A Kentucky playwright will finally get to see her play take the stage at the Market House Theater production premiere of “Riot: Ashbury Park” this week.
“Riot: Asbury Park”, the story of how a group of black and white individuals held a meeting and came together as race riots unfolded in the town of Asbury Park, New Jersey , in the early 1970s. The play is based on real riots and meetings between groups of different races in the city.
Thursday’s performance is the play’s world premiere as it has never been produced on stage by any other theater company.
Director Michael Cochran said the Market House Theater chose to produce the screenplay after playwright Amanda Haan entered the Market House Theater New Play Competition, where writers from Kentucky and writers from neighboring states can. enter scripts that have never been produced.
Cochran said the play’s plot involving race riots and people coming together to resolve race issues is particularly relevant in today’s political climate.
“It’s a game about two opposing sides coming together and coming out of this showdown with solutions,” Cochran said.
Haan said she came up with the idea for the piece in a 1971 issue of Look Magazine. She said her mother frequently shopped in antique stores and liked to find old magazines published around the time of Haan’s birth, and found a copy of Look Magazine from 1971. One of the hallmarks of the magazine was “A Cop Named Joe,” which examined what happened in those meetings and discussions between a group of black residents and a group of white residents from the perspective of a white policeman who attended the meeting.
Haan, 52, has not always been a screenwriter. With a background in psychology, Haan also worked as a producer and casting director in New York City. Writing is a constant in her life: she has been writing poetry since she was a teenager, publishing children’s books, and even tried writing a script for a children’s film.
“It’s just something I always wanted to do, so I did it,” Haan said.
She was heavily involved in the research and writing for this play, spending over six months in New Jersey in 2008 speaking with people who were in the riots. She became good friends with the two remaining participants of the original showdown who are still alive today.
“I kind of took a huge risk. I am not a journalist, I have no agent, I am not part of the writers’ guild. I just wanted to work on it and people trusted me, ”Haan said.
The play, said Haan, is a play that focuses on the human experience and the story of the people who facilitated the reunion.
Cochran said the play also contributes to the Market House Theatre’s multi-year initiative to produce plays that allow for diverse distribution. “Riot: Asbury Park” features a cast of eight local actors, half of whom are white and half are black.
“Riot: Asbury Park” performs at the Market House Theater November 11-14 and November 18-21. On November 12, Haan and Holly VanLeuven, one of the original hosts of the Black-White Resident Showdown, will attend Friday night’s performance, and Haan will be available for a post-performance chat room.