In the Wilderness Opens at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity on May 31st

How It’s New York: In the Wilderness takes place in a high school in the South Bronx, when the neighborhood was rife with crime, crack addiction, and AIDS.   

How It’s Irish: In the Wilderness features Irish and Irish-American characters and has an Irish-American playwright.

John Kearns, NYIA blogger and IAWA regular, fills us in on his new play, opening May 31!  The play he writes, was “inspired by my three years of teaching in the South Bronx in the ’80s.”

Guess we can’t assign him to review it– but we can’t wait to be there!

I have been silent on the New York Irish Arts blog since around Saint Patrick’s Day, because not long after that grand day, I began working on the production of my play, In the Wilderness, which opens at the Bleecker Street Theatre on May 31st.  It has been a very busy couple of months! 

In the Wilderness depicts the struggle of teachers and students at Saint Philomena’s, an all-girls’ high school in the South Bronx in the late 1980s, when the neighborhood was rife with crime, crack addiction, and AIDS.  Dispirited teacher Paul Logan decides that if he can get just one student to be successful, then his efforts will be worthwhile.  Carmen Marquez, a smart, alluring poetess, seems to be the student Paul is hoping for.  In the Wilderness focuses on the relationship between Paul and Carmen with all of its joys, frustrations, victories, setbacks, temptations, and sacrifices.

The play will be part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, New York’s premiere eco-friendly/socially-conscious arts festival.  Every show in the Festivity benefits a charity or social cause.  In the Wilderness will be raising awareness and funds for the The Mercy Center for women in the South Bronx, the poorest zip code in the United States.  

In the Wilderness was inspired by my three years of teaching in the South Bronx in the late ’80s.  After leaving the school and the Bronx, I wrote the original draft of the play (with a pen and typewriter) to try to capture the intense experiences my friends, colleagues, students, and I shared during those days.  Over the years I have returned again and again to this play and, with several other plays and several years of theatre experience under my belt, I was able to rewrite and refine it.  In the Wilderness is now a taut,  bittersweet and, I hope, funny and poignant, drama about people searching for reasons to keep struggling despite difficulty, despair, and all-too-rare  signs of progress. 

I am very fortunate to have an outstanding cast and crew for this production.  Veteran director and actor, Richard Butler, is directing In the Wilderness and his brother, playwright and composer, Mark Butler, is co-producing the show with Boann Books and Media.  Mark Speeney and Lee Collins are our stage manager and technical director, respectively, as well as our jacks-of-all-trades.
We went through an extensive and competitive process to put together the best possible cast out of the hundreds of actors and actresses who responded to our Backstage ad.  And the result is very gratifying.  In the Wilderness features the following talented, hardworking, and fun cast:
Stephen Jangro as Paul Logan
Cristina Torres as Carmen Marquez
Edward Raube-Wilson as Bill Thorpe
Hannah Timmons as Kate Farrell
Nirayl Wilcox* as Tawana
Marilyn Mineo as Minerva
Octavia Chavez-Richmond as Lily
*Appearing courtesy of Actors Equity Association. Equity approved showcase.
In the Wilderness will be performed at the best venue any of my plays have been performed in, Upstairs at the Bleecker Street Theatre, 45 Bleecker Street (@ Lafayette) on:
We have a couple of special events planned during the run:
·        After the Saturday, June 9th show, we will be having lunch with friends of the Irish American Writers and Artists Salon at Swift Hibernian Lounge. 
·        Before the Thursday, June 14th show, we will be having a happy hour with beer, wine, snacks, and art and information about the South Bronx. 
There will be talkbacks and visits from representatives from the the Mercy Center as well.  For information about all of these events, visit  For information tickets and information about the show, visit

See you at the Bleecker Street Theatre! 

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