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Ethnicity is key in new QTIP play set in boro

In Elmhurst, touted in the play as the most ethnically diverse neighborhood on the planet, the last Messapian family prepares for its only son Jan’s wedding day.

According to Messapian tradition, 17-year-old Jan Smith, a fan of Metallica and the New York Mets, must marry by the age of 18 or face ritual beheading with an antique scimitar.

Jan, torn between his love for his non-Messapian girlfriend and his responsibility to continue the Messapian race, plans for prom night while hunting the world for a Messapian bride.

“Greater Messapia” was seen last year in QTIP’s packed Studio Theatre as part of the Immigrant Voices Project Playreading Series, sponsored by Emigrant Savings Bank. “Greater Messapia,” written by Andy Bragen and directed by Jonathan Silverstein, is the initial Equity Showcase Production of the Immigrant Voices Project, now in its third season, and led by Rob Urbinati, Queens Theatre in the Park’s director of new play development.

Plays reflecting the diverse demographics of the borough Queens were solicited from all over the world. The cast includes Obie-award winning actor Jan Leslie Harding and Wooster Group veteran Michael Stumm.

Denis Butkus, a recent Juilliard graduate recently seen in Rattlestick Theatre’s “St. Crispin’s Day,” plays Jan, and Christina Apathy, an MFA grad of NYU who has worked extensively regionally, plays his non-Messapian girlfriend Jane.

Andy Bragen, a native New Yorker, is the recent recipient of a New Voices Fellowship, and a Sloan Commission from Ensemble Studio Theatre.

He was a 2001-2002 Dramatists Guild fellow, and a member of the second cycle of Arthur Kopit’s acclaimed Lark Playwrights Workshop.

Bragen studied playwriting with Tina Howe and Irene Fornes.

Silverstein holds an MFA in directing from the University of California at San Diego. He recently completed the prestigious Drama League Director’s Project Fall Production Program, during which he directed Tom Donaghy’s “The Dadshuttle” and assistant directed Paula Vogel’s “The Long Christmas Ride Home” with Mark Brokaw.

In August 2003, Silverstein directed Julia Edwards’ New York fringe festival hit, “The Rats are Getting Bigger.”

For more information on the production, including actor and designer bios, and to read an excerpt from “Greater Messapia,” visit www.andybragen.com/messapiaqueens.htm.

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