Announcing Our 2024 Finalists!

The Growing Stage is thrilled to present the four finalists for our New Play-Reading Festival. This is the 12th year that The Growing Stage has presented new works for young audiences in a staged reading setting.

The festival takes place Friday, April 26th at 7:30PM, Saturday, April 27th at 4:00PM and 7:00PM and Sunday, April 28th at 2:00PM. The New Play-Reading Festival is curated by Danny Campos, The Growing Stage’s veteran actor and teaching artist.

Our 2024 Finalists:
BUG & JUNIOR: An Unfairytale – Friday, April 26th at 7:30PM                                                                       Written by Ann Eskridge (Michigan)
Directed by Natalie Kane
Bug and Junior call themselves twin blood brothers even though they don’t look alike. Junior says one day he wants to be an original because anyone named junior is just a copy. And Bug got his name because he would eat bugs on food as a dare to get enough to eat. Bug and Junior are in foster care and they’ve decided to run away in order to find riches so that they won’t be a strain to their financially strapped foster care mother. When they do, they run into three characters: a Hermit, a Witch, and the Witch’s Chimera. Loosely based on Hansel and Gretel, Bug and Junior is about siblings, sibling rivalry and sibling love.

About Ann:
Ann E. Eskridge is a 2021 Kresge Fellow in playwriting, a 2013 Black Metropolitan Research Consortium Fellow and a Fulbright Hays Group Project Abroad participant in Brazil. She has written on subjects like the Underground Railroad, all-black towns in Oklahoma, New Orleans’ free people of color, the Gullah community on the Sea Islands, and Chicago’s black Tin Pan Alley.

HER-CULES – Saturday, April 27th at 4:00PM                                                                                                   Written by Matthew Hanf (California)
Directed by Jeorgi Smith
Jane’s family is struggling. Mom is taking care of the grandpa; dad is caught up in work and her siblings are all battling their own issues. Her grandfather is suffering from dementia and thinks he’s Zeus. Before he has to leave for the home, he tells Jane (the only one who really talks to him anymore) that she is a hero, that she is Hercules and he gives her tasks to accomplish. Plain Jane, never saw herself as anymore than just that. But with the help of her friend, Jessica, they realize that the tasks are each steps in bringing their family back together and realizing that she might be Jane—but she is also HERcules.

About Matthew:
Matt Hanf is a nationally and internationally produced playwright who spends his day teaching English to high school students which is not too hard because most of them already speak it. He lives in the glorious metropolis of Elk Grove, CA, a small suburb of Walmart. His success is due to a supportive and amazing wife; inspiring children and the knowledge that the success of this particular play is due to the artistry and skill of a great director and talented actors. Words are whispers until artists give them voice.

HER BEAUTIFUL SOUND – Saturday, April 28th at 7:00PM                                                                             Written by Cris Eli Blak (New York)
Directed by Brianna Martinez
After her father, an aspiring rapper, passes away, a teenage girl moves with her mother to her grandmother’s house, where she hears the stories of her ancestors and finds healing and a way to deal with her grief through spoken word poetry.

About Cris:
Cris Eli Blak is an emerging proud Black playwright whose work has been performed around the world. He is the inaugural winner of the Black Broadway Men Playwriting Initiative, the 2024 Charles M. Getchell New Play Award, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s inaugural winner of the Muse of Fire BIPOC Playwriting Festival, and the recipient of the Emerging Playwrights Fellowship from The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. He is currently an artist-in-residence with Abingdon Theatre Company and has had his work published by Smith & Kraus, Inc., YOUTHPlays, Applause Books, New World Theatre, Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, and in the Black Theatre Review.

LITTLE THINGS – Sunday, April 28th at 2:00PM                                                                                               Written by Bonnie Gleicher & Brandon Michael Lowden (New York)                                                   Directed by Jessica Stanzek
Little Things is an original musical about a group of misfit fifth-graders who find out recess is getting canceled and fight to get it back! As the students and newcomer Eleanor band together against the power-hungry Principal, they confront their own hopes, fears, and inner strength.

About Bonnie:
Bonnie is a songwriter, orchestrator, and playwright whose music is heard off-Broadway, on TV, and on YouTube. Her theatre career began as a kid performing on Broadway in Jane Eyre and Annie, and has come full circle, writing musicals and pop for audiences of all ages. Her songs have been sung by Taylor Louderman, Liz Callaway, Bonnie Milligan, Lilli and Chuck Cooper and more. In addition to Little Things, she is the creator of the upcoming musical OY BAND, the writer of Gavroche, and the composer/lyricist of off-Broadway’s Addy & Uno. Little Things is dedicated to the newest “Eleanor” in her life – her two-year-old niece Eleanor.

About Brandon:
Brandon Michael Lowden is a bookwriter, composer, and lyricist. Raised in Pittsburgh, he now lives in NYC where he works a second job in public transit technology and spends his free time birding. His degrees in electrical engineering and musical theater writing serve equally well in both careers. Web:; social: @BookMusicLyrics. BML says: “Thanks for checking out my art. I made it for you!”

Be A Part Of The Festival!
The Growing Stage’s New Play-Reading Festival is open to all and it’s “Pay What You Can” for admission. Following each reading, there will be a post-reading talkback with the director and performers. For more information about our festival, visit

Ticketing System

  • Main Stage Performances are normally Saturdays at 4:00PM and Sunday at 2:00PM. Friday performances are on a limited basis at 7:30pm.
  • Studio Series Performances: Thursday/Friday at 7:30PM, Saturday at 4:00PM and Sunday at 2:00PM.
  • PLEASE NOTE: Local Flavor Coupons and Groupons cannot be redeemed online.  You must call the Box Office to reserve and redeem. Box Office is open daily Monday thru Friday from 10:30am to 3:00pm. Please call at least 24 hours prior to redeem.
  • Seating begins 30 minutes prior to each performance. If you select Will Call as your ticket delivery method, your tickets will be available for pick up starting an hour prior to the performance.
  • Seating is general admission except for season ticket holders and groups of 10 or more.
  • Sales are final and no refunds will be given unless the performance is cancelled. If you are unable to attend, please contact the Box Office and we will do our best to accommodate you at a different performance based on availability.
  • Concessions will be available for sale before the performance and during intermission. Outside food and drink is not allowed.
  • Parking is available in the bank parking lot next to the theatre (when the bank is closed), the park lot behind the bank lot, and on the surrounding streets. If needed, overflow parking is available at the Methodist Church down the street.
  • If you have any questions, please contact the Box Office at 973-347-4946 or and we will be happy to assist you.

    Group Sales (10 or more) are available by calling the Box Office at (973) 347-4946.

Please fill out this form to receive more information or call 973-347-4946

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