See Kearny man’s play in Nutley

Thirty-eight years ago, Steven Jon Kaplan dashed off a one-act play called “Nine O’Clock To Five O’Clock” as a senior writing project at Milford Mill High School in Baltimore.

“A friend had shown me an [Eugene] Ionceso play and I thought I’d like to write something like that,” said Kaplan, “so I did. And after I wrote it, I put it aside.”

So the play — a comedy about corporate life — sat, collecting dust, until January, when Kaplan,  now a registered investment adviser and Kearny resident, became actively involved, along with his wife Karen, in the Cherry Blossom Players of Nutley.

“They were having a one-act play festival of original works and I mentioned to Ricky Franco, who runs the company, that I had written this play,” Kaplan recalled.

But instead of including it on the same bill, Franco recommended that Kaplan write a companion piece so that both could be presented as a stand-alone production.

Which he did.

That new creation, conceived as a sequel to the first play, 20 years later, is called “Hire Me.”

And now, the package will be getting its world premiere, courtesy of Cherry Blossom Players, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 28, 29 and 30, at 8 p.m., at the Phil Hower Chapel at Vincent UMC, 100 Vincent Place, Nutley.

Admission is $14 for the general public; $12 for senior citizens and students. Buy tickets at the door or order them online by sending an email to tickets@cbpllc.org and allow 72 hours for a response.

Among the locals in the 10-member cast are Belleville resident Bill Zielinsky, a man at odds with the technical world; Allison Hogan, also of Belleville, who plays three eclectic archetypes of different corporate employees; and Nutley’s Lisa D’Agati Geerhart, one of the two leads.

Also featured are Christopher Cofone of Clifton, Ricky and Emily Franco of East Rutherford, Kristine Stringer of South Orange, Ryan Miller of South Plainfield and Judy Lettiere of Piscataway.

Kaplan, who is also directing, will play one of his characters, who is musically inclined.

“Nine O’Clock To Five O’Clock” depicts the interactions of two employees of the same company, each at odds with the other with one following the company line and other a rebel, while “Hire Me” is about two job applicants dealing with a rather convoluted and controlling interview process at a high-tech firm.

In notes accompanying the script, the playwright says that both pieces, “… while humorous, are attempting to make statements about how we are giving up far too much of our freedom and autonomy to conform to what society demands from us.”

Kaplan said the work partly reflects his own life experience in having gone on job interviews and being informed, in one such encounter, that, if hired, he would be expected to join other employees for breakfast and other meals as part of the corporate family.

“I could see first-hand how corporations had changed,” he noted, and not always for the better, from the playwright’s point of view.

In “Hire Me,” employees are routinely directed to check in with a corporate app for direction on how to meld their time outside work with corporate activities.

“Corporate apps do exist,” Kaplan says in his script notes, “and … have become increasingly intrusive. It’s just a matter of time, perhaps, before they tell employees whom to visit on the weekend and what to think at other times.

“The events [presented in the play] are only partly a figment of my imagination, and are creeping closer to being part of daily corporate life as I know from my personal experience and from listening to reliable tales from my colleagues ….”

Kaplan has a varied background. He started out studying music at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, getting a degree in performance/composition in 1975, but went on to earn another degree in electrical engineering/computer science in 1982.

Somehow, he also found time to fit in a ton of humanities and a playwriting course.

Ricky Franco, of Cherry Blossom Players, is excited to have Steven and Karen Kaplan in the fold. “The Kaplans started as audience members, then became producers. They helped finance our shows and last year, produced the entire season, he said.

“As the smallest community theater in the state, producing original works used to be our niche and now we’re excited to be getting back to that goal. We wanted to have something avant garde for the spring and now, with Steven’s play, we have that.”

 

 

 

 

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.