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NOVEL: A New Audio Drama by Aimee Parrott and William Bienes

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The Woodland

60 Woodland Road

Maplewood, NJ 07040

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Please join Midtown Direct Rep (MDR) for the first staged reading of its 2019-2020 season, an exclusive preview of NOVEL, an original audio drama created by Aimee Parrott and William Bienes. Sebastian Arcelus, Jenny Bacon and Julia Coffey headline the ensemble cast. This unique event marks the first time that Midtown Direct Rep presents original work written specifically as a podcast series. Suzanne Agins will direct, with live sound design by Shane Rettig.

Set in the 19th century, when the Suffrage movement was gaining momentum, NOVEL was inspired by a list of preposterous reasons for which women could be confined to asylums, in particular, “novel reading.”

NOVEL tells the story of a young woman confined to an asylum for the crime of reading novels who uses her wit and her love of books to regain her rightful place in the Suffrage movement.

The cast will feature guest actor Julia Coffey joining Midtown Direct Rep (MDR) ensemble members Sebastian Arcelus, Jenny Bacon, Lucas Calhoun, Dwayne Clark, Brian Corrigan, Danielle Ferland, and Josephine Rose Roberts with local middle school student Rowan Wechsler. MDR’s Terrence Witter is the stage manager.

NOVEL tells the story of Hope Fairfax (Julia Coffey), a young suffragist who is confined to an asylum for reading novels. Imprisoned just outside of Chicago in 1881 by her husband Silas (Sebastian Arcelus), Hope must use everything in her power to regain her freedom. She uses the novels she loves to empower the women in the asylum by teaching them to read and to reach her allies outside the asylum.

This reading will present the series’ pilot episode, “Sense and Sensibility,” followed by scenes from the second episode, “Frankenstein.”

In Episode One, “Sense and Sensibility,” Hope Fairfax endures a humiliating intake process as she’s committed to an asylum for the “crime” of reading novels. She is not mentally ill, but she married the wrong man. After her arrival, the action drops back in time to reveal Hope’s romance with Silas, her father’s second-in-command, and how it contributed to her current predicament. Once in the asylum, Hope resists treatment but finds she can’t close herself off from the other patients. She befriends two of them, Iola and Rose, and ultimately, tells them the story of Sense and Sensibility. As Episode One concludes, Hope sees a way forward as she receives a copy of Frankenstein, sewn into the lining of her favorite dress by her brother, Timothy. She’s not alone – and she can use the pages to teach the women in the asylum to read and empower them to demand the equality they deserve.

About the Creatives:

Aimee Parrott and William Bienes (Creators/Writers) have been writing partners for the past four years. In that time, they have completed six original teleplays with two more in progress. NOVEL won the Television Drama category at the 2018 Creative World Awards and is an official script selection of the 2019 Richmond International Film Festival. Prior to their partnership, both have had several of their short scripts produced and one full-length feature film.

Suzanne Agins (Director) is a freelance director and Artistic Director of the Upstart Creatures, a company dedicated to creating (meta)physical feasts that combine theater and food (www.upstartcreatures.com). Recent: Mamma Mia! and Memphis the Musical (Cape Fear Regional Theatre), The Heart of Robin Hood (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival), Pride and Prejudice by Kate Hamill, adapted from Jane Austen (Hangar Theater), Dreamgirls (CFRT, 7 BroadwayWorld Awards including Best Musical and Best Direction), In the Heights (Hangar Theater- regional premiere, 5 SALT awards including Best Musical and Best Direction), The Club by Amy Fox (Rough Cut production at Ensemble Studio Theatre). Off-Broadway: world premieres of Radiance by Cusi Cram (Labyrinth Theater Company), Jailbait by Deirdre O’Connor (Cherry Lane). Her work has also been seen at theaters including the O’Neill, Dorset Theater Festival, Ars Nova, and Williamstown Theater Festival, where she served as Artistic Associate for New Plays from 2005-2007. She holds an MFA in Directing from UC San Diego, is the recipient of a Princess Grace Fellowship, an adjunct faculty member at Princeton University (her alma mater) and NYU, and a member of SDC. suzanneagins.com

Steven Tabakin (Executive Producer) is an award-winning creative producer with credits in narrative and documentary feature film, television, and theater. Independent films include A Bird of the Air; Dark Yellow; Casting By; Ten Thousand Saints; The Exonerated; and How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change. For PBS he was responsible for Far East; Twilight: Los Angeles; Beckett on Film; The Man Who Came to Dinner; The Women; Tantalus: Behind the Mask; The Topdog Diaries; and six-part documentary series Changing Stages. His Public Theater credits include Caroline, or Change; The Story; See What I Wanna See; Well; Embedded; Passing Strange; The Public Sings; Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk; The Wild Party; Saturn Returns; On the Town; The Tempest; and many others. He is presently developing a play with music about jazz legend Billy Strayhorn, which was originally developed with MDR, as well as several scripted and documentary series.

This program 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 and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.

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The Woodland

60 Woodland Road

Maplewood, NJ 07040

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