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RED BANK: MORE ‘TROUBLE,’ BUT WORTH IT

TroubleInMindBrenda Pressley takes center stage as Willetta, a 1950’s African American actress at work on a play-within-a-play, as TROUBLE IN MIND continues through the weekend at Two River Theater. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson) 

You don’t need much if any direct experience with the Business of Show to reckon that the process of putting something on the stage — the tectonic shift of strong egos, the conflicts and the compromises, the whole backstage pageant — can often be way more compelling than the show itself.

It’s a concept that was grasped beautifully by the late Alice Childress in Trouble in Mind, the comedy-drama that opened last week at Red Bank’s Two River Theater and continues through the weekend (including a 3 p.m. matinee Easter Sunday) in a dynamite production directed by Jade King Carroll.

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WEEKEND: ALL YOUR EGGS, MANY BASKETS

TROUBLE_press_1It’s opening weekend for the Two River Theater Company production of TROUBLE IN MIND, above. Below, the kids from Rockit! polish Janis Joplin’s PEARL as part of the annual Brookdale Guitar Festival. (TRTC photo by T. Charles Erickson) 

Friday, April 11 – Sunday, April 13: 

view_image.aspRED BANK: Although the late Alice Childress is known these days primarily as author of the young adult novel A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, among her many firsts and foremosts was becoming the first African-American woman to have one of her plays produced in New York. She also became the first female playwright to win an Obie Award, for a 1955 play entitled Trouble in Mind.

On Friday night at 8 pm, Two River Theater Company opens a new production of the comedy-drama directed by the acclaimed Jade King Carroll, associate director for the recent Broadway Streetcar Named Desire. It’s a “backstage” portrait of a multi-racial theatrical troupe, a play-within-a-play about a Southern lynching, and the fireworks that fly when the show’s black leading lady (Brenda Pressley of TRTC’s In This House) questions the inaccuracies and stereotypes being perpetuated by her white director (fellow Two River returnee Steven Skybell).

Surprisingly resonant today, the oft-overlooked play costars Tony winner Roger Robinson (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone), with McKinley Belcher III, Jonathan David Martin, Brian Russell, Hayley Treider, Amirah Vann — and Robert Hogan, the octogenarian character ace of stage and screen interviewed here on redbankgreen, when he starred in Two River’s recent On Borrowed Time. The show continues with performances at 3 pm and 8 pm Saturday, as well as 3 pm Sunday; take it here for schedule details and tickets ($20-$65). Then stick around after Sunday’s matinee show (or drop in free of charge at 5:30 pm), when director Carroll is joined by Pressley, TRTC Artistic Director John Dias, and her longtime associate, Tony winning actor-director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, for a panel discussion on “Modern African American Theater (1950s to Today),” presented as part of Two River’s “Exploration of Justice” slate of special events.

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ELKS HOST TRTC’s ‘EXPLORATION OF JUSTICE’

GreasonSharonGildaMonmouth University professor Walter D. Greason, former Red Bank council member Sharon Lee, and Frank Talk’s Gilda Rogers are among the guest panelists discussing “The Fight for Equality in Red Bank in the 1950s and Today,” during a February 10 event at the Red Bank Elks Lodge.

Press release from Two River Theater Company

“The Fight for Equality in Red Bank in the 1950s — and Today” is the topic of a free panel discussion event on Monday, February 10, presented by Two River Theater Company and hosted at the Red Bank Elks Lodge #233, 40 West Front Street.

The 7 pm panel is the first in a series of Inside Two River humanities programs that will focus on race, the Civil Rights movement, and evolving issues of equality under the umbrella title Exploration of Justice. Panels will take place monthly in connection with Two River Theater’s production of Trouble in Mind, written by Alice Childress —the first African-American woman to have a play professionally produced in New York City. The play, directed by Jade King Carroll, will run April 5 through 24.

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