Theater can be a family affair. Some famous theater families, like the Barrymores, seemed to pass down the acting bug genetically from generation to generation. Others have to develop it along the way.
For the Robinsons of West Windsor its the younger generation that have developed the thespian urge. “I love acting, and I love both the cast and the play,” says Kristen Robinson, an eighth grade student at Grover Middle School who has the starring role as Jenny in “Jenny and the Jersey Devil.”
The play opens at Kelsey Theater at Mercer Community College on Saturday, January 15, at 2 and 4 p.m. Additional performances for school groups are on Thursday and Friday, January 13 and 14, at 9:45 and 11:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are $8.
Kristen, who has lived in West Windsor all her life, learned some acting technique from her sister, Jackie. “My sister is really the actor in the family,” says Kristen. A 2003 graduate of High School South, Jackie now studies theater at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Their mother and father own a cruise line agency.
Back by popular demand, “Jenny and the Jersey Devil” has become something of a local classic since its original production at Kelsey in 2000. Written by Lou Stalsworth, it is a wild and magical event that tells the story of Jenny a bright though less than diligent student struggling with a history quiz about the Garden State. Suddenly she finds herself receiving the answers from an unexpected source — the infamous Jersey Devil. As a result, she could face a lifetime with bat wings and hooves if she fails a history exam of the Jersey Devil’s own making. She finally meets the mythical monster, face to face — and learns a lot of New Jersey history in process.
Kelsey’s other January production, “The Foreigner,” makes two more West Windsor connections. West Windsor resident Meredith MacLeod appears in the play and John Maurer, the play’s director grew up there. “I lived in West Windsor for 19 years,” says Maurer. “I had been an amateur magician as a boy, and when I was living in West Windsor I started getting involved in theater.” Maurer moved to Ewing in 1996. He works as the head of new media development for the New Jersey Manufacturing Insurance Company.
Winner of an Obie award and Outer Critics Circle Award, Larry Shue’s The Foreigner is a farce with equal parts humor and humanity about a socially phobic Englishman marooned by a friend in a Georgia fishing lodge. He struggles to avoid interaction with other guests by pretending to be a “foreigner” who doesn’t speak or understand English. But as the locals speak freely in front of him, his ploy leads to odd, hilarious, and sometimes dangerous consequences.
Maurer, whose brother Dan is head of Maurer Productions, which is producing the play, became interested in theater in high school and as a college student at Mercer County Community College. “I just enjoy doing live shows,” he says. He and his wife also work as clowns for parties and events and are involved with RR Productions, an interactive theater group that produces murder mysteries. They have three children — Stacy, Hunter, and Amanda. “Our two oldest, Stacy and Hunter, have been helping me paint sets for this production,” says Maurer. “So this show has been a real family affair.”
— Jack Florek
The Foreigner, Kelsey Theater, Fridays and Saturdays, January 7, 8, 14, and 15, at 8 p.m.; and 2 p.m. performances on Saturday and Sundays, January 8, 9, and 16. For tickets and information, call 609-584-9444 or visit www.kelseyatmccc.org. Tickets are $12 for adults; $10 for students, seniors, and children.
Jenny and the Jersey Devil, Saturday, January 15, at 2 and 4 p.m. Additional performances for school groups are on Thursday and Friday, January 13 and 14, at 9:45 and 11:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are $8.