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February 12, 2001

Hammond's Jersey City
tackles sexual violence

By Deb Hammacher

Theater Emory travels difficult terrain in its latest production, the Southeast premiere of Wendy Hammond’s Jersey City, which runs Feb. 15–March 3 in the Mary Gray Munroe Theater.

Ultimately a story of recovery and redemption, the play revolves around 15-year-old Magaly (played by Emory student Taylor Dooley), a scrappy teenage runaway who flees her Brooklyn home for Jersey City, N.J. Magaly finds herself on the seedy side of town, befriended by a stripper and strip club bouncer.

Rounding out the cast are students Jennifer Hohensee and David Pollack and Atlanta actor Ron Prather. Audiences are cautioned that this production includes explicit language and frank depictions of sexual violence.

Theater Emory’s relationship with Hammond goes back several years. Her play Mormons in Malibu was part of Theater Emory’s 1995 Brave New Works Marathon, a biennial play development program within the Playwriting Center of Theater Emory.

The company’s longstanding relationship with Hammond is one of the reasons acting Artistic Director Leslie Taylor chose one of her plays for this season.

“We’ve worked with Wendy for years, and she’s someone I respected. I also wanted to do a work by a woman,” Taylor said. “She sent me a number of scripts, and I chose this one. While it’s the far more difficult, it had more student roles. And it spoke about a topic that often gets treated melodramatically—not as honestly as this did. I also thought the writing was economical and beautiful.”

Director Ariel de Man strives to show the complexities of such situations.

“I don’t want any easy villains,” de Man said. “I want to look at what causes patterns of abuse and how hard it is to break those patterns. I want to find out what all four of the characters have in common, since all have been through traumatic experiences of different natures.”
Hammond’s film adaptation of Jersey City is set to be produced in the near future. “The project has gotten financing, which means it’s really going to get made,” Hammond said.

“I think that’s absolutely remarkable and amazing. We don’t even have stars attached to it yet, so it was the passion of the producer and, I hope, the merits of the script that raised over a million [dollars] to make the thing.”

Hammond’s screen adaptation of her play Julie Johnson premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, starring Lili Taylor, Courtney Love and Spalding Gray.

The public is invited to a reception and discussion with the playwright and faculty of Emory’s Violence Studies Program in the faculty dining room of the Dobbs Center after the Sunday, Feb. 25 matinee.

General admission tickets for Jersey City are $14 ($7 for students).

For more information, call the Arts at Emory box office at 404-727-5050 or send e-mail to



Back to Emory Report Feb. 12, 2001