HSU artistic director of university theatre, Dean Nolen, has performed in numerous plays both on Broadway and off Broadway, so it is no surprise to find him directing a comedy in the June Havoc Theatre on West 36th Street in the heart of New York City.
Nolen left for the Big Apple in early May to begin work on the production of Division Avenue, a play about a true life clash of cultures in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NYC. The play is written by Dallas native Miki Bone.
Nolen earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre and music from HSU in 1989 and a Master of Fine Arts in acting from Yale University. In the summer of 2010, the veteran New York and Los Angeles actor returned to Hardin Simmons University as assistant professor of theatre.
Nolen has brought to the HSU stage an unusual mix of Broadway, Nashville, and L.A., with productions like An Evening with Larry Gatlin: Unplugged; the premier of Feast of Snacks, a production coming from his West Coast connections with the Festival of New American Musicals; and the premier of Birds on a Wire, from friend and NYC playwright Shauna Kanter.
At Nolen’s invitation, Kanter was in-residence in Abilene to help develop her play with HSU student actors as Nolen directed. Last summer, those same students took Birds on a Wire to Edinburgh, Scotland, for performances at the International Collegiate Theatre Festival at the Fringe.
This past February, Nolen invited Broadway actress, Karen Mason, his co-star in Broadway’s Mama Mia, to conduct a master class for students studying theatre at HSU, also inviting theatre students from Abilene’s high schools and other universities.
Division Avenue is currently onstage in Manhattan as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival. It focuses on a young Hasidic widower, Efraim, who’s decided he wants to study at a secular university. To complicate matters more, Efraim has become involved with a young woman, Sarah. To Efraim’s ultra-Orthodox father, Sarah is the enemy because — she rides a bicycle.
A second story line of the play is literally ripped from the headlines – a turf war, of sorts, about a rapidly growing young professional community in the middle one of NYC’s long-established Hasidic Jewish areas. The neighborhood’s rapid gentrification has led to cultural conflicts the local media has dubbed “the hipsters vs. the Hasidim.”
See more at: http://artandseek.net/2013/07/18/dallas-playwright-in-nyc-with-a-play-about-brooklyn-jews-and-bicycles/#sthash.d2eHhio1.hva72FpI.dpuf
Nolen’s role as director of Division Avenue has also turned into a theatre experience windfall for recent HSU graduate, Jayci Pruitt, a theatre art major spending her summer working with Nolen on the production.
Pruitt starred in HSU’s Feast of Snacks, A Christmas Carol, The Imaginary Invalid, and directed the October 2012 production of Red at HSU.
Division Avenue runs through early August with Nolen set to return to his theatre classes, which start at HSU August 26, 2013.
Performance Dates: July 17, 28, 29 - Aug 1, 3
Running time: 90 minutes Venue: The June Havoc Theatre – 312 W. 36th St., first floor
About Dean Nolen:
Television audiences might know Nolen for his guest-starring roles on Mercy, Crossing Jordan, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order: SVU.
An accomplished writer, Nolen is editor of The Film Encyclopedia, published annually by HarperCollins. Nolen also produced, with actor Gary Sinise as its narrator, a documentary film on Iowa Honor Flights, which take World War II veterans to Washington, D. C., to visit memorials built in their honor.
A member of the Screen Actors Guild and Actors’ Equity Association, Nolen holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting from Yale University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre and music from Hardin-Simmons University where he serves as artistic director and assistant professor of theatre.