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“Self-Injurious Behavior”

September 6 – 28 at Theatre 68.

Executive Producers Ronnie Marmo and Joe Mantegna Bring the World Premiere Play “Self-Injurious Behavior” to Los Angeles to Support Autism Programs.

After a successful and critically acclaimed workshop run in the summer of 2018 in Dallas, emerging playwright, Jessica Cavanagh took her autobiographical play about motherhood under the most extreme circumstances, “Self-Injurious Behavior,”  to New York for a 12-performance AEA showcase run at Urban Stages in April of 2019. Catching the attention of actor, director and producer Ronnie Marmo and Tony winning star of stage and screen, Joe Mantegna.

The two are bringing the world premiere full production of “Self-Injurious Behavior”  to North Hollywood’s Theatre 68 on September 6, 2019. The show’s run will be coupled with an effort to raise autism awareness and to reach out to the community of families living with loved ones on the spectrum, and those with autism themselves, through a special partnership with Autism Works Now and The Ed Asner Family Center. 

“Self-Injurious Behavior” - photo by Jeffrey Schmidt via www.nohoartsdistrict.com
“Self-Injurious Behavior” – photo by Jeffrey Schmidt.

“Self-Injurious Behavior” is based on playwright and star, Jessica Cavanagh’s own story of loss, love and survival in dealing with her son’s autism diagnosis.

When severely autistic, 11-year-old Benjamin becomes a danger to himself, his divorced mother, Summer, makes the excruciating decision to admit him to a home for special needs kids. Seeking comfort, she visits her sisters in Portland who desperately and hilariously attempt to distract her with a weekend of escapism at the local renaissance faire. Plagued by haunting dreams of her son and memories of her marriage, she is forced to face the need to let go. Resonating across audience demographics thanks to the play’s bittersweet and unique blend of honesty and humor, in telling her story, Jessica Cavanagh has captured a voice that speaks to the power within us all to not only cope with our own “unimaginables” but to continue to live, making this a story not only about autism and motherhood, but about the resilience of the human spirit.

“Self-Injurious Behavior” - photo by Jordon Fracker via www.nohoartsdistrict.com Jordan Fraker
“Self-Injurious Behavior” – photo by Jordon Fracker.

Along with Cavanagh, who will be reprising her lead role, Dallas based youth actor, Jude Segrest will again take the stage as Benjamin and Madison Calhoun will also round out the members of the original Dallas (and NY) cast anchoring the Los Angeles production. The rest of the ensemble hails from L.A., New York and Portland. One of the most sought after directors in Dallas, Marianne Galloway, will again helm the project as director, having helped shaped the work in that capacity since its inception. Producing powerhouse, Bren Rapp, who has shifted her focus from mounting work in Dallas to getting Dallas-based projects on their feet in larger commercial markets continues to forge a path for the work, with the addition of New York based novelist and editor, Laura Buchwald, as a producer. Rounding out the team are co-producers Kristen and Mark Machiedo.

The connection for this team is Dallas-based Bren Rapp, who produced both Lenny Bruce and Self-Injurious Behavior in New York. Rapp and NYC-based Laura Buchwald will produce SIB in LA. The production is in association with Autism Works Now.

Marmo, Mantegna and Rapp have proved a formidable team, still riding the wave of the high profile success of “I’m Not A Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce.” The one-man play written by and starring Ronnie Marmo, directed by Joe Mantegna and co-produced by Bren Rapp has run for over 200 performances between Los Angeles and New York, and having recently concluded a 9 month Off Broadway stint is now gearing up for a national tour.

Joe Mantegna, whose adult daughter Mia has autism and who has participated in Autism Works Now programs explains, “It is important to understand that this is a condition that does not go away. As much as we put emphasis on the issues that happen with children, what happens to them when they become adults? They are adults a lot more years than they are children and we have to think beyond”. Playwright and star Jessica Cavanagh’s own son is now entering adulthood and still in group care, making the issues addressed through the production’s outreach efforts a fitting continuation to her story.

“Self-Injurious Behavior” - via www.nohoartsdistrict.com

THE CAST:

Jessica Cavanagh, Jude Segrest, Jonathan Brooks, Janie Haddad Tompkins, Jullian Cavanagh, Gisla Stringer, Madison Calhoun and Mitch Lerner. Not only a production, the producers, Autism Works Now and Theatre 68 have designed an autism awareness and outreach program with: a percentage of all tickets sold going directly to Autism Works Now, Autism Works Now program participants being employed by Theatre 68 on performance days, Autism Works Now’s business run by their program participants, Glorious Pies, enabled to sell their baked goods at performances, and the scheduling of special talkback events with program participants, families and celebrities after select performances all designed to give audiences a chance to increase their awareness and understanding of those living with autism, especially those now becoming adults and aging out of programs aimed at children. Joe Mantegna, whose adult daughter Mia has autism and who has participated in Autism Works Now programs explains, “It is important to understand that this is a condition that does not go away. As much as we put emphasis on the issues that happen with children, what happens to them when they become adults? They are adults a lot more years than they are children and we have to think beyond”. Autism Works Now provides workplace readiness skills resulting in meaningful, dignified employment for individuals with autism and related disorders. Their sole mission is employment for individuals with autism and related differences, with a goal of having small businesses completely owned, operated by and staffed with individuals on the spectrum within five years.

Jessica is a highly sought after stage actress in Dallas, working at their prominent theaters, with an acclaimed and awarded career in plays such as “Heisenberg,” “Outside Mullingar,” “‘Night, Mother,” “Good People,” “Doubt,” “August: Osage County,” “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Feminine Ending,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and many others. She’s also a regular voice actor and staff writer with Sony/Funimation Entertainment, adapting and voicing Japanese anime for the English-speaking market. This is her first play as a playwright to be mounted. Her, newest work, “The Kindness of Strangers,” had a reading last spring. When “Self-Injurious Behavior” received its workshop production in Dallas in 2018, it continued development in its showcase run just this past April in NY and now the play is here in NoHo.

WHEN:

September 6 – 28
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2PM

TICKETS>>

*A percentage of all tickets sold goes to Autism Works Now and The Ed Asner Family Center.

*mature content, language, situations

WHERE:

THEATRE 68
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601

Self Injurious Behavior L to R Joe Mantegna Ronnie Marmo Ed Asner“Self Injurious Behavior” L to R Joe Mantegna, Ronnie Marmo and Ed Asner.

We asked Theatre 68 artistic director and co executive producer Ronnie Marmo about why they chose this play.

Why is this show important to do?

Of course, anything that increases the public’s understanding what families go through when facing an autism diagnosis is hugely important because it has become so prevalent. The more I have talked about the show, what I’ve found is everyone has someone they know or a family member affected by it. But the other really important aspect of the play is that it speaks to qualities in us all that help us survive through our own unimaginable situations, making it universal.

What is your partnership with Autism Works Now?

When the show had its 12-performance showcase in NY 100% of tickets sales went to two organizations. Autism Works Now was one of them. It was a organization recommended by Joe Mantegna who has a 30-year-old daughter with autism. Now that we are bringing the show to L.A. we can do even more. Working with producer, Bren Rappand Joanne Lara at Autism Works Now, we have designed an opportunity to not only raise awareness and financial support but Theatre 68 and the production are actually interacting with the autistic community by employing the organization’s program participants on the spectrum, which is so incredibly important, as well as involving them in talkbacks and other opportunities.

What are some unknown facts about autism?

What we have really zeroed in on, because of Joe Mantegna, is what happens to those with autism when they age out of programs and assistance available for children. So much energy and support goes towards children and research but there is an entire population of autistic adults, epidemic numbers, really, and they still need services and dignified employment. They have their whole lives still in front of them.

“It is important to understand that this is a condition that does not go away. As much as we put emphasis on the issues that happen with children, what happens to them when they become adults? They are adults a lot more years than they are children and we have to think beyond”-Joe Mantegna

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lisa BIANCONI

Author: lisa BIANCONI

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