ANOTHER ‘CHILD’ IS BORN, AT TRTC

NO CHILD… playwright and star Nilaja Sun is scheduled to be in attendance at Two River Theater for one of this weekend’s performances of ONE CHILD, the original stage work created by a group of local high schoolers and inspired by her solo show. (Photo by T.C. Erickson)

By TOM CHESEK

Just off the fringes of each year’s mainstage season schedule at Two River Theater Company, there exists a completely original, fully homegrown theatrical work that audiences will be able to see nowhere else — a project that falls under the umbrella title PlayBack.

When the invisible curtain goes up at Two River Theater’s Marion Huber “black box” space this weekend, the 10 area high school students who created, developed and rehearsed the full-length stage work known as One Child will be doing their thing at a performing arts center that’s regularly hosted Tony-lauded talents and other familiar figures of music, movies and TV. And, as is customary, audiences who’ve followed the PlayBack presentations will be able to claim “we knew them when” bragging rights.

Coordinated by TRTC education director Kate Cordaro, the PlayBack series was established as a 12-week program, in which young actors of grades 9 trough 12 collaborate on an ensemble production inspired by one of the offerings on the Two River season slate — a unique companion piece that’s “drawn from their own lives, experiences, and questions about the world.”

It’s a series that debuted in 2010 with a show derived from the company’s staging of Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and continued last year with an offering that expanded upon the themes in TRTC’s acclaimed production of Jacques Brel.

Here in 2012, Nilaja Sun‘s one woman showcase No Child… — a school-set tour de force in which the actress and playwright portrays not just herself but an array of students, faculty members and support staff — makes a natural foundation for the development of One Child, a work in which students from seven local schools “band together to wrestle with education, adolescence, and their hunger to be seen and understood.”

Among the creator-stars of One Child are three current students at Red Bank Regional High School — Sophia Gutchinov, Maddie Walsack and Jeianeira Woods — as well as Catherine Healey  of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School.

They’re joined in the ensemble by Chloe Triolo and Lauren Viggiani (both of Colts Neck High School), along with Liz Ditzel (Communications High School), Evelyn Lumish (High Technology High School), Princess Thomas (Long Branch High School) and Annie Zucker (Ocean Township High School).

Beginning last October, the cast began working with directors Lauren Feldman and Pirronne Yousefzadeh concurrent with the rehearsal schedule for No Child…, an opportunity that, as Cordaro explains, “gave them the chance to meet Nilaja Sun and discuss the elements that went into her play.”

With No Child… having concluded its Red Bank engagement in November, One Child enters the world at an earlier point in the TRTC season than its PlayBack predecessors — a winter-break scheduling that Cordaro sees as having “worked out well for everyone” in terms of more availabilities for rehearsal and development.

Performance times for One Child are at 2 pm and 7 pm on Saturday, January 21, with an additional 2 pm matinee on Sunday, January 22. Tickets ($10) are available for all shows, and can be reserved right here.