Roundabout Underground Reading Series Begins Feb. 25 With Jonathan Caren's The Recommendation

News   Roundabout Underground Reading Series Begins Feb. 25 With Jonathan Caren's The Recommendation
Roundabout Theatre Company's second annual Roundabout Underground Reading Series begins Feb. 25 with Jonathan Caren's The Recommendation, directed by Laura Savia. Tickets to presentations are available to the general public.

Casting for the current slate has been announced. The staged readings are at Roundabout Underground's home at the Black Box Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre at 111 W. 46th Street.

The actors performing in the 2013 series include Penn Badgley, David Wilson Barnes, Noah Bean, Reg E. Cathey, Tracee Chimo , Liza Colon-Zayas, Patch Darragh, Erin Gann, Jordan Gelber, Kelli Giddish, Andre Holland, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Ezra Knight, Austin Lysy, Madeleine Martin, Chris Perfetti, Lorenzo Pisoni, Phillipa Soo, Stephen Stout, Andrea Syglowski, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Nitya Vindyasagar and Allison Williams.

Roundabout Underground Reading Series is a five-title experience that includes a nightly reading of a new play written and directed by an emerging artist, curtain speeches by Roundabout Underground artist alumni and a post-show reception.

The plays also include Rachel Bonds' Swimmers, directed by Portia Krieger; Mat Smart's Tinker to Evers to Chance, directed by Jeremy B. Cohen; Christian Durso's Shiner, directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar; Kate Gersten's Benefit of the Doubt, directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch.

Public tickets can be reserved by emailing Here's the series at a glance:

The Recommendation
Monday, Feb. 25
By Jonathan Caren
Directed by Laura Savia
With Penn Badgley, Andre Holland

"Aaron is smart, privileged and liked by everyone. Iskinder, his college roommate, is modest, unconnected and comes from a middle-class immigrant family. Soon the best of friends, Aaron takes Iskinder under his wing, sharing his world of favors and fortune. But the safe haven of college only lasts so long, and once in the real world, Aaron is thrust into a terrifying situation without his familiar safety net. As the tables turn, and Aaron is confronted with a crisis, both Aaron and Iskinder have to rethink the meaning of friendship and where loyalty has its limits."

Caren's work has been developed by The Manhattan Theater Club, Ensemble Studio Theater, Ars Nova, The Flea, The Rattlestick, The Old Globe, New York Stage and Film and The Lark and others. His play, The Morning the Sun Fell Down will be featured in MTC's 2013 7@7 Reading Series this spring. Catch The Fish won most outstanding play in the NY Fringe. He is a 2011-12 Dramatist Guild Fellow, the 2011 New York Stage and Film Founder’s Award Winner, a member of The T.S Eliot Old Vic/New Voices Network, a recipient of a residency at SPACE @ Ryder Farm, a two-time Lecomte du Nouy award winner and a recipient of the Theater Publicus Prize for Dramatic Fiction. He was a finalist for the 2012 Laurents/Hatcher Award, a nominee for the 2012 Otis Guerney New American Playwright's Award, a finalist for The 2013 Soho Rep Writers/Director Lab and is currently nominated for a Craig Noel Award. He's a graduate of The Juilliard School's Lila Acheson Wallace Playwright's program and Vassar College. 

Savia's directing credits include The Mnemonist of Dutchess County (The Attic), 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Naked Angels), House Strictly Private (1st Irish Festival), The Lover (The Drama League), The Color of Justice (Theatreworks USA) and more. Assistant directing includes Broadway's The Merchant of Venice (directed by Daniel Sullivan). She is director of the Workshop at Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Tuesday, Feb. 26
By Rachel Bonds
Directed by Portia Krieger
With David Wilson Barnes, Tracee Chimo, Liza Colon-Zayas, Patch Darragh, Erin Gann, Jordan Gelber, Ezra Knight, Austin Lysy, Phillipa Soo, Stephen Stout, Nitya Vindyasagar

"It's Monday. It's Vivian's first day back. Tom is hiding in the basement. Bill just got promoted. Michaelson is on the rampage. Farrah's thinking about the end of the world. Everyone's hoping something might change. A play about grasping for the profound within the mundane."

Bonds' plays have been developed or produced by Ars Nova, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New Georges, Williamstown Theater Festival, Playwrights Horizons, McCarter Theatre, The Arden, and MTC (upcoming), among others. She is currently an affiliated artist of New Georges, a member of EST's Youngblood, and a recent winner of the Sam French Short Play Festival. She is an alum of Ars Nova's Play Group and New Georges' The Jam, and was the Father William Ralston Fellow at the 2011 Sewanee Writers' Conference. She is currently working on a commission for Philadelphia's Arden Theatre as recipient of their 2013 Writer's Room residency. Rachel is a graduate of Brown University.

Director Krieger mostly directs new plays. Recent credits include The Netflix Plays and Let Me Collect Myself (Ars Nova), Daniel Talbott's Break Your Face On My Hand and Florencia Lozano's Busted (Rising Phoenix Rep), Samuel D. Hunter's When You're Here (Williamstown) and Kathryn Walat's This Is Not Antigone (New Georges). She has assistant- and associate-directed productions both off and on Broadway, including working with Sam Gold on the world premiere of Tigers Be Still at the Roundabout Underground. She's an alumna of the Drama League Directors Project and the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, Ars Nova's 2013 Director-in-Residence, an ensemble member at Lesser America, and a co-founder of the New Georges Jam.

Tinker to Evers to Chance
Wednesday, Feb. 27
By Mat Smart
Directed by Jeremy B. Cohen
With Reg E. Cathey, Kelli Giddish

"Lauren makes a rare trip home to Chicago to take her ailing mother, Nessa, to the biggest Cubs game of the year — the infamous Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. But Nessa has disappeared, leaving behind her caretaker and the fresh manuscript of a play about Cubs great Johnny Evers. As she searches the script and city for her mother, Lauren is forced to answer the question: when is enough enough?"

Smart is a Core Writer at the Playwrights' Center, where he was a McKnight Advancement Grant and two-time Jerome Fellowship recipient. Samuel J. and K. premiered at Williamstown Theatre Festival starring Justin Long and Owiso Odera (subsequent productions include Steppenwolf and Passage Theatre). Other plays include The Steadfast (upcoming at Slant Theatre Project), The Hopper Collection (Magic Theatre and Huntington Theatre Company), The 13th of Paris (City Theatre, Seattle Public Theatre, Horizon Theatre, Public Theatre of Maine, Warehouse Theatre and LiveWire in Chicago) and The Bebop Heard in Okinawa (O'Neill Playwrights' Conference). He has been commissioned by South Coast Rep and Huntington. He's co-founder of Slant Theatre Project in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn and is a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer's Group at Primary Stages.

Director Cohn is artistic director of The Playwrights' Center and associate artistic director of Hartford Stage, where he directed Snow Falling on Cedars, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mistakes Were Made, The Scene, Mahalia, I Am My Own Wife, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Bad Dates and A Christmas Carol. Other directing credits include The Novelist (Dorset), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Actors Theatre of Louisville, Rep Theatre St Louis, Kansas City Rep), Let There Be Love (Centerstage), Smart Cookie (Alliance), The Scene, Bad Dates and The Trip to Bountiful (Alley Theatre), among many others. He is founding artistic director of Naked Eye Theatre Company in Chicago.

Thursday, Feb. 28
By Christian Durso
Directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar
With Madeleine Martin, Chris Perfetti

"In the spring of 1994, two outcast teens make a pact to die happy. All they need to do is see Nirvana live in concert and then they will jump off the 101 overpass. But a first kiss, a restraining order, and Kurt Cobain's ailing health threaten their plans. A Grunge Rock Fueled Love Story."

Durso is a playwright, screenwriter and classically trained actor. He holds an MFA from the University of San Diego/Old Globe and a BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He is a member of the Los Angeles based IAMA Theatre Company where Shiner was named to the Tracking Board's 2012 Young and Hungry List as one of the top 100 scripts of the year. His plays have been performed in Los Angeles and have enjoyed readings at The Old Globe and EST/LA. He is currently developing a young adult novel into a screenplay with REEL FX. Also an actor, he has worked regionally at The Old Globe, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Great Lakes Theatre (OH), Idaho Shakespeare Festival and Off-Broadway.

Director Iskandar is a 2012 Drama Desk Award nominee for his direction of Sean Graney's These Seven Sicknesses at The Flea, where he also directed Amy Freed's Restoration Comedy (both New York premieres). He is founding artistic director of the groundbreaking New York City theatre collective Exit, Pursued by a Bear (EPbB). He currently serves as the director of creative development for Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) and is a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect, a Drama League Directing Fellow, a two-time Resident Director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, an alumnus of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and the recipient of the Robert M. Golden Medal for distinguished achievement in the creative arts and the Sherifa Omade Edoga Prize for work involving social issues.

Benefit of the Doubt
Friday, March 1
By Kate Gersten
Directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch
With Noah Bean, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Lorenzo Pisoni, Andrea Syglowski, , Allison Williams

"Jane just got dumped and she's hell-bent on figuring out what went wrong, no matter how much dignity it costs her. Jane's best friends try to pick up the pieces, but one's own romantic foibles and the other's unrelenting idealism make them ill-equipped to deal with Jane's teetering sanity. Written by current Juilliard playwriting fellow Kate Gersten, this comedy hopscotches through misadventures in dating and the art of being a best friend."

Gersten is currently a Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellow at The Juilliard School under the mentorship of Marsha Norman and Christopher Durang. Her thesis play, Benefit of the Doubt, was produced this year at The Juilliard School and was directed by Danny Goldstein. Her other plays include Father Figure and Exposed! The Curious Case of Shiloh and Zahara, which was produced as part of the Midtown International Theater Festival in 2009. That production received 12 nominations from the festival for which she won an award for Outstanding Playwriting of a New Script, and was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress. As an actress, she has appeared in numerous film and television projects.

Director Upchurch directed Off-Broadway's Bethany (The Women's Project); Harper Regan (Atlantic Theater) and Bluebird (Atlantic Theater). Her work has been seen at The Culture Project, La Mama, and Lincoln Center Institute among others, and she has developed new work at Primary Stages, New Dramatists, NY Stage & Film, The Kennedy Center, Dixon Place, Playwright's Center, Geva, LCT Director's Lab, and SPACE on Ryder Farm. She worked with Sam Mendes as associate director on The Bridge Project's productions of The Cherry Orchard, The Winter's Tale, Tempest and As You Like It (BAM/Old Vic/International tour). She is an alumna of the Women’s Project Directors Lab and The Drama League.

Roundabout Underground was launched in 2007 "to introduce and cultivate artists in Roundabout's 62-seat Black Box Theatre," according to the not-for-profit RTC, which programs work on Broadway and off. "[It's an] initiative to showcase new plays that will either allow an experienced director to go back to his/her creative roots or give a debut production to an emerging writer or director. Robyn Goodman (artistic consultant to the Roundabout), who has significant artistic development experience, produces."

Prior productions include the acclaimed world premieres of Stephen Karam's Speech & Debate (2007), Steven Levenson's The Language of Trees (2008), Adam Gwon's Ordinary Days (2009), Kim Rosenstock's Tigers Be Still (2010), David West Read's The Dream of the Burning Boy (2011), Andrew Hinderaker's Suicide, Incorporated (2011) and Joshua Harmon's Bad Jews (2012).

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