Saturday, December 15, 2012

Luna Stage & New Plays: An Interview with Cheryl Katz

Posted on December 15, 2012 by Amanda Guzman
Luna Stage is a gorgeous theater located in West Orange, New Jersey. Founded in 1992 by Artistic Director Jane Mandel, Luna Stage was located in Montclair until 2009, when they relocated to their current home in West Orange, New Jersey. It is now an important part of the ValleyArts District.
Luna's mission is to produce thought-provoking theatre that illuminates the diverse perspectives in our society.  Although they also produce revivals of classic and contemporary plays that speak to our times, they have always placed a great emphasis on new play development and have produced the world premieres of many works by emerging playwrights. Luna is committed to partnering with artists of all disciplines, businesses, and organizations within their community that embrace the notion that the arts can be a powerful tool for revitalization and transformation.
I first encountered Luna Stage as a Dramaturgy intern under Cheryl Katz (Associate Artistic Director/ Director of Play Development) in Fall 2011 of my Junior year at Montclair State University. At Luna, Cheryl Katz has contributed to the development of over 50 new works for the stage as well as several world premieres. As a Dramaturgy intern at Luna, one of my daily responsibilities was to organize the play submissions sent in from emerging playwrights across New Jersey.
I got a chance to speak with Cheryl Katz a little more about the process of selecting from these submissions.
 AG: I understand that Luna accepts submissions from emerging American playwrights. How should playwrights submit their work? What information should they include? 
CK: We accept open submissions from all playwrights who make their home in New Jersey.  Those writers should submit a hard copy of a cover letter, a synopsis, a resume, and the first 20 pages of their play.  For playwrights who either have an agent or an MFA in playwriting, or who can provide a letter of recommendation from a professional theatre, we accept a full script submissions.  Detailed submission guidelines can be found at:
We also do readings of new plays the first Monday of every month (Oct.-May).  The playwrights are always present at these readings and each reading is followed by a talkback with the playwright. Even just attending a reading and participating in the discussion is a great way for young playwrights to get involved at Luna.

AG: What is the play selection process like? Who is the first to read the submissions and where do they go from there? 
CK: I have a group of volunteers who help me review our script submissions.  Many of these volunteers are playwrights themselves, some are actors, some retired teachers, etc..  If a script has come to me with a particular recommendation, I might review it myself first, but usually, volunteer script readers are the first to review submissions. They return the scripts to me with their recommendations.  Then, I will review each script myself. If I have an interest in the writer or the play, I will ask other members of the Luna staff to read the play. I think it's very important to have many eyes on a script and to hear different reactions when assessing whether or not a play is right for Luna. 

AG: How long does it usually take for submissions to be officially chosen for a production? 
CK: It depends on many things.  It depends on what phase of development the play is in when it comes to us, what else we are considering for a season, etc...  Sometimes, we read a play and think it's ready for production and we put in right up the next season.  But more often, the play will go through some development process at Luna, involving readings and workshops. We commissioned our first play a couple of years ago and I am interested in doing more of that.

AG: What do you look for when selecting a play? (which elements of the play, ideas, deciding factors) 
At Luna Stage, we are committed to nurturing excellence in playwriting, in all phases of development. We are interested in works by diverse voices that have clearly been written for the stage, as opposed to other mediums. We look for well-told stories, in all shapes and configurations. We are attracted to writing that has a depth and a texture in its language and characters, and/or a novel use of structure. We produce material of all genres, but look for work that transcends its immediate story to resonate with audiences on many levels.

AG: Why do you feel it is important that Luna is open to receiving and producing new work? 
Well, I think theatre, like any art form, has to be responsive, and at its best, can be an incredible catalyst for introspection and understanding. So, while I think it is important to revisit timeless works and to discover how the meaning and implication of those works changes over time, I also think it is imperative to hear new voices, living in our time, and writing for our time.

AG: What can we keep an eye out for coming up at Luna Stage? 
In February, we'll be producing the world premiere of a new play entitled Carnaval by Obie-Award winning playwright Nikkole Salter.  The play is about three young African-American men who take a trip to Rio De Janeiro for a taste of the good life: sun, fun and, of course, women paid to serve. But what starts out as a joyride takes an unexpected turn and the three sex tourists find themselves in a situation that will change their friendships and their lives forever. This play was read in Luna's New Moon Reading series in June of 2011.  For tickets and more information, go to

Amanda Guzman is currently appearing in the Off-Off-Broadway production of Grimm Women. Her film debut Concussion will be playing the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Miss Guzman is also a featured actress in the upcoming Page to Stage documentary produced by the Princeton Public Library.

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