NJ Repertory Company Presents Kicks-Off its 27th Season With the World Premiere of ESSPY

Reported Friday, February 9, 2024

Pictured Above: Ching Valdes-Aran. Photo Credit: Sourced, IMBD.


February 22 – March 17, 2024



Long Branch , NJ – NJ Repertory Company (NJ Rep) will kick off its 27th season with the world premiere of Nandia Shenoy’s ESSPY, directed by Peter J. Kuo, beginning February 22, with its opening night on February 24 and running through March 17, 2024.

ESSPY is a comic-drama about a young medical student embarking on a journey he never expected. Although William is intellectually at the top of his class, he soon discovers that knowledge of science is only one ingredient in caring for a patient. While adept at making clinical diagnoses, intimate human interactions confound and bewilder him, until he encounters Anu, a young woman working in the Patient Simulation program. The play follows their sessions over several years as it moves toward a profound and poignant climax, and poses the question – can empathy and compassion ever be taught.

“NJ Rep is thrilled to begin our 27th season with the world premiere of Nandia Shenoy’s ESSPY,” says SuzAnne Barabas, Artistic Director of NJ Rep. “After a remarkably successful season, marked by a return to pre-pandemic audience numbers and six world premieres, we are proud to present this comic-drama which delves into the journey of a brilliant medical student, exploring the complexities of empathy and compassion in patient care.”

Pictured Above: Ching Valdes-Aran. Photo Credit: Sourced, IMBD.

The cast includes award-winning Ching Valdes-Aran (Aying – OBIE Award, Flipzoids, Imelda Marcos- Lucille Lortel nomination), Tim Liu (Regional:Cambodian Rock Band), and, Lipica Shah (MTC’s India Pale Ale).  The creative team set design by Jessica Parks, lighting design by Jill Nagle, technical direction by Brian Snyder, costume design by  Patricia E. Doherty, sound design by Nick Simone, production stage manager is Kristen Pfeifer, and assistant stage manager is Rachael Malloy.


Tickets are NOW on sale at NJ Rep.org or by calling 732.229.3166. NJRep is located at 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey 07740. ESSPY will play on Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 2 pm & 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. 



NANDITA SHENOY (playwright Esspy) is a New York-based writer-actor who loves hearing an audience laugh. She is delighted to return to NJRep after working here as an actor in Mercy. Her play The Future Is Female… received its world premiere at the Flint Repertory Theater last winter. It was a Finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and her Rage Play was named to the 2020 Kilroys List. Her Washer/Dryer has been produced multiple times nationally after its world premiere at LA’s East West Players and an Off-Broadway production in which she also starred. Her first full-length, Lyme Park: An Austonian Romance of an Indian Nature, was produced by the Hegira in Washington, DC, and Satisfaction had a developmental run at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. One-acts, Marrying Nandini, By Popular Demand, Rules of Engagement, You Are Here, and A More Perfect Datehave been produced in New York City and regionally. Nandita has acted in world premieres of new plays by Richard Dresser, Madhuri Shekar, Chelsea Marcantel, Adam Szymkowicz, and Eric Pfeffinger as well as a season at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Nandita won the 2014 Father Hamblin Award in Playwriting, a 2018 Mellon Creative Research Fellowship at the University of Washington School of Drama in partnership with Ma-Yi Theater Company, and 2022 Hermitage Fellowship. She is a proud member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, dtfwaw, and the Dramatists Guild. She sits on the Steering Committee of the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) which received Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater last year. Nandita holds a BA in English literature from Yale University. www.nanditashenoy.com

PETER J. KUO (Director) is a theatre director, producer, writer, and educator focusing on raising the visibility of marginalized communities. Born and raised in Southern California, he currently resides in San Francisco where he is the Director of the Conservatory at American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), where he serves on the Staff EDI Committee. Recently directing Madhuri Shekar’s In Love and Warcraft entirely on Zoom, he is a huge proponent for Live Video Theatre and its ability to be accessible to all. He earned his MFA in Directing at The New School for Drama in New York City. Named as one of TCG’s Rising Leaders of Color in the Round 3 cohort, he is also a co-founder of Artists at Play, an Asian American theatre collective that produces Los Angeles premieres of works for Asian Americans. For Artists at Play, he directed their inaugural production of Lauren Yee’s Ching Chong Chinaman (Backstage Critic’s Pick), and Michael Golamco’s Cowboy Versus Samurai; as well as readings of Boni Alvarez’s Marabella, Beau Willimon’s The Parisian Woman, and Donald Margulies’ Dinner with Friends. He served as the production manager for A. Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them (GLAAD and Ovation Nominated). Other favorite directing credits include Christopher Chen’s MUTT: Let’s All Talk About Race!, Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days, Elizabeth Wong’s Letters to a Student Revolutionary, Jackie Sibblies-Drury’s We Are Proud to Present…, and Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World. 

CHING VALDES-ARAN is an award-winning theater artist who resides in NYC. New Jersey Rep: Debut. Selected Roles: Aying (OBIE Award, Flipzoids, Ma-Yi Theatre), Imelda Marcos (Lucille Lortel nomination, Dogeaters, Public Theatre), Lady Macbeth, Lady Capulet, Duke Senior (NYSF “Shakespeare on Broadway”, Belasco Theatre), Mother Courage (Ma-yi Theatre), Medea (Medea, Pan Asian Repertory), Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba, NAATCO), Clytemnestra (Iphigenia in Aulis, Yale Rep), Athena (Iphigenia in Taurus (La Mama E.T.C. & Greek Int’l Festival), Empress Tzushi (Empress of China, Cincinnati Playhouse), Philoktetes (Shatterhand Company, Berliner Fiespiele). Most recently, she played Mom in the all-Asian cast of Sam Shepard’s True West at People’s Light. Other Awards: 2021 Ruthie Award, Fox Foundation Fellow, Asian Cultural Council Fellowship, New Dramatist’s Charles Bowden Award, Ma-Yi Award for Artistic Excellence, MAP grantee (Foundry), U.S. Congressional Award for Arts & Culture, others. Selected Films & TV: Missing Link (Golden Globe, 6 Oscar nomination), Mula Kung Ano And Noon, What it was Before (Palm de Oro, Locarno Film Festival), Across the UniverseSex & The City 1Blacklist, Others. Her work has been seen nationally and internationally. Most recently in Geoff Sobelle’s Home that premiered at BAM in 2017 and continuous to tour through 2024.

Pictured Above: Lipica Shah. Photo Credit: LipicaShah.com.

LIPICA SHAH (she/her) is a Jersey native and NYC-based actor, voice actor, and alto who thrives on collaboration and new play development. As a longtime standardized patient at Bellevue/NYU Langone, she’s thrilled to make her NJ Rep debut in a play so close to her heart! Lipica has originated roles at Manhattan Theatre Club, The New Group, Mixed Blood Theatre Company, Cal Shakes, and American Conservatory Theater, among others. On screen she’s appeared on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, HBO, Showtime, USA, Comedy Central, and Netflix. Hear her in the video game Starfield and English dubs of PokémonA Silent VoiceMobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, and more. As an inclusion advocate, she co-founded the nonprofit 1497 (which recently hosted the second annual South Asian Lodge at the Sundance Film Festival) and is on the Steering Committee of the Asian American Performers Action Coalition, with whom she received Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre. www.LipicaShah.com

TIM LIU was born and raised in NJ. He most recently performed in Cambodian Rock Band at Arena Stage (DC) and ACT/5th Ave (Seattle). Additional theatre credits include Off-Broadway performances with Audible Theatre (Good Enemy, dir. Chay Yew), Pearl Theatre Company (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, dir. Eric Tucker), Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, HERE Arts Center, and other NYC Theaters. Regionally he has worked with Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, B Street Theatre, Capital Repertory Theatre, The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ, and Centenary Stage Company. Recent TV and Film credits include: Pam and Tommy (HULU), The Endgame (NBC), New Amsterdam (NBC), Girls on the Bus (HBO)A Father’s Son (w/ Ronny Chieng and Tzi Ma)Knock at the Cabin (M Night Shyamalan).

The NEW JERSEY REPERTORY COMPANY (NJRep) was founded in 1997 by SuzAnne and Gabor Barabas. Its current central headquarters is the Lumia Theater located on lower Broadway in Long Branch. The theater’s mission is to develop and produce new plays and to make a lasting contribution to the American Stage. Over two decades NJ Rep has produced 150 plays of which 125 have been world premieres. The theater has the additional distinction of having had many of its plays produced by other theaters around the country totaling over 200 subsequent productions in the US and overseas. In 2012 and 2018, NJ Rep was the recipient of a National Theater Company Grant from the American Theater Wing that sponsors the annual Tony Awards for Broadway in recognition of its contribution to the repertoire of the American Stage. Only seven theaters have had this distinction. In addition, the theater has presented over 400 developmental readings as well as introduced 136 new works through its Theatre Brut Short-Play Festivals that focus on visionary and avant-garde works. NJRep acquired a new property, a 28,000 square foot school situated on 2 ½ acres and located just five minutes from its Main Stage Lumia Theater and two blocks from the Jersey Shore. The theater plans on gradually transforming the school in stages into a cultural center that will house additional performance spaces, an art cinema, an art museum, a rooftop café, an arts education wing, and residences for out-of-town actors and playwrights. When completed, the center will present a wide array of programs in acting, playwriting, art, sculpture, poetry, music, and photography and will serve as a catalyst for economic development and as the foundation for the cultural renaissance of the community.

NJRep thanks the following for their support: The Shubert Foundation, MacMillan Family Foundation, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Stone Foundation of New Jersey, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, OceanFirst Foundation, Manasquan Bank Philanthropic Fund, Investors Bank Foundation, Community Foundation of New Jersey, Jewish Communal Fund, Darien Family Fund, Citizens Philanthropic Foundation. 

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