New Jersey Stage

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rock Wilk returns to the Crane House with a taste of 'Privilege'

(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- "Sketches from life," is how a young aspiring author named Stephen Crane described some of his first attempts at short fiction — a body of work that included his very first story, written when he was a teenager living at his mother's cottage on Fourth Avenue in Asbury Park.

Nearly 130 years later, the former home of the celebrated American novelist, poet and journalist best known for "The Red Badge of Courage" will be the setting for "Sketches From Life" — a new series of theater and spoken word events, spotlighting poetry, prose and performance that speaks to this still-young century — even as it illuminates the long and dynamic history of The Stephen Crane House.

Presented in the house's Lecture Room, the series is being programmed by Tom Chesek, theater reviewer and arts correspondent for the Asbury Park Press and Gannett Newspapers since 2002, and a writer whose articles on New Jersey culture and history have appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and websites. For the inaugural event, the Crane House welcomes an encore appearance by an artist whose drive and vision has taken him from that intimate 30-seat space, to venues around the world.

It was on a summer evening in 2008, when the performance poet, playwright, singer, songwriter and storyteller Rock Wilk came to the Crane House to deliver the very first performance of "Ma'Plej" — an autobiographical piece that mixed multimedia and monologue with music from the veteran musician's CD "Broke Wide Open." Centered around Wilk's search for his birth mother — and his own place in a world that's as confusing as it is captivating — the solo show would gradually morph, mutate and evolve into the 2012 Off Broadway production "Broke Wide Open," an intense and exhilarating work that toured coast to coast, garnering rave reviews from national media like NPR and the Huffington Post.

On Tuesday, August 27 at 7:30 p.m., Rock Wilk returns to The Stephen Crane House — and to Asbury Park, "that magical town that I got to spend almost three years in" — with an all-new play entitled "Privilege." It's a "very provocative" script, described by the artist as "a beautifully tragic love story that exists around four main characters (Bed-Stuy residents Saint, Esther, Jamaal and Queen) and explores how life treats each, and how race and gender plays into each of their existences in the most fundamental ways." The show made its first workshop appearance in New York, and has since received readings in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Chicago.

"There are no songs in 'Privilege,' and very little poetry, but I hope it reads like a symphony, like a beautifully tragic opera," notes the playwright who, despite having performed to thousands of fans and supporters throughout North America and Europe, is enthusiastic about returning to the Crane House — a place that "will always have this magical significance for me…it was where 'Broke Wide Open' really began to come of age, to morph into what my entire life was supposed to look like as a work of art."

"I am thrilled and honored to be back in Asbury," adds Wilk. "The Stephen Crane House, where I feel a deep connection, is perfect…and is truly a PRIVILEGE for me."

Admission to the August 27 performance of "Privilege" is $10, and the play is recommended for audiences age 16 and older. Light refreshments will be served at the performance, and seating is extremely limited, with attendees encouraged to reserve tickets in advance through Contact The Stephen Crane House on Facebook, or at (732)361-0189 for directions or additional information, and check the Facebook page or the official website ( for updates on additional events in the "Sketches From Life" series.

Originally constructed in 1878 under the name of Arbutus Cottage, The Stephen Crane House has been rechristened here in the 21st century in honor of the American novelist, journalist and short story author Stephen Crane (1871-1900), who resided in the Fourth Avenue home at the beginning of his career as a writer. Having been rescued from the brink of demolition, the historic house is in the process of being renovated as a museum dedicated to the life and times of the man who wrote "The Red Badge of Courage" and other literary classics. Frequently in use as a host venue for theater, film, music and spoken word events, as well as a meeting place for arts groups and other nonprofit organizations, The Stephen Crane House is committed to serving the greater Asbury Park community as a resource for the support and celebration of our city's rich cultural life and heritage.