NJT directors are experienced team

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

A diverse team of experienced directors have been recruited to direct the five plays of the 2007-08 Season of The New Jewish Theatre.

“We are excited about our highly-qualified and skilled team of directors for our first season with five separate plays,” said Kathleen Sitzer, artistic director of NJT, who recently met with all five to discuss the coming season.

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The Directors Team for the coming season includes:

Gary Wayne Barker, will direct Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound. “This is Gary’s first directing opportunity with NJT,” Sitzer told the Jewish Light. “Gary is well-known in St. Louis as an actor, having won a 2006 Kevin Kline Award as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Boolie in Driving Miss Daisy.” Barker recently portrayed Polonius in the River City production of Hamlet, and was featured in the Ozark Actors Theatre production of Moon Over Buffalo. He is an associate professor of theater at Saint Louis University, where he has directed several productions. Barker’s other directing credits include The Last Night of Ballyhoo, at the Human Race Theatre in Ohio, and work for Emporia Summer Theatre in Kansas and Weathervane Playhouse in New Jersey.

Doug Finlayson, will be the director of Kindertransport. He is the head of the Directing Department for Webster University’s Theatre Conservatory. Previously for New Jewish Theatre, Finlayson directed last season’s Via Dolorosa; Liebensraum and Miklat. He just directed Dogg’s Hamlet, and Cahoot’s Macbeth, for St. Louis Shakespeare, and has directed for the Nebraska Repertory Company, Black Hills Playhouse, Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre, Ozark Actors Theatre, Imaginary Theatre Company, Wisdom Bridges in Chicago and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

Deanna Jent will direct NJT’s production of Cherry Docs, the play about a neo-Nazi skinhead who is defended in a vicious hate crime by a Jewish attorney, recently adapted for the screen in the film Steel Toes. “Deanna is an associate professor of theatre at Fontbonne University and has recently formed her own company, Mustard Seed Theatre,” Sitzer said. “For NJT, she has directed Collected Stories, The Chosen, The Left Hand Singing, Talley’s Folly, Broken Glass and last season’s Women’s Minyan, by Naomi Ragen.” Jent is an active director in St. Louis, having directed for The Orange Girls, HotCity, St. Louis Shakespeare, Act, Inc. and Stray Dog Theatre, among others. Jent was nominated for a Kevin Kline Award for best director for The Orange Girls production of Going to See the Elephant.

Bill Whitaker will direct Bluish. “Bill is a first timer to NJT’s Mainstage,” Sitzer said. “Bill directed a staged reading last year of Love in a Thirsty Land as part of the Festival of New and Israeli Plays.” Whitaker is a professor of directing at Washington University in St. Louis. Elsewhere in St. Louis, he has directed for City Players, The Homecoming and The Underpants, among others. He is also a member of the Actors Equity Association.

Edward Coffield will direct NJT’s production of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife. “Edward has done some excellent work for NJT,” Sitzer said, “including directing Crossing Delancey, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, Falsettos, Driving Miss Daisy, From Door to Door and What’s Wrong With This Picture?” Coffield is the production manager of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and is on the faculty of the Webster Conservatory. “Edward has also directed several productions for Ozark Actors Theatre, and has previously been associated with The La Jolla Playhouse, The National Theatre of the Deaf and the Alley Theatre. We are delighted to have him on board for next season,” Sitzer said.

“We have worked hard to assemble the best available talent to direct, produce and act in our five plays for 2007 and 2008, which we hope will be our best season ever,” Sitzer said. “We have assembled a truly all-star team of directors, and are in the midst of auditions for our actors and actresses who will bring our plays to life on stage. We are very eager to start,” Sitzer said.