Premiere Stages at Kean University announces readings of festival finalists

Premiere Stages has announced public readings of three of the 2020 Play Festival finalists, plays by, from left, Rachael Luann Strayer, massi monfiletto and Erik Gernand.

UNION, NJ — Premiere Stages, the professional theater company in residence at Kean University, has announced public readings of three of the 2020 Play Festival finalists, which had been postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The festival is an annual competition for unproduced scripts that offers developmental opportunities to playwrights with strong affiliations with the greater metropolitan area, which Premiere defines as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The readings will be offered virtually via Zoom and are free to the public. A live question-and-answer session with the playwright will follow each reading.

“The pandemic erupted last March during the week that we had scheduled for our annual Spring Reading Series, forcing us to postpone all five readings on the day we were slated to begin.” said John J. Wooten, producing artistic director of Premiere Stages. “While we had to cancel, all five of the finalists received their cash awards and a promise that their reading would be rescheduled for a public viewing, which we continue to honor this month.”

Three of the five finalists will receive professional readings March 19-21 through a partnership with the Theatre Authority Inc. The fourth finalist, “Scab,” by Gino Dilorio, received a reading by Premiere Stages in July 2020, and the fifth finalist, “Lyon’s Pride,” by Bleu Beckford-Burrell, is not available for a reading in March, though the play continues to be under consideration for subsequent development by Premiere Stages.

The 2021 Spring Reading Series will include:

“Songbird,” by Rachel Luann Strayer, on Friday, March 19, at 7 p.m. Jess is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter who doesn’t want to talk about why she abandoned her career. In fact, she doesn’t want to talk about it so badly that she hasn’t spoken in months. Jess’s sister, Brit, thinks a beach trip to their old family vacation spot is just the trick to get Jess to open up. As tensions rise and a young visitor arrives seeking her help, Jess knows there are words that have to be spoken; she’s just hoping she has the right ones.

“My Mother the Sun,” by massi monfiletto, on Saturday, March 20, at 7 p.m. When her mother goes missing in the desert on the U.S./Mexico border, Solana journeys out with a group of activists to bring her back. As her past begins to haunt her, Solana must undertake an extraordinary transformation in the hopes of keeping her family together.

“Year One,” by Erik Gernand, on Sunday, March 21, at 3 p.m. In 1933 Germany, Anna struggles to keep her family afloat during the first year of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power. When Anna’s brother Max arrives unexpectedly from Berlin, Anna’s life is thrown into even greater turmoil when the true reason for his visit is uncovered and Anna is forced to choose between family and country.

To register for any or all of the free readings, visit

Premiere Stages is moving forward with a full season of virtual and live programming in 2021, and all five 2020 finalists are being considered for a slot in this season or for expanded development in a subsequent year.

The 2021 Spring Reading Series will benefit the Kean Foundation. Donations will help support Premiere Stages education initiatives, particularly those that support emerging artists. Premiere Stages wishes to express gratitude to Actors’ Equity Association, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the American Guild of Variety Artists and SAG-AFTRA, through Theatre Authority, for permitting the artists to appear on this program. To support Premiere Stages, visit