Tuesday, May 13, 2014



The Black Box of Asbury Park and The Collective Art Tank
present a reading of

a new play by Alexis Kozak

WHEN: Sunday, May 18th, 2:00 PM
WHERE: Arttank, 529 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ 07712
ADMISSION: $7 Suggested Donation

When the son of a local deputy tries to protect his older sister from a bully, how far can he go to protect himself and his family if the threat of danger is not imminent?

“When I was a kid, I was in the park with my father, who was off playing tennis.  Suddenly, this boy—older than me—pinned me down, sat his knees on my arms, and spit in my face,” says playwright Kozak.  “There was nothing I could do.  I can remember it clear as day.  It’s still a fresh wound, thirty years later.” 

The play examines whether the solution to bullying is to do nothing and hope it goes away or to react.  “One of the challenges of the play,” says Kozak, “is that it is about children dealing with abuse, which is not a comfortable thing for audiences to watch. 

In this reading, we are having the children played by actors in their late-teens or early-twenties, which will give a little bit of distance to the action and hopefully allow an audience to think more clearly about the situation, instead of just reacting from a place of disgust.” 

The cast includes college theatre students Mel Ridgway (currently at NYU) and PJ Benson (currently at Montclair State University), both of whom were in Black Box’s 2013 hit 0 Days Since Last Miracle.  “I’ve done one previous reading of this play,” says Benson, “years ago.  The play has gotten a lot fuller, deeper, and darker since then.”  Ridgway adds, “It’s a little unsettling to see children dealing with these issues so directly.  I think having the kids played by older actors—almost like their older selves—gives it a cool theatricality.”   

Kozak, who received an MFA in Playwriting from Boston University, says the project began as a class assignment.  “We were asked to write an opening scene for a play that would make an audience lean forward.”  He says he randomly picked a book from his bookshelf, opened to a page, grabbed the first line he saw, and wrote it down.  “This is actually a process I had used before, starting with a random first line.  In this case, it was, ‘Eat something.’” 

While this may not seem like much, Kozak grew those two words into a hundred and twenty pages of script.  “I’ve been in love with these characters since that first moment.  And I’ve loved helping them emerge.  Stephen King says the process of writing is like excavating a dinosaur, using a tiny brush and a chisel, one brush stroke at a time.  For me, the first part of the fossil I saw on the ground was those two words.”   

Black Box, which has undergone various changes in leadership in the past two years, has refocused itself on the development of new plays through its New Play Initiative, as well as through using full productions as a means to help local playwrights not only gain more visibility but also refine their plays through seeing and solving practical problems through staging their work.  Kozak runs the New Play Initiative.  “We have monthly writers’ groups, one for writers of all genres, and one specifically for playwrights and screenwriters.  Scaredy Cat and Lady Miss has spent some time being incubated in the playwriting forum, but this is the first time the entire thing is being read in its current form.”