New Jersey Stage

Monday, April 25, 2011


(TRENTON, NJ) -- Passage Theatre, Trenton's only professional theater company, is pleased to announce the New Jersey premiere of Mat Smart's two-person drama Samuel J. and K., a play which traces the complex bond between two brothers as they travel to the homeland of the younger.  Directed by Jade King Carroll, performances begin May 5 and continue through May 22 at the Mill Hill Playhouse, which is located 205 E. Front Street in Trenton's Historic Mill Hill district. (Press opening: May 7).  Paul Notice and J. Mal McCree co-star.

Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $20 on Thursday nights, $30 on Saturday nights, and $25 for other performances. Student tickets are $10 and Seniors (65+) receive a 10% discount on full price tickets. For reservations and group discounts call (609) 392-0766; visit online at; or in person at the Passage Theatre Office at 219 East Hanover Street in Trenton. Tickets are also available at the door one hour before each performance at the Mill Hill Playhouse.

A simple game of pickup basketball has higher stakes than two brothers could ever imagine. When J surprises his adopted brother with a trip to K's birthplace of Cameroon, they find their game, their lives, and their brotherly bonds challenged as never before. This lively, energetic play tests certain assumptions about family and home, and allegiance to one's native soil.

Playwright Mat Smart is the author of twelve full-length plays, the book & lyrics of one musical, and numerous one-acts.  This past summer, Williamstown Theatre Festival produced the world premiere of Samuel J. and K. It then went on the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.  Mat is a co-founder of Slant Theatre Project in New York City, serves on the Board of Directors for The New Harmony Project, and is an alumnus of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab and Ars Nova's Play Group. He has been commissioned to write new plays by South Coast Rep and Huntington Theatre Company.  A graduate of the University of Evansville, he holds an M.F.A. in Playwriting from University of California – San Diego. An avid Chicago Cubs fan, he has seen baseball games at twenty-seven of the current MLB stadiums.

"I knew I wanted to produce this play when I read it over a year ago," said Passage Theatre's Artistic Director June Ballinger. "While the two previous productions have told the story with one brother white and the other black, we have chosen to tell the story between an African American and an African born brother. This is not a story about Race. It is a story of origins, love, family and it explores the notion of knowing one's cultural history in order to fully understand and take pride in oneself.  But most of all our audience will like it because it's funny, smart, and speaks to all ages. And there is lots of great basketball!"

Paul Notice is currently finishing his MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU.  His favorite theatre credits include Insidious with The People's Theatre Lab, Brotherhood at Playwrights Horizons and the 2010 GLAAD Award-Winning play She Like Girls. Each year, Paul heads back to Georgetown University with his fraternity brothers to face off on the basketball court. 

J. Mal McCree's recent theater credits include Marcus or the Secret of Sweet  (Studio Theatre, D.C.); The Etymology of Bird (Summerstage, NY);  Zooman and the Sign (Signature Theatre, NY); Three films being released in 2011: The Art of Love; We Need to Talk About Kevin; and Recreator. Mr. McCree is a graduate of Rutgers University BFA Theatre Arts Conservatory and he is a member of the Negro Ensemble Company. Although gold is his favorite game, J. Mal regularly works out with his brother, Jaleel, helping him train for his high school varsity basketball team.

Jade King Carroll's directing credits include Sex on Sunday by Chisa Hutchinson (The BE Company); A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry with the fourth year drama students at Juilliard; The Etymology of Bird by Zakiyyah Alexander (CityParks Summer Stages); Cherry Smoke  by James McManus (Theatre Row); The Persians, Splittin' the Raft (People's Light & Theatre); After Adam (Playpenn); Contents of a Book, Life as a Balloon (McCarter Youth Ink Festival); The Summer House, White Baby (Passage Theatre); Like Father (Producer's Club); White Trash by Catherine Filloux (Players Theatre). She has directed workshops & readings for McCarter Theatre, New Dramatists, Second Stage Theatre, Primary Stages, Playwright's Realm, Time Warner New Play Festival, BE Company, 24 Hour Plays, Players Theatre, Chocolate Theatre and New Jersey Rep. Jade is currently the Artistic Associate at Second Stage Theatre where Carole Rothman is mentoring her in artistic direction as a TCG New Generations Future Leader.  In 2010 Jade was presented with the Paul Green Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Professional from the National Theatre Conference and the August Wilson Estate.

Passage Theatre performs in the historic Mill Hill Playhouse, an intimate 100-seat theater in the heart of downtown Trenton adjacent to the beautiful Mill Hill district.  Security-guarded on-street parking is available along the street by the park in front of the theater.

For 24 years Passage has been the professional Actors Equity Theater with a mission to develop and produce boundary-pushing and stylistically adventurous new works for the theatre that entertain and challenge a diverse audience.  It is housed in the 100 seat Mill Hill Playhouse in the historic district of downtown Trenton. We draw audiences from throughout New Jersey and the Philadelphia region.

Passage's mainstage season is made possible in part by the NJ State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the NEA; the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; The Times of Trenton; Trenton Marriott at Lafayette Yard; the City of Trenton Dept. of Recreation and Cultural Affairs; WIMG 1300; the Curtis McGraw Foundation, The James Kerney Foundation; PNC Bank; The Bunbury Company; The Garfield Foundation; Princeton Area Community Foundation; Bloomberg.