ART BEAT: Lionheart opens 2014 with classic, original works

Lionheart Theatre’s 2014 will be packed with new and old favorite plays plus several works written by new playwrights. First up in the New Year will be a staged reading of a new play, “Hoboken Man,” written by Lionheart’s own Sean Casey.

This reading will be held 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25. There is no admission but a hat will be passed around for contributions. “Hoboken Man” is a coming-of-age play about a boy growing up during the Great Depression in Hoboken, N.J. The story is loosely based on the life John P. Casey (1929-2009), the playwright’s father.

Set along a street of row houses with the New York skyline just across the river, Johnny’s neighborhood is filled with colorful characters, humorous situations and tragic events. The street itself is a character in the play. Johnny must grow into a man as he faces poverty, his shell-shocked father and a bully.

“My father was born in December 1929, and grew up in the depths of the depression on the streets in Hoboken,” Casey said. “He grew up among the poor Irish, Italians and Jews and Slavs. My father and his boyhood friends would get together as adults and talk and drink into the night, howling with laughter as they told story after story about growing up on the Hoboken streets.

“‘Hoboken Man’ captures some of the stories I heard as I sat quietly on the floor listening to the guys spin tales laced with romanticized embellishments and old fashioned blarney.”

Casey’s father passed away three years ago, so writing “Hoboken Man” became a part of the grieving process.

“It’s a love letter to a great father. Because he was an English teacher, he would have loved that I wrote this — after he took a red pen to it,” Casey said.

Lionheart’s season actually begins 7 p.m. today when the company will present a talent show.

“We’re having a talent show for all ages,” Casey said. “The proceeds will go for a bone marrow donor match search fundraiser for young Lionheart actress Danielle Leon, 19. Admission is $5 for audience and performers.”

Looking at the first half of the year, after “Hoboken Man,” February offers “Heart Throbs,” a delightful collection of short pieces by The Flying Cat Productions.

“I Hate Hamlet” runs from March 13-30. “Petrified Forest” runs from May 1-18, and in late May comes “A Different World” by Onion Man Productions. This show will be a collection of short plays by local playwrights that imagine our world in a new way or as another world entirely.

The remainder of the year promises to be as exciting and entertaining. For more information about these productions and Lionheart’s many other activities for the entire family, visit www.lionhearttheatre.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.