FOR THE NEW CITY'S DREAM UP FESTIVAL PRESENTS THE WORLD PREMIERE OF
"JEANIE AND MAY: A ROAD TRIP PLAY" BY E.M. MORTON
NEW YORK, August 7 -- "Jeanie and May: A Road Trip Play," written by E.M. Morton and directed by Jennifer Sandella, upends the American literary tradition of the road trip by re-casting the traditionally young male narrative with two older female leads: Jeanie, a self-deprecating artist in her 50s battling doubt and depression and her Aunt May, a feisty woman in her 70s with a youthful demeanor but fearful of the outside world.
The play opens up to Jeanie and Aunt May in their house furiously packing their belongings into trash bags to throw out. Several reminders of their painful past populate the house like Jeanie's unfinished portrait of her dead mother, Belle, and Aunt May's souvenirs of a her lost love, Larry. Their landlord and social worker, Mr. Williamson, comes in to check on the mess while they are packing. Fearing eviction, Jeanie and Aunt May hijack Mr. Williamson's car for the freedom of the open road, driving towards Canada, a place where they had spent their happy summers long ago. Along the way, Jeanie is aided by an unlikely "spirit guide," a vision of Jack Kerouac, the deceased author of the 1950s classic "On the Road." While the duo attempt to cross the border, they are met with steely resistance from a border guard. As the border guard surveys the two, he loses his hard resolve when he makes Aunt May -- who we also learn was his favorite teacher in his youth -- cry. Embarrassed and not sure what to do, the border guard lets them go. Jeanie and Aunt May arrive at a restaurant where Jeanie steals money from a man with buckskins. They drive off to Crystal Beach where Aunt May makes an unexpected reunion with Larry. Given another opportunity at love, Aunt May abandons Jeanie for Larry and Jeanie goes back on the road in frustration and confusion. While on the road she hallucinates talking to Jack Kerouac and her mother. The conversation between Jeanie and Belle about Jeanie's life and her unfinished portrait of her mother reveal Jeanie's inability to let go of the past. An abrupt shift to the next scene reveals that Jeanie had crashed the car and is rescued by the border guard from the beginning. In a small Tim Horton's restaurant, Jeanie sees a woman who looks like her mother and throws a napkin she has been fiddling with into the trash can. This action reveals that Jeanie is finally letting go of the past that has haunted her to this point.
The play is set up to allow fluidity in between scenes, creating a dreamlike atmosphere for the play to work on. This allows for time, space and people to move around freely, forcing the audience to constantly question whether or not what is happening in front of them is a dream or reality, though we will quickly learn that a gray area exists in between. This notion is further expanded upon through the use of props, as one thing can represent several things, like a chair that can be a car, or couch, or just a chair.
The dreamlike nature of the play illustrates the internal struggle that Jeanie faces as she fights off her hallucinations and grasp of reality. Jeanie struggles with change, a concept that evades her as we can see through the large piles of belongings she has amassed at the beginning and the unfinished and torn portrait of her deceased mother, Belle. Her abandonment of these items shows that Jeanie is letting go of her past in order to move on with her life.
Playwright E.M. Morton studied playwriting in England and has had plays produced at festivals across New York City. "Jeanie and May: A Road Trip Play" is E.M. Morton's first full-length play to be produced in New York.
Director Jennifer Sandella is a Brooklyn based theatre artist with a foundation in classical text and performance. She has earned a BFA in Theatre Performance from Hofstra University and received an MA in Text and Performance/Directing Pathway from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Sandella is an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreography Society, a 2015 resident artist of the Drama League, an assistant director at The 24 Hour Plays and a member of the Director's Lab West. As the Artistic Director for the Random House Theatre, she has directed many independent projects, including new works and musicals in New York City. Recent directing projects include: "Rosmersholm," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Save the Robots," "Friends Scream for 2 Days," "Reach," "Anthem," "The Shape of Things," "Subway Savant, A New Musical," "Highway Blue – A New Play with Music" and "Nesting." (www.jennifersandella.com)
The cast includes Laura King Otazo as Jeanie, Laurie Sammeth as Aunt May, Robin Zerbe as Belle and David Gottfried as Jack Kerouac. Stage manager is Marsh Shugar.
The eighth annual Dream Up Festival (www.dreamupfestival.org) is being presented by Theater for the New City from August 27 to September 17. An ultimate new work festival, it is dedicated to the joy of discovering new authors and edgy, innovative performances. Audiences savor the excitement, awe, passion, challenge and intrigue of new plays from around the country and around the world.
The festival does not seek out traditional scripts that are presented in a traditional way. It selects works that push new ideas to the forefront, challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of how art illuminates the world around us.
A unique and varied selection of productions will again be offered that draw upon a variety of performance specialties including singing, clowning, poetry, street music, magic and movement. The Festival's founders, Crystal Field and Michael Scott-Price, feel this is especially needed in our present time of declining donations to the arts, grants not being awarded due to market conditions, and arts funding cuts on almost every level across the country and abroad.
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