Capital Region Media Notables Selected for NEXT ACT CRITICS CIRCLE!

News Subject: 

Capital Region Media Notables Selected for
Two Plays and Musical Dominate More Than 120 Submissions;
Grammy-Award Winning Composer Tops Musical Selection

Albany, NY – October 26, 2012 – In thefirst joint artistic venture for both organizations, Albany-based Capital Repertory Theatre and Proctors of Schenectady have called on the expertise and experience of six Capital Region notables in the field of theatre and entertainment for a professional dialogue on new plays received as a result of a statewide invitationfor new work as part of an inaugural NEXT ACT! NEW PLAY SUMMIT.

The three-day Summit runs Nov 2, 3 and 4 and features readings of the top three winning works from more than 120 plays received:

  • a musical, THE PIPER, music and lyrics by Grammy-Award winning songwriter, Marcus Hummon, book by Michael Aman and Marcus Hummon and two plays:
  • Michael Hollinger’s HOPE AND GRAVITY and
  • Suzanne Bradbeer’s THE GOD GAME.

In addition, the Summit also includes special daytime events designed to shed light on new play development including discussions with the featured artists. Complimentary refreshments will be available at all events.

Among the special events of the new play summit, THE FIRST 15: Be a Literary Manager, which features

  • readings and discussions of the first fifteen minutes of 6 semi-finalist plays will take place on Sat. Nov 3 from 1 – 2:30 PM in the GE Theatre at Proctors.
  • In addition, Critics Circle panel discussion will take place on Sun. Nov 4 at 1 – 2:30 PM at Capital Rep. Capital Region subject-matter experts in theatre will comprise the Circle.

WNYT news anchor BENITA ZAHN will moderate the Critics Circle, which will include JEFFREY BORAK (Berkshire Eagle),MICHAEL ECK (critic and frequest contributor to the Times Union, BOB GOEPFERT (The Saratogian), AMY DURANT (Daily Gazette),JAMES YEARA (Metroland)and BYRON NILSSON, (Words and Music blog/Metroland).

According to Capital Rep’s Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the contributions of the Critics Circle will be an invaluable asset to the festival.  “Being able to bring insight to patrons, artists and playwrights about the process of reviewing a new play is a part of the “circle of life” for new work.  We have an illustrious panel of critics, who all care about the arts in the Capital Region and take their work very seriously.  This is a wonderful opportunity to get behind the scenes for an insider view of issues facing art critics today.”

About the Critics Circle

Broadcaster BENITA ZAHN will serve as moderator for the New Act! New Play Summit ‘s Critics Circle.  Ms. Zahn co-anchors News Channel 13 Live at 5 and 6 with Jim Kambrich. Her outstanding work has garnered numerous awards, including being named one of the 100 Women of the Century by the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce; the Arthur Kapner Spirit of the Chamber Award, a three-time Emmy nominee, NYS Broadcasters award recipient, Gold Medal and Bronze Medal - New York Festival's International Television, and the Distinguished Communicator Award from American Women in Radio and Television. An avid runner, Benita also is active in regional theatre. Her theater credits include performances at the Fort Salem Theater, Albany Civic Theater, Schenectady Civic Theater, Schenectady Light Opera and Park Playhouse. She also is a member of the Singer Anchors – with WRGB (CBS 6) anchor Jerry Gretzinger and WNYT (News Channel 13) and Jessica Layton. The trio originally joined melodic forces with Jay Kerr at the Fort Salem Theater to produce a fantastic evening of song and banter.   Since their debut at the Cabaret at Fort Salem Theater in November, 2009 they have been successfully touring the area.  Their holiday show is booked at Vapor and The Century House. Benita is on the boards of Kelly's Cause, Building on Love, which supports Ronald McDonald House and Park Playhouse.

JEFFREY BORAKhas been the Berkshire Eagle's entertainment editor and theater critic since April 1986.  Before coming to the Berkshires in April 1986, he covered city hall in Beacon and then Poughkeepsie, N.Y, for the Poughkeepsie Journal, before becoming that newspaper's entertainment editor and theater critic. Mr. Borak has acted and directed with community theaters in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. and Poughkeepsie, and acted with Ghent Playhouse and Albany Civic Theater. He lives in Pittsfield, MA, with his wife, Judaic mixed media artist Wendy Rabinowitz.

MICHAEL ECKhas been commenting on art and culture in the Capital Region for nearly 30 years. A freelancer, he has been the Times Union’s chief theater critic since 1992. (He also has contributed music reviews and general features to the paper since 1986). Nationally, Eck has written for Backstage, Billboard, AOL,, The Austin Chronicle, Fretboard Journal, Southwest Airlines Spirit, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, No Depression and many other publications and websites.

AMY DURANT has a B.A. in Theatre from Binghamton University and has been working in theater, both onstage and off, for over 25 years. She has been the Artistic Director at Albany Civic Theater for two years and has worked on a number of their productions over the last eight years. She is also a theater reviewer for The Daily Gazette. She has worked at a number of theaters in her career and is proud to call the Capital District, with its rich arts culture, her home

BOB GOEPFERT  A local arts critic for more than 30 years, Goepfert is a former executive director of the Palace Theater in Albany.  His reviews can be found in the Troy Record, the Saratogian and on air at WAMC.

BYRON NILSSON  has been reviewing theater, music, dance, movies, restaurants, and more since 1984 for such area publications as Metroland, theSchenectady Gazette, the Albany Times-Union and writes a blog Words and Music. He is a professional actor and member of Actors Equity SAG-AFTRA and the Dramatists Guild. His plays have been performed at Ensemble Studio Theatre and the NY Fringe Festival.

JAMES YEARA has an MA in Theatre Education and has been writing about, producing and directing theatre for 25 years.  He is a mainstay critic at METROLAND and founder and producer of Wit and Will improve troupe. He teaches theatre and dramatic literature at Bethlehem High School.

Painstaking Selection Process
The winning plays were selected by two groups of readers drawn from theatre administrators, professors, writers and local professional actors from the Upstate Equity Actors Association, whose members will serve as co-hosts for all NEXT ACT events. All the plays were read “blind,” in that the author’s name was not provided to the readers. The first group read more than 100 plays and selected the top 20.  Another round of reading resulted in the top six titles. From there, the winning works were selected.

Partnering for Growth and Success
The Capital Repertory Theatre and Proctors administrative partnership, formed in January 2011, has enabled both organizations to combine resources to give Capital Region patrons the first peek at these new works, each under consideration for possible full production in later seasons.

“We could not do this alone,” says Capital Rep’s Artistic Director, Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. “One of the great benefits of our partnership with Proctors is having the luxury to develop new plays without the pressure of opening night looming in the near future.  Creating new work takes time, as does building trust with a writer. We want to foster safe, productive – and fun – atmospheres where material can breathe and where audiences know they are part of a process.  You can’t always do that when you’re rehearsing a play for production.”

“This is a great foray into creative work for us at Proctors,” explains CEO Philip Morris, who also serves as Capital Rep,s Chief Administrative Officer.

“Our mission,” said Morris, “is to be a catalyst for economic and cultural growth utilizing the arts. NEXT ACT allows us to bring resources to the table that pique curiosity and expand the interests of our patrons with work that’s created and produced in our own backyard.”

Putting a Face on Creativity
Grammy-Award winning songwriter, Marcus Hummon, brings his musical talent to the score and lyrics of the selected musical, THE PIPER, with a book by Marcus Hummon and Michael Aman. Set in Boston, 1892, THE PIPER takes place in the notorious neighborhood of Scollary Square where the strains of Irish music fill the air, while a murderer haunts the street and alleyways. Jordan’s boardinghouse is a refuge in the storm, especially for her 14-year old daughter, Wilder, whose remarkable gift with the penny whistle brings myth, romance and magic together in this story about creating family.

Suzanne Bradbeer’s play, THE GOD GAME takes place over a summer weekend when Tom, a rising conservative political star, is asked to be his party’s vice-presidential nominee. There’s one condition: the presidential campaign just needs Tom to “sound more Christian” on the campaign trail.

When an elevator crashes in a major city, ten lives intersect in surprising ways – through love and sex, poetry and dentistry, in offices, backyards and hotel rooms – in Michael Hollinger’s play, HOPE AND GRAVITY. By turns comic and profound, HOPE AND GRAVITY traces the barely perceivable threads that connect us all.

HOPE AND GRAVITY will open the summit on Friday, Nov. 2 at 7:30PM at Proctors GE Theater, 432 State St, Schenectady. The reading of THE GOD GAME takes place on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 PM also in the GE Theatre. THE PIPER will be read at Capital Rep, 111 N. Pearl St. Albany on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 4 PM.

Complimentary refreshments will be provided at all events.

The NEXT ACT NEW PLAY SUMMIT is made possible in part by a legacy gift from Samson O.A. Ullmann, professor of English at Union College, 1957-1992.

Tickets for each day’s events are $15. A NEXT ACT NEW PLAY SUMMIT pass for general admission to all events (three-day pass) is available for $30. Student tickets are $10/day or $21 for a three-day pass to NEXT ACT (with valid student ID). Capital Rep subscribers get a special window of opportunity to order tickets now through Oct 7. Tickets go on sale to the public on Oct. 8. For tickets and information call TICKETS BY PROCTORS at 445-SHOW.

For more Information on the inaugural NEXT ACT NEW PLAY SUMMIT, contactMargaret Hall, 518.462.4531 x410,

About Capital Rep
Capital Repertory Theatre is the only resident professional theatre company in New York's Capital District. As members of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), Capital Rep proudly operates within agreements with the Actors Equity Association, United Scenic Artists (USA) and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SDC).

About Proctors
Proctors in Downtown Schenectady, NY, offers more than 1,700 events a year to nearly 600,000 visitors and residents of New York State’s Capital Region. As a charitable, cultural and educational non-profit organization, Proctors depends on membership, donations and grants to bring exciting shows and excellent educational and community events to the Capital Region. Income from ticket sales pays for only 67 percent of the cost of running Proctors.


Playwright Biographies

MARCUS HUMMON (THE PIPER, music/lyrics) has been called Nashville’s Renaissance Man. He has enjoyed a successful career as a songwriter, recording artist, producer, studio musician, playwright and author. His songs have been recorded in many genres – Pop, R&B, gospel – and most notably in country music. His country discography reads like a “who’s who” list of country notables, including Rascal Flatts, Garth Brooks, The Dixie Chicks, Brooks and Dunn, and Tim name a few.  Six of his songs have charted #1 on ‘Billboard’, ‘Radio and Records’ or ‘Cashbox’.  Several of his songs have been nominated for Grammys, ACMs and CMAs.  In 2005, BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD won the Grammy for Best Country Song.  Turning to theatre, Hummon has written 5 musicals and 2 operas. Three of his musicals,Warrior, The Piper, and the opera-dance-hybrid Tut (a collaboration with Abdel Salaam and the Force Of Nature Dance Company) were featured Off-Broadway as part of the New York New Musical Festival. Warrior and American Duet received invitations to the prestigious Eugene O’Neill Summer Conference.  Marcus lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife Becca and their 3 sons...Levi, Caney and Moses.

MICHAEL AMAN (THE PIPER, book) wrote the book and lyrics for Becoming Tennessee(Richard Rodgers Award finalist 2009). His comedy Step Three was a semi-finalist for the 2011 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.  His play The Unbleached American won best play 2012 for the African American Playwrights’ Exchange (AAPEX).  He co-wrote the book and lyrics for The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde (2005 NYMF).  He also co-wrote the book for Let Me Sing! A Musical Evolution (George Street Playhouse; Charlotte Repertory Theatre).  Michael has a Ph.D. in Theatre History and teaches at The College of Westchester.

The plays of MICHAEL HOLLINGER (HOPE AND GRAVITY) include Ghost-Writer, Opus, Tooth and Claw, Red Herring, Incorruptible, Tiny Island, and An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf, all of which premiered at Philadelphia’s Arden Theatre Company.  These plays have enjoyed numerous productions around the country, in NYC, London, Paris, Athens, and elsewhere in Europe.  His new translation of Rostand’sCyrano de Bergerac (co-adapted with Aaron Posner) premiered in 2011 at the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C.  A new musical, A Wonderful Noise (co-authored with Vance Lehmkuhl), premiered at Creede Repertory Theatre in 2009.  Michael’s awards include a Steinberg New Play Citation from the American Theatre Critics Association, a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, a Mid-Atlantic Emmy, an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, four Barrymore Awards (including the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist), nominations for Lucille Lortel and John Gassner Awards, and fellowships from the Independence Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  He is an Associate Professor of Theatre at Villanova University, and a proud alumnus of New Dramatists.

SUZANNE BRADBEER’S  (THE GOD GAME) current work includes: God in the Goat, produced by Barrington Stage, February 2012; Full Bloom, which will be published by Playscripts, fall 2012; Naked Influence, workshopped at the Dorset Theatre Festival, directed by Daniella Topol; and Shakespeare In Vegas, workshopped at both the Drilling Company, directed by Giovanna Sardelli, and at ASU, directed by Zac Yurkovic and will be co-produced by Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey and Dreamcatcher Rep, Winter 2013.  Suzanne’s prizes and awards include:New York Foundation for the Arts, the Berrilla Kerr Foundation, the Anna Sosenko Trust, the Ashland New Plays Festival, the Dayton Playhouse FutureFest, and the2012 BMI Foundation Harrington Award.  Monologues from many of Suzanne’s plays have been published by Smith & Kraus, who have also published her plays Bethlehem, PA; Sometimes Romeo is Sad; Full Bloom; and Okoboji.  Residencies: The New Harmony Project, New River Dramatists, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.  Nominated by Theresa Rebeck, Suzanne was also a fellow of The Lark’s Playwrights’ Workshop.  Suzanne is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Dramatists Guild, Actors Studio P/D Workshop, and the BMI workshop.  Aprofessional highlight, working with Arthur Miller and Jim Houghton as the dramaturg on Miller’s The American Clock, at the Signature Theater.



  • HOPE AND GRAVITY by Michael Hollinger
  • THE GOD GAME by Suzanne Bradbeer
  • THE PIPER. Music & Lyrics by Marcus Hummon, Book by Michael Aman and Marcus Hummon


$15/day (includes all events per day)/$30 Summit Pass to all events
Students:  $10/day/$21 Summit Pass to all events (with valid student ID)
General Admission Seating/no reserved seats. 

Schedule of Events

Friday, Nov 2
HOPE AND GRAVITY, by Michael Hollinger
GE Theatre, Proctors, 432 State St, Schenectady, NY

  • 6:30 PM Complimentary light refreshments/cash bar
  • 7:30 PM Reading, Post-reading Cash bar & complimentary dessert and lobby discussion with playwright

Saturday, Nov 3
“The First 15:  Be A Literary Manager”
GE Theatre, Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady, NY

  • 12 Noon  Meet & Greet with coffee and bagels
  • 1:00 - 2:30 PM Readings of the first 15 minutes of 6 selected finalists and discussion
  • 7:30 PM Reading: THE GOD GAME by Suzanne Bradbeer
  • Post reading – Cash Bar & Complimentary dessert and discussion.

Sunday, Nov. 4
“Critics Panel:  To Pan or Not to Pan – Insights into Criticism of New Work”
(panel members TBA), Capital Rep, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany

  • 12:30 PM Complimentary Coffee/tea
  • 1-2:30PM – Critics Panel, “New Work and the Critic”
  • 2:30 – 4:00 PM Continental light refreshments (for post-Critics Circle Patrons and pre-show Musical Reading Patrons). Cash bar.
  • 4:00 – 6:30 PM Reading (with singing) THE PIPER, music & lyrics by Marcus Hummon, book by Michael Aman and Marcus Hummon


Friday, Nov. 2, 7:30PM – A stellar comedic cast for Michael Hollinger's delightful new play, HOPE AND GRAVITY. Local favorites John Romeo, Brenny Rabine and Greg Borucki join Peggy Pharr Wilson (Barrington Stage 10X10 veteran) and Timothy Hull (NYC, last seen at Capital Rep in To Kill A Mockingbird). Five actors play 10 people whose lives unpredictably collide as a result of an elevator accident in this funny and touching play.  HOPE AND GRAVITY is under serious consideration for future production at Capital Rep.  Don't miss it!  Friday, November 2, 7:30PM, GE Theatre, Proctors, 452 State Street, Schenectady.  Complimentary desserts following performance included with ticket. Tickets $15 - or get a NEXT ACT 3-day pass for $30.  Student passes for the entire festival $20 -- Equity actors attend free with valid AEA membership card! Call TICKETS BY PROCTORS 445-SHOW or visit

Saturday, Nov. 3, 1-2:30PM- NEXT ACT NEW PLAY SUMMIT “FIRST 15”- Come and be a part of this fun presentation where YOU are in the drivers seat to chose plays for future consideration!  Actors will read the first fifteen minutes of the top 5 semi-finalists from NEXT ACT submissions - and you get to serve as literary manager in a lively discussion about selecting new plays for further exploration. The cast includes 13 Capital Region veterans -- David Bunce, Kent Burnham, Sue Caputo, Kathleen Carey, Joan Coombs, Heather Liz Copps, Ron Komora, Tony Palone, John Romeo, Bianca Stinney, Eileen Schuyler, Erica Tryon and Kristin Youngblood,.  Saturday, Nov 3, 1-2:30pm, GE Theatre, Proctors, 432 State Street, SchenectadyComplimentary coffee/tea/bagels included with ticket.  Tickets for “First 15” are $15 and are good for activities on Saturday, including entry into reading of THE GOD GAME Saturday evening 7:30PM -- or get a NEXT ACT 3-day pass for $30.  Student passes for the entire festival $20 -- Equity actors attend free with valid AEA membership card! Call TICKETS BY PROCTORS 445-SHOW or visit

Sunday, Nov 4 - 1PM - NEXT ACT NEW PLAY SUMMIT CRITICS CIRCLE- Benita Zahn, Channel 13 News Anchor, moderates a distinguished panel of 6 top area theatre critics:  Michael Eck (TIMES UNION), Bob Goephert (SARATOGIAN, RECORD, WAMC), James Yeara (METROLAND), Amy Durant (THE GAZETTE), Jeffrey Borak (THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE), Byron Nillson (blog/METROLAND).  Get an insider’s view into the variety of opinions for reviewing new work.  Sunday, Nov. 4, Capital Rep, 111 N. Pearl St. 1-2:30PM. Complimentary continental brunch follows included with ticket.  Ticket for Critics Circle is $15 and includes entry to all Sunday activities including the reading of the musical, THE PIPER Sunday at 4PM -- or get a NEXT ACT 3-day pass for $30 - $20 for students.  Equity actors free with valid AEA member card. Call TICKETS BY PROCTORS 445-SHOW or visit

Sunday, Nov. 4 - 4PM - NEXT ACT NEW PLAY SUMMIT - THE PIPER, music and lyrics by Nashville Grammy-Award winning composer, Marcus Hummon, book by Michael Aman and Marcus Hummon. Featuring local actress – Brianna Fragomeni, a 15-year old who is already a Broadway veteran, having starred in the musical, BILLY ELLIOTT, Brianna will play Wilder, the piper of the title, in this mythical tale set in turn of the century Boston.  THE PIPER will spring to life with a stellar cast of Broadway veterans: Jessica Burrows, Heath Calvert, Emily Mikesell, Brian Sutherland, Shelley Thomas and Oliver Wadsworth, along with local musical theatre favorites, including Jason Jacoby, David Sutton, Erin Waterhouse and Chelsea Wengler.  The reading with be directed by Michael Bush, who directed last season’s hit, THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG. Meet composer, Marcus Hummon who has penned hits such as “COWBOY TAKE ME AWAY” and “READY TO RUN.” for the Dixie Chicks and won a Grammy for “BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD” by Rascal Flats.  A not to be missed event!  Sunday, Nov. 4, 4PM-6PM at Capital Rep, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany.  Complimentary continental brunch 2:30-3:30PM included with ticket. Ticket for THE PIPER is $15 and includes entry to Critics Circle at 1PM-2:30 -- or purchase 3-day NEXT ACT pass for $30 - Students $20. Equity actors with valid membership card attend free.  Call TICKETS BY PROCTORS 445-SHOW or visit

More: Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill,