AMERICAN THEATER GROUP produces new and classic works primarily by American Playwrights with an emphasis on the development of new works and the rediscovery of undeservedly neglected older ones. ATG engages audiences by making theater’s glorious possibilities accessible to the diverse community in which we live, through remarkable performances as well as quality arts-in-education programming.
American Theater Group’s home is The South Orange Performing Arts Center at One SOPAC Way, South Orange, NJ 07079. Tickets to all American Theater Group events can be purchased at the Box Office located in the SOPAC lobby, or online at www.sopacnow.org, or by calling (973) 313-2787.
James Vagias was the Executive Producer at the American Stage Company in Teaneck, New Jersey for nine years. During his tenure, Vagias produced more than 40 productions, including 12 world premieres, many of which went on to long and healthy afterlives in both New York and regional theaters. While at ASC, Vagias developed the world premiere production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, which became one of the most successful off-Broadway productions of all time, and continues to be produced in more than 400 cities throughout the world. In addition to his tenure at ASC, Vagias has worked with various New York commercial producers, and served as a magic consultant for Broadway productions. He has served on the panel of the ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop with such theater notables as Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell), Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime) and Rupert Holmes (Edwin Drood). Vagias is also the founder of Educational Productions, a company that has produced motivational school assemblies for more than half a million students. A former attorney for Screen Actors Guild and Actor Equity, Vagias is an Adjunct Professor at Montclair University, and lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter.
Rick Sordelet has been recognized as this nation’s leading Fight Director. Creating original fight direction for thousands of shows world wide has enabled Rick to work with the best directors all over the world. With 54 Broadway shows including The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Annie also the National Tours of Beauty and the Beast, and Les Miz . Rick staged the fights for Cyrano the opera (starring Placido Domingo) at the Metropolitan Opera, The Royal Opera House and La Scalla, in Milan. Don Carlo directed by Nicholas Hytner at the MET, and Heart of the Soldier, a new Opera at San Francisco Opera, Hundreds of productions in Regional Theaters across America. Rick was Stunt coordinator for The Game Plan and Dan in Real Life and for Guiding Light for 12 years. Rick starts his 14th year teaching at Yale School of Drama, and has been awarded the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence from the Off-Broadway League’s Lucille Lortel Awards and received a Jeff Award for Best Fight Direction for Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. As a director, Rick did Romeo and Juliet at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Macbeth for the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, Of Mice and Men the opera for Kansas City Opera among others. He wrote Buried Treasure, directed by Joe Mancuso, at George Street Playhouse’s Second Stage. He also penned a major notional picture with his writing partner Dan Studney that is in negotiations. Rick started SORDELET INK, which will give first time playwrights and writers an opportunity to get their work seen by the industry.
Joseph Mancuso has more than twenty-eight years of significant experience as an artist, educator and arts/business administrator including a combined sixteen years as Executive Director for two not-for-profit arts institutions: The Union County Performing Arts Center and The Shoestring Players. He is about to celebrate his twenty-fifth year of teaching at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers and his eleventh year as Theater Arts Coordinator for the Career Training Program at Somerset County Vocational High School. His work was featured in an eight part educational series The Art of Teaching The Arts produced by the Center for Public Broadcasting and the Annenberg Foundation. He has served as producer and/or director for several regional as well as New York productions. Here at UCPAC he produced and directed Fiddler On The Roof where he was nominated for Best Director and Best Musical Revival by the Newark Star Ledger. Also produced at UCPAC: A Chorus Line (Best Musical Revival), Man of La Mancha, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, La Cage aux Folles and Into The Woods. In NYC, his original adaptation of the works of Carl Sandburg entitled Lessons On How To Behave Under Peculiar Circumstances premiered at the 28th Street Playhouse. He also produced eleven shows over six seasons at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland winning the prestigious Fringe First Award in 1992. He currently serves as a Board Member of Rahway Arts District, Inc.
AMERICAN THEATER GROUP HIGHLIGHTS
ARTISTIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS
- Produced Himself and Nora which NY Times said is “…handsomely produced by the American Theater Group…moves through its paces swiftly and confidently…lively, sometimes lust spin through the love life of [James Joyce].
- Himself and Nora opened off-Broadway in June 2016 at the Minetta Lane Theater.
- Produced the world premiere of MARRY HARRY which will be moving to Off-Broadway at the illustrious York Theater Company in May of 2017
- Produced the World Premiere of Bubble Boy by the authors of the hit films Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and The Lorax. The NY Times said “…you’ll probably remember the good time you had when you first heard [the songs.]”
- Bubble Boy had subsequently been licensed for productions around the world, including as far away as Australia! In November of 2016 it received a concert reading at New York’s prestigious 54 Below.
- Produced the Award winning Zero Hour, winner of the Drama Desk Award, LA Ovation Award and D.C.’s Helen Hayes Award.
- ASCAP Foundation has been a strong supporter of ATG’s New American Musical Series which highlights the work of new authors and composers. (Bubble Boy, which was part of ATG’s first year’s reading series received a full production as part of its second season’s offerings.)
- Produced Character Man, which the NY Times called a “…a solidly satisfying evening…walks down memory lane are rarely so inclusive and entertaining.”
- Produced Eight Plays in Eight Days, a new play reading series, which afforded authors the opportunity to hear their new works and participate in post-reading Q&A with the audience.
- Produced Bill Bowers’ one-man show, It Goes Without Saying which Broadway World called “brilliant [it] will captivate you; a moving performance that will make you laugh and touch your heart.”
- Produced the staged reading of VERY VERY a new musical by Jay Liebowitz based on As You Like It.
- Produced the world premiere of the musical Marry Harry a new musical by Jennifer Manocherian, Dan Martin, and Michael Biello.
- Produced the U.S. Regional theater premiere of The Way We Get By written by award winning playwright, director and screenwriter Neil LaBute.
- Produced the U.S. premiere of Crossing Swords a new musical by Joe Slabe.
- Produced New Works/New Voices, in conjunction with Playwrights Theater of New Jersey. Working closely with aspiring playwrights from Rahway High school, ATG provided an established playwright to mentor the students’ works, and then produced an evening’s reading of the plays with professional actors.
- Hosted a state-wide High School DramaFest, with the support of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, a day-long event where students performed excerpts of plays and musicals and received in-depth critiques from Broadway professionals (Tony-Award winning Actress Michele Pawk and playwright, director, screenwriter and fight choreographer Rick Sordelet). The day culminated with students seeing ATG’s Mainstage production followed by a Q&A with the cast and author.
PRODUCING AND ORGANIZATIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
- Received substantial enhancement monies from NYC producers for several of its productions with the intent of moving those shows from ATG to New York.
- Received an impressive Major Gift of more than $150 thousand from an anonymous donor.
- Balanced its first four year’s budgets.
- Co-hosted National Endowment for the Arts’ Chairman Rocco Landesman at ATG’s home theater in Rahway. This was in conjunction with The New Jersey Council of the Arts, with Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno presiding.
OTHER IMPORTANT AND EXCITING FACTS
- Stephen Schwartz, (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin) serves as Artistic Advisor to ATG’s New American Musical Reading Series.
- ATG was founded by three theater veterans with an extensive theatrical pedigree (Jim Vagias, Joe Mancuso and Rick Sordelet.)
- ATG has a Board of Directors who are all highly accomplished in their own respective fields (commerce, accounting, law, the arts, higher education, politics, etc., including Tony-Award winning actress Michele Pawk, and NJ State Assemblyman Jim Kennedy (the former Mayor of Rahway) who was the spearhead behind the building of the Hamilton Stage and Rahway’s ongoing revitalization through the arts.
- ATG has been an integral part of Rahway and the surrounding area’s revitalization