Situated in what The New York Times affectionately calls the town “where Broadway comes home to sleep,” the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) is delighted to announce the inaugural weekend of the SOMA backStage Reading Series, a partnership with local theater company SOMA Stage.  Throughout Saturday, June 3 and Sunday, June 4, SOMA Stage will present readings of new plays and musicals written by or starring South Orange and Maplewood’s (SOMA’s) theater professionals in the Loft at SOPAC.

The SOMA backStage Reading Series emerged from SOPAC’s Creative Community Brain Trust, a collaboration of five local arts leaders bringing innovative programming to the organization.

“In our quest to become the beating civic and cultural heart for South Orange/Maplewood and northern New Jersey, all of us at SOPAC are thrilled to partner with SOMA Stage on this new works development and reading series,” says SOPAC Executive Director Stephen Beaudoin, himself a former professional actor fiercely committed to bringing new artistic works to the stage. “Led by the brilliant Dana Spialter and our friends at SOMA Stage, this series is an important new addition to our regional community and cultural scene. We’re delighted to partner with Dana and SOMA Stage and look forward to supporting important new theatrical works being developed and shared at SOPAC.”

This spring’s SOMA backStage Reading Series will include readings of the new musical REVIVAL by Broadway veterans Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen, and up-and-coming playwright Lia Romeo’s new work STILL.  Audience members can join in on the creative process at talkbacks following the matinee readings and share their thoughts on the new works with the creative teams.

“SOMA Stage is thrilled to be partnering with SOPAC for the launch of this series,” says SOMA Stage Artistic Director Dana Spialter.  “There is something really special about SOMA.  With all of the theater professionals who live in our community as well as the close proximity to New York City…it is the perfect incubator for new theatrical shows.  My goal is that over time, the SOMA backStage Reading Series will become one of the next major players for the development of new works.”

All readings will take place in The Loft at SOPAC, a beautifully intimate space perfect for connecting audiences with creatives and performers.  Just 25 minutes from midtown Manhattan, in the vibrant downtown Village of South Orange, SOPAC is the perfect place to experience the joy and excitement of SOMA backStage Reading Series’ new stories and visions.

All readings in this series are free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of $15.  Don’t miss your chance to get a sneak peek at some brand-new theater works!


By: Chris Miller (music & book) & Nathan Tysen (book & lyrics)
SAT, JUN 3 at 7:30PM
SUN, JUN 4 at 3PM (followed by a talkback)

In a small prairie schoolhouse at the turn of the last century, the leader of a religious sect persuades Elin Hermannson, wildest troublemaker and greatest fiddler on the Nebraska frontier, to renounce sin and destroy her violin. Two years later, visiting Manhattan socialite Margaret Elliott encounters the now taciturn Elin and vows to save her from her ascetic existence and reawaken her passion for music. Margaret’s undertaking proves more dangerous than she thought, as both her and Elin’s lives are forever changed. Based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize winning author Willa Cather. (Directed by Lisa Peterson, with musical direction by Vadim Feichtner.)

By: Lia Romeo
SAT, JUN 3 at 3PM (followed by a talkback)
SUN, JUN 4 at 7:30PM

Thirty years ago, Helen and Mark broke up. Now he’s running for Congress, and she has a secret that could derail his bid. A play about lost love, reproductive rights, political differences, and the ways people change… or don’t. (Directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt.)


Stay tuned for casting announcements for all readings!