A Dallas play is going Hollywood. Just three months after Self-Injurious Behavior, the autobiographical play by DFW playwright and actor Jessica Cavanagh, made its Off-Broadway debut in New York City, it's now switching coasts and setting down for a run in North Hollywood.
In April 2019, the play brought its entire Dallas-based cast and crew to Urban Stages in New York City after a successful staging at Theatre Three in summer 2018. Cavanagh, who also stars in the show as Summer, used her own experiences as the mother of a severely autistic boy to pen the play.
It follows Summer after she makes the excruciating decision to admit her 11-year-old son Benjamin to a home for special-needs children, and the emotional getaway she makes with her sisters to a renaissance faire in Portland.
The production caught the eye of Tony-winning stage and screen star Joe Mantegna, who is bringing the show to California along with veteran actor/director/producer Ronnie Marmo. It will run at Marmo's Theatre 68 this September and be coupled with an effort to raise autism awareness through a special partnership with Autism Works Now.
Cavanagh will reprise her lead role, along with Dallas-based youth actor Jude Segrest returning as Benjamin and ensemble member Madison Calhoun rounding out the original Dallas cast. The rest of the ensemble hails from LA, New York, and Portland. Marianne Galloway will again helm the project as director, having helped shaped the work in that capacity since its inception.
Producing powerhouse Bren Rapp, who has shifted her focus from mounting work in Dallas to getting Dallas-based projects on their feet in larger commercial markets, joins New York-based novelist and editor Laura Buchwald as additional producers.
Marmo, Mantegna, and Rapp have proved a formidable team, still riding the wave of the high-profile success of I'm Not A Comedian ... I'm Lenny Bruce. The one-man play written by and starring Marmo, directed by Mantegna, and co-produced by Rapp, has enjoyed more than 200 performances between Los Angeles and New York, and having recently concluded a nine-month Off-Broadway stint is now gearing up for a national tour.
Autism Works Now provides workplace readiness skills that result in meaningful, dignified employment for individuals with autism and related disorders. The California-based nonprofit was a beneficiary of proceeds from the New York showcase, which coincided with Autism Awareness Month and will again receive a percentage of all tickets sold.
But Mantegna, whose adult daughter Mia has autism and has participated in Autism Works Now programming, and Marmo are taking the collaboration even further this time. Participants of Autism Works Now's workplace readiness programs will be employed by the theater on performance days, will receive training regarding various jobs involved in putting on theatrical productions, and will have the opportunity to bring one of their operated businesses, the Glorious Pies pie truck, to performances to sell concessions.
Talkbacks with autism experts, celebrities, and individuals on the spectrum will also be scheduled around performances so audiences can increase their awareness and understanding of those living with autism, especially those now becoming adults and aging out of programs aimed at children.
"It is important to understand that this is a condition that does not go away," says Mantegna. "As much as we put emphasis on the issues that happen with children, what happens to them when they become adults? They are adults a lot more years than they are children and we have to think beyond."
Self-Injurious Behavior runs September 7-28, 2019, with previews August 30-September 1. All performances are at Theatre 68, 5112 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Tickets go on sale July 22 at www.sibonstage.com.