Arts & Culture Calendar / Events COVID-19 Election

Luna Stage Releases Entire Voting Writes Project Online

From Luna Stage:

Luna Stage announces that as of Tuesday evening, October 27, its entire Voting Writes Project will be available online, open to the public and free of charge. The project includes world premiere plays, a concept album, an interview series hosted by a fictional character, and films — all designed to celebrate and inspire civic engagement.

Amalia Adiv, Rajesh Bose, Giuliana Carr, June Carryl, Pauline Chalamet, Nnamdi Chikezie, karen Eilbacher, Leslie Fray, Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin, Marcus D. Harvey, Gary Martins, Jevonnah Mayo, Will Nolan, Isabel Keating, Janeena Piñero, Kevin Qian, Alysia Reiner, Roland Ruiz, Melissa Schaffer, Indika Senanayake, Rachel B. Shapiro, and Liz Zazzi

On Thursday, October 29, to mark the last six days of voting and celebrate all the votes already cast in the 2020 election, the six world premiere plays in the project will livestream together for the first time starting at 6:30 pm EST, in conjunction with a live event (special guests to be announced). 

Originally intended to be staged in New Jersey, the project went virtual due to COVID-19 and has had a broader reach than expected, as it is now accessible to audiences across the U.S during the period leading up to the national election. 

“The project builds connections between hyperlocal and global experiences of voting and civic engagement,” said Luna’s Artistic Director Ari Laura Kreith. “Working virtually allowed us to collaborate with artists across the country to build stories that explore the personal and political, reflecting our current moment and resonating across history.”

The theatre artists who worked on Voting Writes met over months to exchange stories and share research about the history of democratic voting and of voter suppression, the concerns of new voters or unlikely voters, and what drives people to the polls.  

“At this point, most people have heard a textbook reason to vote, or an activist’s argument, or a politician’s — but what if a story, or a movie, or a song, could capture your imagination? We’re hoping this project might reach some reluctant or aspiring voters and get them thinking about participation in a new way,” said Jenny Lyn Bader, one of the commissioned playwrights. 

“These stories are revelatory and emboldening,” said Maxim Thorne, Managing Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation, who collaborated with Luna Stage on the project’s development.

The world premiere one-act plays include: Jenny Lyn Bader’s My First Time, where three stories of political initiation interwoven over 6 decades echo across time and span generations; Rachel Shapiro Cooper’s interview-based play, Another Number in the Pool, which explores the reasons people don’t vote; Amanda Sage Comerford’s Florida!, a fantasia inspired by letters written to voters in swing states; and Bernardo Cubría’s The Breakout Room, about non-voters trapped in a dystopian Zoom reality. There are also two solo pieces:  Rajesh Bose’s “solo conversation” When They Go Low, examining race in America; and Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin’s Count Me In, chronicling the experiences of people who learn their vote was not counted. 

Composer Jim Knable joined the Voting Writes Project expecting to contribute a song or two but unexpectedly found himself writing a “concept album,” Songs of Suffrage, in the vein of Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads. The debut track, a paean about how to not procrastinate voting, “Don’t Wait,” is surely the first folk song to reference the Tilden Compromise. Filmmaker Joey Yow has created a series of music videos to showcase “Don’t Wait” and the other songs on the album. 

The films include The Power to Vote, a documentary about Boris Franklin, who shares his experience of registering to vote after incarceration and what voting means to him; Teens Talk Voting, directed by Maggie Borgen, based on interviews with teenagers across America; and Cookin’ Up Votes with Leola, a satirical series of film shorts where a recently-out-of-the-closet “redneck lesbian septuagenarian” named Leola played by actor Will Nolan conducts interviews with real-life personalities. In the first episode, Leola interviews voting activist Elizabeth Juviler, who worked as a monitor for a mock election in South Africa where citizens stood in line for 9 hours just to show how an election might work — an extraordinary rehearsal for democracy. Her experience doing that is featured in Jim Knable’s song “Election Rehearsal.” 

In addition to Mr. Nolan, the actors featured in the Voting Writes Project are: Amalia Adiv (Portraits US: COVID-19, Verbatim Performance Lab), Rajesh Bose (India Ink, Roundabout Theatre Company), Giuliana Carr (Mrs. Stern Wanders the Prussian State Library, Luna Stage); June Carryl (Mindhunter), Pauline Chalamet (The King of Staten Island, dir. Judd Apatow), comedian Nnamdi Chikezie, karen Eilbacher (Fun Home, Bway National Tour); Leslie Fray (The Sinner), Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin (Ambition, Ars Nova), Marcus D. Harvey (An American Dream, The Old Vic, London), Gary Martins (Twelve Angry Men, Company Theatre Group), Jevonnah Mayo (Mourning Sun, Kampala Int’l Theatre Festival), Isabel Keating (Wicked, Broadway); Janeena Piñero (Drought), Kevin Qian, Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black), Roland Ruiz (Boyhood, dir. Richard Linklater), Melissa Schaffer (Windows, Kean Stage), Indika Senanayake (Occupy Your Mind, The Civilians), Rachel B. Shapiro, and Liz Zazzi (The Girl with the High Rouge, NJ Rep). 

In addition to Ari Laura Kreith, the featured directors are Turron Kofi Alleyne, Maggie Borgen, Jessica Brater, Rachel Shapiro Cooper, Alana Dietze, and Cara Hinh. 

All content can be viewed at lunastage.org/votingwrites or on Luna’s YouTube page.

The full schedule on Thursday night will be: 

6:30 pm: Solo Performance Count Me In by Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin, directed by Cara Hinh

7:00 pm: Four World Premiere Short Plays:

7:00 pm The Breakout Room by Bernardo Cubría directed by Alana Dietze

7:15 pm Another Number in the Pool a verbatim play directed by Rachel Shapiro Cooper

7:30 pm My First Time by Jenny Lyn Bader, directed by Ari Laura Kreith

7:45pm Florida! by Amanda Sage Comerford, directed by Jessica Brater

8:00 pm: When They Go Low, A Solo Conversation with Rajesh Bose (presented in collaboration with South Orange Performing Arts Center)

Luna Stage is the recipient of the People’s Choice Award for “Favorite Small Theatre” in New Jersey. Luna has contributed to the development of over 100 new works for the stage, many of which premiered at Luna and have gone on to be produced in New York, regionally and internationally.

Voting Writes is created in collaboration with the Andrew Goodman Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. All Voting Writes events are free and available online at www.lunastage.org/votingwrites.

About Luna Stage

Luna Stage develops and produces vibrant plays about local and global experiences. Firmly rooted in New Jersey’s Valley Arts District – a crossroads of cultures – Luna brings its communities together for artistic events that spark conversations and create understanding and change. 

Luna Stage is the recipient of the 2019 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Small Theatre in New Jersey. Luna has contributed to the development of over 100 new works for the stage, many of which premiered at Luna and have gone on to be produced in New York, regionally and internationally.

As producer, innovator, and educator, Luna is dedicated to eliminating barriers to participation and allowing all community members to nurture their own creativity and vision. Luna offers classes for children and adults, as well as opportunities for early-career and established theatre artists to develop and incubate new work.

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