The New Jersey Theatre Alliance has offered a spring festival of live performances, workshops, and readings throughout the state for 24 years.

However, this year’s festival will be held primarily online, due to the ongoing pandemic.

And while state theater lovers are waiting for the physical doors to open, this year’s festival featuring more than 60 events created by the Alliance’s 40 member theaters provides an opportunity to sample the state-produced theater in the comfort of one’s home.

And since most events are free or deeply discounted, it’s a bargain — but just note that registration is required.

Here are some of the highlights of the 2021 Stages Festival:

Theatre for Kids and Teens

Pushcart Players, a New Jersey professional touring children’s theater based in Verona, has teamed up with community partners to offer online events including “Tales from Around The World,” a storytelling event on Saturday, March 13, and Tuesday, April 6.

Vanguard Theater in Montclair will offer a streamed presentation of “Songs for a New World” featuring a cast of professionals and young performers, filmed in various locations, in April (date TBD).

Progressive Theater in Maplewood will offer a virtual production of “Musetta’s Stories and Melodies from Around the World.” This “snug-able listening and visual experience” combines classical vocalist Dr. Lori Brown Mirabal’s enjoyment of teaching music to children with her imaginative stories and lovingly sung performances of original and global songs (TBD).

Chisa Hutchinson is the playwright behind ‘Surely Goodness and Mercy,’ presented by Passage Theater from March 16 to 18.

Passage Theatre in Trenton will offer an online presentation of the middle-grade play “Surely Goodness and Mercy,” which follows an odd but bright little boy who befriends the lunch lady at his school, leading them to learn about the strength hiding within themselves and what it means to truly care for another. The company has created a free study guide to go with the play. The performance can be viewed Tuesday through Thursday, March 16 to 18.

Paper Mill Playhouse’s annual Rising Star Awards, a celebration of excellence in high school musical theatre, will close out the Stages Festival on June 7.

New Musicals

Hudson Theatre Works in Weehawken will present a digital production of a new musical comedy, “Elliot & Me,” based on the lives of songwriter Elliot Willensky and his younger brother Steven, April 1 through 4.

Skyline Theatre Company in Fair Lawn presents a world premiere reading of an original musical, “Saving Spencer,” about a young man’s memories on a quest to save his creativity.

Luna Stage in West Orange will present “We the People: Songs of Civics,” an online project composed of original songs, accompanying Schoolhouse Rock-esque music videos, and a built-in educational curriculum.

Atlantic City Theatre Company will pair theater professionals with Stockton University students in Pomona and Hammonton to create “Project Bifrost,” an evening of singing, dancing, and acting to raise awareness and funds for social causes on Saturday, May 29.

New Plays

Epic Actors Workshop in Old Bridge will produce two new play readings highlighting South Asian-American artists. “Our Voices,” presented on Saturday, March 27, focuses on youth caught between cultures and their parents, attempting to define their own place and space in a multiracial, multicultural society as immigrants. “The Waiting Room,” presented on Saturday, May 22, explores the idea of waiting rooms as temporary spaces, both internal and external.

Premiere Stages in Union will present a reading of “Year One,” a finalist for their annual playwriting prize, on Sunday, March 21.

Paterson Performing Arts Development Council will offer a reading and discussion of “For Colored Boyz On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown/When Freedom Ain’t Enuf,” a choreopoem inspired by the work of internationally known Trenton-born writer Ntozake Shange, on Monday, May 31.

Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre in Summit will offer weekly “Meet the Artist” readings and discussions with playwrights on Wednesdays between May 5 and 26.

Jersey City Theatre Center will host weekly readings of new plays by emerging writers on Thursdays between May 6 and May 27, all with a theme of Healing.

Art House Productions will showcase work from its INKUBATOR cohort of emerging playwrights on Saturday, May 1.

Crossroads Theatre Company, New Brunswick, continuing its mission to support the work of new and emerging Black and Brown voices, will present the Genesis Play Festival, from April 14 through 17, in partnership with the New York City-based new urban arts development company Hi-Arts.

New Media

Luna Stage, West Orange, will offer a “play via text message” delivered directly to audience members’ phones. “#Rift: A Play Over text Message” explores the ideological divide in America through a story of two brothers.

Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken will debut the premiere of its first Podcast play — “The Playbill Gallery (a love story)” — written and performed by playwright-in-residence Joseph Gallo and featuring a sound score by resident designer Michael Blaskewicz. Currently available for listening, the bittersweet homage to a lifetime of theater-going taps into the current longing that every theater-goer and every theater-maker is experiencing.

Community Discussions and Panels

Elizabeth Youth Theatre Ensemble will present “Walking the Beat: An Emergency Convening,” a screening and community discussion of a theater piece collaboratively created by teenagers and police officers, on Saturday, May 1.

McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton will offer weekly Fireside Chats during the month of May. Keeping social distance, artistic director Sarah Rasmussen invites guests from the McCarter community to join her on the front lawn for discussion about meeting this moment.

Healing Voices: Caregivers’ Stories on Stage

McCarter Theatre Center and Two River Theater in Red Bank will offer performances in the Stages Festival as part of the Alliance’s program “Healing Voices: Caregivers Stories on Stage.” Weaving together stories of both professional and family caregivers as part of an original professional theater performance about the caregiving experience, each theater will create a professional presentation of the selected works, chosen from over 120 submissions. McCarter Theatre Center’s presentation will take place Friday, May 7. Two River Theater’s presentation will take place on a date to be determined.

The Alliance is working to make the above events accessible to people with disabilities and ask that those who require a specific accommodations, including ASL interpretation, open captioning, and audio description to contact Deonté Griffin-Quick at 973-250-6661 ext. 3 or dgiffin-quick@njtheatrealliance.org at least two weeks prior.

The New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s Stages Festival is funded by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Bank of America, and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. Additional supporters include OceanFirst Foundation, the George A. Ohl, Jr Trust, New Jersey Historical Commission, and Fund for the New Jersey Blind.

For a full listing of events, program details, and registration information visit www.njtheatrealliance.org/stages.

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