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Stars join forces with Two River for benefit reading series

by Ilana Keller

Joel Grey, Phillipa Soo, Bebe Neuwirth, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and more are joining forces with Two River Theater to raise funds that will benefit not only the Red Bank theater, but boost social justice and social service causes.

“Two River Rising,” a series of online play readings selected to reflect the past, present and future of the theater’s programming will begin in late July, the theater says.

"Two River Rising" will feature five readings.

Donations made to Two River in support of the series will be matched by a donor to benefit organizations chosen by the playwrights and directors involved. Those organizations include The Actors Fund, The Audre Lorde Project, The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, and The Ruben Santiago-Hudson Fine Arts Learning Center, with one still to be selected.

All artists will be paid for their participation in the series.

“Among the many things theater does for us is to keep us honest about our desire and obligation to show up for each other and stay engaged in the present moment,” said Two River Theater’s artistic director John Dias in a news release.

“Two River’s family of artists are as eager to find ways to ‘show up’ as our audiences are. We’re launching this series — and partnering with other social justice/social service nonprofits — as a way to respond to our present, celebrate our past and hope for our future.”

Joel Grey speaks during "Chicago - The Landmark Institution of Razzle Dazzle" at BroadwayCon 2018, held from Jan. 26 to 28, 2018, at the Javits Center in Manhattan.

One of the readings, “On Borrowed Time” by Paul Osborn, will be directed by Tony, Academy and Grammy Award winner Grey, and feature a bevy of Broadway talent. The play has special meaning to Grey, being the vessel that launched his theatrical career at age 9 at the Cleveland Play House. It’s set to star Blair Brown, Michael Cumpsty, Bill Irwin, Bebe Neuwirth, Phillipa Soo, Steven Skybell and Sam Waterston, while Oakes Fegley will reprise his Two River debut as Pud, the role played by Grey. That reading will benefit The Actors Fund, which serves as a safety net for theater professionals, offering health care, insurance, emergency financial assistance and more.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Other works include “Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine” by Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, which had its world premiere at Two River, and “Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England” by the theater’s playwright-in-residence Madeleine George and helmed by Tony nominated director Leigh Silverman, which also had its world premiere at Two River.