WAM Theatre Announces Casting for Fresh Takes Reading of “Paradise”

LENOX, MA (October 15, 2019) — Artistic Director Kristen van Ginhoven, Associate Artistic Director Talya Kingston, and the WAM team are proud the announce the cast for their Fresh Takes Reading of PARADISE by Laura Maria Censabella, directed by Talya Kingston, at 3pm on Saturday, November 2.


We are delighted to welcome back Jay Sefton, a popular Western Massachusetts actor, last seen by WAM audiences in the Fresh Takes reading of Honor Killing last season.  He will be joined in this two-hander by Layan Elwazi (The Band’s Visit on Broadway, We Live in Cairo at American Repertory Theatre, Yasmina’s Necklace at Premiere Stages) in her WAM debut.  Kingston, who in addition to directing this reading curates the Fresh Takes series explained that: “Layan is thrilled to be returning to the role of Yasmeen, a role that she had rehearsed for the Florida production of Paradise at Gulfshore Playhouse that had to be canceled at the last minute due to Hurricane Irma.”


PARADISE tells the story of Yasmeen Al-Hamadi, a Muslim, Yemeni-American senior at a struggling inner-city Bronx high school. Dr. Guy Royston is her disaffected science teacher, a former Evangelical with a mysterious past. An unlikely research team, together they embark on a neurological study, leading to stormy conflicts over love, faith, and culture. The play, which has been produced all over the country was an Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan-commissioned play and finalist for the 2016 Saroyan/Paul Playwriting Prize for Human Rights.

Playwright Laura Maria Censabella, who will be joining us for the reading, explains that: “It was important to me that the teenage girl drive her own narrative.  I wanted to get inside the experience of being devout and connected to one’s community–the joy in it as well as the pain of trying to reconcile two compelling but competing cultural traditions. I’m interested in how we talk to one another over sometimes great divides.”  More about the process of writing and researching PARADISE can be found here: www.wamtheatre.com/paradise-playwright-laura-maria-censabella-in-conversation-with-director-talya-kingston/


This Fresh Takes reading of PARADISE has been coordinated to correlate with our main-stage production of Dominique Morisseau’s PIPELINE. Each play offers a different lens on cultural bias and stereotyping in high school classrooms.  Patrons can take advantage of a double bill day on November 2 when they can see both performances and have time for dinner in the middle. PIPELINE starts previews October 24 and runs through November 9.


The Fresh Takes Reading of PARADISE takes place on Saturday, November 2 at 3 pm, in Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, 70 Kemble St, Lenox, MA. Tickets are $25 and are available at the Shakespeare & Company Box Office Tuesday-Saturday 11 am -3 pm, by calling 413-637-3353 or online at www.wamtheatre.com/paradise/

For more information on PARADISE, visit: www.wamtheatre.com/paradise/


For more information about WAM’s 10th Anniversary Season visit: https://www.wamtheatre.com/2019-season/


Quick Facts



by Laura Maria Censabella

Directed by Talya Kingston

Saturday, November 2


Presented at Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre

70 Kemble St, Lenox, MA


Featuring Layan Elwazani and Jay Sefton


Tickets $25

Available at the Shakespeare & Company Box Tuesday-Saturday 11 am -3 pm, by calling 413-637-3353 or online at www.wamtheatre.com/paradise/



WAM Theatre: debut.  Playwriting:  Beyond Words (EST/Alfred P. Sloan commission); Paradise (EST/Alfred P. Sloan commission); Carla Cooks The War; Abandoned in Queens; Some Girls; Interviewing Miss Davis; Stones Fall, Birds Fly; Posing. Film/TV:  Paradise (currently, American Oasis Films); Physics (HBO) Training:  Yale, B.A. in Theater Studies and Philosophy.  Awards: Two New York Foundation for the Arts Grants in Playwriting; the NYFA Geri Ashur Prize in Screenwriting for Truly Mary; winner of the $10,000 ADAA William Saroyan Human Rights/Social Justice Playwriting Award for Carla Cooks the War; an IRNE Award for Best New Play for Paradise; two Emmy Awards for Writing in Daytime Television Et cetera:  Laura directs the Playwrights Unit at Ensemble Studio Theatre and is pleased to be part of WAM’s vital mission to help girls and women.



WAM Theatre: Swallow (2018 Fresh Takes), Co-Director for Seeking Justice, Crying Wolf, Fractured Dreams (Teen/Elder Ensembles) WAM Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director.  Directing Elsewhere: Institution (Play by Play Festival), Co-director of The Lonely Soldier Project (immersive testimonial theatre), director for Elemeno pea, The Metal Children, Collapse (Beer and a Play), Of Who We Used to Be (Hampshire College), The Mother of Modern Censorship (UMass). Dramaturgy: Lady Randy (WAM Theatre), Necessary Targets, Write On! Teen Playwrights Series, My Hartford Teen Performance Ensemble Oral History Project (Hartford Stage), Helmet (New York Fringe Festival), Seriously..  What Did You Call Me? written and performed by Onawumi Jean Moss (Ko Festival), Gum, Christmas Carol, Bovver Boys, The Last Five Years, Life is a Dream, Late Style (UMass, Amherst).  Publications: Theater Journal, The Moving Voice, Scene Magazine, European Stages, Howlround and The Valley Advocate. Training: MFA University of Massachusetts, Directing Fellow at Julliard. Et Cetera: Talya is an Instructor in Dramaturgy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the North-East Region representative for LMDA (Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas) and a proud member of the Northampton Playwrights Lab.



Layan Elwazani (Yasmeen Al-Hamadi) WAM Theatre: Debut  Broadway: The Band’s Visit. Regional Theatre: We Live in Cairo (American Repertory Theatre), Yasmina’s Necklace (Premiere Stages), West Side Story (The Carnegie), Mame (Human Race Theatre Company), Gateway to America, Alice in Wonderland, Peter and the Wolf (Pushcart Players). New York Theatre: The Cult Play (Phoenix Theatre), Romeo and Juliet, Richard III (Vixens en Garde). Film/TV: The Code, Boxed In. Training: Wright State University, BFA Acting. On-line: @LayanElwazani www.layanelwazani.com

Jay Sefton (Dr. Guy Royston) WAM Theatre: Honor Killing (2018 Fresh Takes) Elsewhere: Majestic Theater: Outside Mullingar (Anthony Reilly), Million Dollar Quartet (Sam Phillips). Academy of Music Northampton: Sweet, Sweet, Spirit. Silverthorne Theater: Two Rooms.  TV: The Wire, Grey’s Anatomy, Summerland, Providence, The Shield.  Awards: LA WEEKLY Award for best solo performance of The Most Mediocre Story Never Told.


WAM 10th Anniversary Sponsors

WAM’s 2019 sponsors include Adams Community Bank, Annie Selke, Baystate Financial, Berkshire Gas, Berkshire Hand to Shoulder Center, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Berkshire Magazine, Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, Blue Q, Blue Spark Financial, Brabson Library & Educational Foundation, Canyon Ranch, Chez Nous, Custom Business Solutions, Dr, Jay Wise, DDS and Dr. Casey Jones, DMD, The Dylandale Foundation, Frankie’s Ristorante Italiano, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Haven Cafe and Bakery, Health Professional Coaching, Heller & Robbins, Interprint, J.H. Maxymillian, Inc., Lee Bank, Maggie Barry, NEPR, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Only in My Dreams Events, Onyx Specialty Papers, OUTPOST, RB Design Co., Scarlett Sock Foundation, The Rogovoy Report, The Rookwood Inn, Salisbury Bank, T Square Design Studio, Toole Insurance, and a. von schlegell & co.


WAM Theatre is also supported in part by grants from the Alford-Egremont Cultural Council, Cultural Council of Northern Berkshires, Hinsdale-Peru Cultural Council, Lenox Cultural Council, New Marlborough Cultural Council, Otis Cultural Council, Richmond Cultural Council, Sandisfield Cultural Council, Sheffield Cultural Council, Washington Cultural Council, West Stockbridge Cultural Council– local agencies that are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.


PARADISE is sponsored in part by Jadzia and Donald Brown, LADY RANDY was sponsored in part by an anonymous donor and PIPELINE is sponsored in part by Carolyn Butler.




WAM Theatre is a professional theatre company based in Berkshire County, MA, that operates at the intersection of arts and activism. WAM creates theatre for gender equity and has a vision of theatre as philanthropy.


In fulfillment of its philanthropic mission, WAM donates a portion of the proceeds from their Mainstage productions to carefully selected beneficiaries. Since WAM’s founding in 2010, they have donated more than $65,700 to 17 local and global organizations taking action for gender equity in areas such as girls education, teen pregnancy prevention, sexual trafficking awareness, midwife training, and more.


In addition to Mainstage productions and special events, WAM’s activities include innovative community engagement programs and the Fresh Takes Play Reading Series. To date, WAM has provided paid work to more than 400 theatre artists, the majority of whom are female-identifying.


As a civic organization that embraces intersectional feminism (feminism that acknowledges how multiple forms of discrimination overlap), WAM understands that to address one piece of systemic discrimination means we have to address them all. This is on-going personal and professional work at WAM for the staff and board.


WAM Theatre has been widely recognized for having a positive impact on cultural and community development in the region. WAM is the recipient of the Creative Economy Standout Berkshire Trendsetter Award and previously, was named Outstanding Philanthropy Corporation of the Year by the Western MA Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Kristen van Ginhoven, WAM’s Producing Artistic Director, was honored by the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association (BTCA) with the prestigious Larry Murray Award, presented at the discretion of the BTCA Board to a person or theatre project that advances social, political, or community issues in Berkshire County.

For more information, visit www.WAMTheatre.com

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