died January 5, 1922. He was buried at Grytviken cemetery in South Georgia.


    Legacy lost...and rediscovered

    Despite his achievements, Shackleton was largely overshadowed by other explorers, most notably Robert Scott, into the middle part of the 20th century. It wasn’t until 1959, when Alfred Lansing published Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage that Shackleton began gaining popularity among the masses. Other books on Shackleton appeared and, at the same time, accounts about Scott’s exploits began to show him in a more negative light.

    In 2001, Margaret Morrell and Stephanie Capparell used Shackleton as a model for corporate leadership in their book Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer. Other similar books followed and, soon, business and leadership courses and schools incorporating Shackleton’s name were popping up in his native United Kingdom as well as in the United States.

    In fact, an Irish Times article posted March 30 discusses how a Harvard business professor uses Shackleton to teach her MBA students about success.

    Shackleton’s surge in popularity among the masses was confirmed in a 2002 poll conducted by the BBC to determine the “100 Greatest Britons.” Shackleton was ranked 11th, while Scott dropped all the way down to No. 54.


    A banjo...and a violin! 

    Kat, the heroine of Ernest Shackleton Loves Me is a composer who plays an electric violin. When Ernest Shackleton arrives in her apartment, he brings a banjo along with him.

    As it so happens, both instruments were important to the crew of the Endurance. Leonard Hussey, Shackleton’s meteorologist, brought his banjo with him on the journey. While not an expert on the instrument, he claimed he played just “well enough to annoy the neighbors.”


    Leonard Hussey's Banjo

    Windsor, A.O. 
    before 1913 
    © National Maritime Museum Collections

    During the expedition, Hussey’s playing of a banjo -- as well as a one-string violin he made out of vanasta wood from packing cases -- and his jovial nature proved important to raising the morale of the Endurance’s crew. In fact, even though Shackleton allowed his crew to take only two pounds worth of personal belongings with them when they abandoned the endurance, he made a last-minute decision to retrieve Hussey’s banjo from the Endurance just before it sank.

    Hussey’s account of this moment is captured in 1957 book Shackleton by Margery and James Fisher, in which he is quoted as saying, “Sir Ernest saved the banjo just before the ship sank saying that, ‘we must have that banjo if we lose all our food, it’s vital mental medicine.’”

    After most of the crew were left stranded on Elephant Island, Hussey would play songs to celebrate the capture of food and perform Saturday evening concerts.

    And a century later, the music of Ernest Shackleton Loves Me serves as a celebration of the spirit of perseverance and romance of Shackleton’s era of exploration. 

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