WEST WINDSOR – “Desires of a Criminal,” a Mercer County Community College (MCCC) student performance that will soon move to a national stage, will be presented for three nights only, Dec. 5-7, on MCCC’s West Windsor Campus.
“Desires of a Criminal, a Devised Theatrical Collage,” a thought-provoking original play, will be performed at the college’s Studio Theatre, adjacent to Kelsey Theatre on MCCC’s West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. All shows are at 7:30 p.m.
Entirely researched and crafted by the students from scratch, “Desires of a Criminal” is inspired by French playwright, poet, and novelist Jean Genet, who was a petty criminal in his youth and spent time in jail before being discovered by some well-known writers who lobbied for his release. According to MCCC Theatre, Dance, and Entertainment Technology Coordinator Jody Gazenbeek-Person, the production addresses issues regarding mass incarceration, and presents the message in a non-linear progression.
“What the audience is going to see is a collage,” Gazenbeek-Person said. “There is not going to be a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s more of an experience than it is following a story.”
Gazenbeek-Person notes that the topic of mass incarceration has come more to the forefront in recent years, particularly among young adults. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 25 percent of the world’s prison population is in the United States – even though the nation accounts for only 5 percent of the world population as a whole. The nation’s prison population has grown more than 700 percent since 1970.
It’s numbers like these that make young people take notice, according to Gazenbeek-Person.
“We do not have just one point of view of mass incarceration; we have many views going,” Gazenbeek-Person said, noting that “Desires of a Criminal” is designed as an audience participation show. “We ask a lot of questions that we hope the audience can answer themselves.
“I guarantee it will be an emotionally full performance. I think there is a lot going on in this show, as is the nature of a collage”
While students are excited about the prospect of performing in front of a live audience at MCCC’s Studio Theatre, Gazenbeek-Person said the best may be yet to come: “Desires of a Criminal” has been entered into the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, April 6-10, in Washington, D.C. The Festival is a national theater program involving more than 700 academic institutions and 20,000 students nationwide.
Gazenbeek-Person notes that this is a rare opportunity for a community college performer, that is, present thought-provoking, original work to a national audience, communicating a message in need of discussion, and all the while, maintaining the traditional purpose of a stage production.
“We are doing this show because this generation wants to have a dialogue on mass incarceration,” Gazenbeek-Person said. “They understand this topic is extremely important, but they realize their job is to entertain, as well as to educate. The purpose is to ask questions and we hope the answers will be found. It’s the audience’s job to devise the answers, and perhaps act on them.”
Members of the ensemble cast, playing multiple roles, are: Spencer Beckett, Ereaunna La Cava, Caitlyn Rodriquez, and Scott Silagy of Ewing, N.J.; Samarr Fletcher of Trenton; Eva Hargis, Haley Edyn Schweitzer, and Ryan Manning of Hamilton; Hope Higginbotham of Windsor; Anna Given of Robbinsville; Ony Ibe of Princeton; Samuel Marquez of Lawrenceville; Cullen McKenna of Jamesburg; and Chelsi Yacone of Plainsboro.
Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for seniors and students. They may be purchased online at kelseytheatre.org or by calling the Kelsey Box Office at (609) 570-3333. Kelsey Theatre is wheelchair accessible. Free parking is available next to the theater. For more information or to receive a printed copy of the brochure, call the box office or visit the theatre website.