Past Events

The Magic Negro & Other Blackness by Mark Kendall

Midtown Direct Rep (MDR) is delighted to present its third reading of its 2017-2018 staged reading series, Theater at The Woodland, with a presentation of THE MAGIC NEGRO AND OTHER BLACKNESS, written and directed by Mark Kendall. This event will be performed for one night onlyon Sunday, January 14th at 7:00pm at The Woodland (60 Woodland Rd. Maplewood, NJ), where MDR is the resident theater company. The reading is $20 (advance purchase), $25 (if purchased at the door) and open to the public. Student/Senior discounts are also available. Tickets can be purchased online through Eventbrite by clicking the link HERE.

Why do we laugh at the things that we do, and why are we sometimes a little wary laughing at others? Well, maybe it’s time to take a closer look. Mark Kendall uses a series of comedic sketches to examine the representation of black males in the media in his critically acclaimed one-man show. By dissecting common themes in representations of the African-American experience, from race cards to white flight, and Aunt Jemima to Black Jesus, Kendall will make you laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh.

And if you have ever pondered the idea that Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham might be racially charged, or whether it is possible to skip and listen to hip-hop at the same time, or for that matter, whether black people actually carry around race cards, then come laugh out loud and hear the Magic Negro lay down some comedic wisdom!

Originally created and produced at Dad’s Garage Theatre in Atlanta.

About the play – a statement from the author

When I first wrote and performed “The Magic Negro and Other Blackity Blackness” back in 2014, I wanted to use comedy to explore how stereotypes can limit how we see black men in every day life. But after performing the material for a couple years, I began to wonder, are people understanding the satire, or am I just giving them an opportunity to laugh at stereotypes? This was something that I struggled with for a bit, and after a few revisions, I tried to address that inner-questioning more in the work. I wanted to point out that stereotypes are ridiculous, but why do they stick in the first place? And for me, when I see an audience start to question their own laughter, that’s when the real comedy can start.”



About the playwright – Mark Kendall

Mark Kendall first got into comedy while studying film at Northwestern University. He had a chance to work at Comedy Central through the Chris Rock Summer School Program for up and coming comedy writers of color. During his time at Comedy Central, Kendall got to pitch jokes to the writing staffs of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” Mark performs comedy in Atlanta at Dad’s Garage Theatre Company and Highwire Comedy, and also teaches improv and sketch writing. He is currently touring with his one man show “The Magic Negro and Other Blackity Blackness”, a sketch show that examines the depiction of black men in the media. For his work with the show, Kendall was named “Best Professional Funny Man” by Creative Loafing Atlanta.

Fear by Matt Williams

Cast Announced for Midtown Direct Rep Staged reading of FEAR, a new play by Matt William, directed by Mark Armstrong

Sunday, December 3 at 7:00pm at The Woodland in Maplewood, NJ

Midtown Direct Rep (MDR) is delighted to present its second reading of its 2017-1018 staged reading series, Theater at The Woodland, with a presentation of FEAR, written by Matt Williams and directed by Mark Armstrong. This event will be performed for one night only on Sunday, December 3rd at 7:00pm at The Woodland (60 Woodland Rd. Maplewood, NJ), where MDR is the resident theater company. The reading is $20 (advance purchase), $25 (if purchased at the door) and open to the public. Student/Senior discounts are also available. Tickets can be purchased online through Eventbrite by clicking the link HERE.

The cast will feature MDR members Norbert Leo Butz (Broadway: My Fair LadyCatch Me If You Can, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Big Fish, Wicked, TV: Netflix’s Bloodline, PBS’s Mercy Street), Maury Ginsberg (Off-Broadway: Laugh It Up, Stare It Down. Regional: The Cherry Orchard, Mother Courage. TV: Elementary, Madam Secretary, The Blacklist, and HBO’s Vinyl) and Lucas Calhoun(Broadway/West End: The Elephant Man. Regional: Improv Olympic-West, The Second City Hollywood. TV: Madam Secretary, I love you but I lied, and Billions. Sawyer Nunes rounds out the cast (Broadway: Matilda, Finding Neverland. Regional: Something Wicked This Way Comes, Because of Winn Dixie. TV: Madam Secretary, Power and Instinct. Film: Breatharians, 37, Wonderstruck. Self-produced: 50/50Songs I Wrote in my Room.

About the play

A little girl’s disappearance in the woods near Princeton, NJ prompts a tense confrontation among a neighborhood plumber, professor, and teenage boy. In this gripping psychological thriller, three neighbors discover how far they are willing to go to defend the values – and the secrets – that define them.

About the playwright – Matt Williams

Matt Williams began his career with a collection of one-act plays entitled, Bruce Lee Is Dead and I’m Not Feeling Too Good Either. His one-act play, Jason and The Nun, won the Double Image Festival of Short Plays Award and was subsequently published by Samuel French. His first full-length play, Between Daylight and Boonville, premiered in New York to critical acclaim, and was later performed at the Kennedy Center as part of the American College Theater Festival. His comedy Faithful Wives and Healthy Children was included in the 2017 new play reading series at Penguin Rep. Most recently, Matt developed a psychological drama, Fear, at New Harmony, and will be doing further development at Midtown Direct Rep later this year.

Matt has directed over twenty productions in educational, regional and Off-Broadway theatres, working on everything from Neil Simon to Lanford Wilson. He directed the world premiere of Robby Benson’s musical Open Heart at the Cherry Lane Theatre and, along with Daryl Roth Productions and his partners at Wind Dancer, he co-produced the stage production of Camping with Henry and Tom. He and Wind Dancer co-produced The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin at Playwrights Horizons. Matt has received Emmy and Humanitas nominations and is the recipient of a shared Peabody Award.

Mr. Williams started his television career when he joined The Cosby Show during its premiere season and worked as a writer/producer for three subsequent seasons. He served as co-creator of A Different World, and is best known as the creator and Executive Producer of the hit series Roseanne and the co-creator and Executive Producer of Home Improvement.

In addition to his many credits, Matt serves on the board of The University of Evansville, where he received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (he also holds an MFA from the University of New Orleans), and is a founding board member of The New Harmony Project and the Cherry Lane Theatre. Matt is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University School of the Arts Theatre Program, and lives in New York with his wife, actress Angelina Fiordellisi, who is the owner and Artsitic Director at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Matt and Angelina are the proud parents of Matisse and Frederick.

About the Director – Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong is a Brooklyn-based theater director and the Executive Director for The 24 Hour Plays.Recent directing credits include Christopher Shinn’s, Falling Away, and The Coming World (Williamstown), Lucas Hnath’s Odile’s Ordeal (Williamstown), Dan O’Brien’s From Kandahar to Canada, Max Posner’s Old Folks, and 30 Million, a new musical with music and lyrics by Max Vernon, and book by Jason Kim (Keen Company). Other credits include development and directing work at Naked Angels, Primary Stages, New Dramatists, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Hartford Stage, Lincoln Center Theater, TheatreSquared, Roots & Branches, The New York Neo-Futurists, and many more. Mark is the former Director of New Work for off-Broadway’s Keen Company, where he created the Keen Playwrights Lab for mid-career playwrights and led Keen Teens, producing new plays with high school actors from the five boroughs of New York City. Mark is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab.

About the Stage Manager – Sydney Golden

Previous credits Include: Broadway: American Psycho and Fiddler on the Roof; Off-Broadway: The Band’s Visit and The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois (Atlantic Theatre Company), If Only (Cherry Lane Studio Theater), The Mother of Invention (Abingdon Theatre Company); Showcases: A Wall Apart (NYMF); Touch (59e59); The Phillie Trilogy and The Fierce Urgency of Now (Wild Project); Readings: Gilded Girls (Drama League) Proud member of AEA.

About Theater at The Woodland
Midtown Direct Rep’s Theater at The Woodland is a series of readings of new plays and musicals in development, presented at The Woodland, right in the center of Maplewood Village. The readings include lively post-show discussions with the cast and creative team, fostering a fun and collaborative environment that allows the audience to be a part of the development of vital new works. Many of the works presented by this reading series have gone on to major productions off-Broadway, in regional theaters, and beyond.

Midtown Direct Rep (MDR) is excited to continue its partnership with the Township of Maplewood, presenting its staged readings and other productions as the resident theater company of The Woodland (60 Woodland Rd. in Maplewood, NJ). MDR’s reading series, “Theater at The Woodland,” takes place in the Parlor, and larger productions, such as the well-known annual event Listen To Your Mother, are held in the Great Hall.