“ONAJE is a beautifully written, directed, and acted play that left me crying in the theatre by the end. It’s a call for change. It’s a reminder of the past. It’s a play about love and hate. In short, it’s theatre.”
— Christopher Peterson, OnstageBlog.com
“Best bet! The most dramatic, fleshed-out, near cinematic play I have seen at this year’s Fringe. ONAJE is a high-stakes story that shows the power of people standing up to racism.”
— Ed Malin, Theatre is Easy
“ONAJE is such an important piece of theatre. It tells a tragic story of riots, racism, and hate that, although it is set in both 1967 and 1980, is unfortunately still very relevant.”
— Christopher Peterson, OnstageBlog.com
“Bowie’s story belittles the “us versus them” mentality that pits Americans against each other and disgraces those that adhere to it… ONAJE questions how much has changed since the sixties, and what might it take to finally heal.”
This is what change in the theatre is all about… forcing an audience to witness, through the eyes of the play, the trouble that exists in the world every day. ONAJE does it beautifully.”
— Christopher Peterson, OnstageBlog.com
Sold-Out Shows, Rave Reviews!
Our FringeNYC premiere could not have gone better…
ONAJE sold out all five shows, the performances were riveting, and both audiences and critics were exceedingly positive. Check out these great reviews from onstageblog.com and Theatre is Easy (theasy.com) .
Thanks again to our incredible cast, crew, and creative team — and to everyone whose generous support helped bring ONAJE to life!
FringeNYC a Smashing Success!
We’re honored that ONAJE was selected as an official production of FringeNYC, with five sold-out shows, October 13th — 21st, and great audience and critical acclaim.
It was a thrill to have our fantastic director Pat Golden on board, and our phenomenal producer Sue Conover Marinello. Our talented cast was outstanding: Tinuke Adetunji, Adam Couperthwaite, John Dewey, Curtis M. Jackson, Mary E. Hodges, Sheila Joon Ostadazim, Bristol Pomeroy, Tim Rush, and Jay Ward.
Humbly, I must say it was an incredible honor and opportunity, and it’s all thanks to our generous contributors. Please email me to connect — let me know if you’d like to hear about our next production.)
In the West Village of New York City, on October 13th at 7:00 in the evening, ONAJE opened as my first professionally produced play. I sat in the back, in a balcony with lights and sound equipment around me and watched the audience file in and take their seats. I gave the appearance of being calm but I was terrified.
I have been to opening nights for nine of my prior plays in the little theaters of Baltimore and I have learned there is an immediate courtship: the call offered by the actors at the beginning of the play and the audience’s response. You can feel it. It is confirmed with the first laugh but the commitment can also be felt in the early silence.
As the play unfolds, from the back of the theater, you can watch for physical movement, restless disengagement as evidence of the loss of commitment to a play. It can become contagious in the dead silence and then nothing can resurrect the play. Once you lose them, there is no getting them back.
My friends, the composer Christian De Gré and our producer Susan Conover Marinello, and I had been fortunate to have Tom Viertel as our dinner guest three weeks before we opened. Based on years of experience as a renowned Broadway producer, the founder of the Commercial Theater Institute, and director of the O’Neill, he told us a “no-intermission play cannot run more than 93 minutes” without the high risk it will lose its audience. There was no doubt in his voice. We took his advice. We knew he was right. I went to work cutting lines and shaping the script with four script reductions.
Opening night at FringeNYC was to be judged by a sold-out crowd as they rendered their verdict first in the dance of commitment as the play got underway and then after 90 minutes by the way they moved in their seats.
For me, knowing every line and the slightest modulations in an actor’s voice, the experience was, of course, different than an audience seeing it for the first time. The audience will be engaged until they’re not. The only measurement that is credible is how the theater feels and how the shadows in the seats sit engaged or start to move. That is the only language.
I could feel this audience’s early engagement and commitment to the play and surprisingly when I did, I started to daydream about the genesis of this project:
I am the oldest son. The oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son, all of whom have been well-respected and distinguished lawyers, professors, and public servants. Although my father supported my love of storytelling, bringing me hand puppets from his travels and building me a little puppet theater so I could perform for my seventh- and eighth-grade classmates, there was no doubt my next step was to carry on the family profession of law.
While I dreamed of writing plays, I grew to love being a business trial lawyer. Before my father died several years ago, while I took care of him during his final years, he quite casually one afternoon looked at me and said, “I am very proud of what you have accomplished. I could never have started a law firm and succeeded in the way you have.”
Almost accidentally, he had released me to change my avocation to my profession. I soon retired and made a full commitment to become a professional playwright.
Opening night at FringeNYC was for me, unconsciously, like a flock of carrier pigeons released well over fifty years ago coming in to roost.
The last seven pages of the play runs 12 minutes to conclusion. I leaned over the rail and listened for the quality of the silence and looked down on an audience that did not move. They were engaged after 96 minutes, three minutes longer than Tom’s ultimatum. We had pushed the envelope but still survived.
The lights came down and there was a moment of silence, and as the actors came to their curtain call they were met by increasing and sustained applause. As the theater emptied out I saw many of my friends, some of whom had traveled from as far as California and Canada, as they walked to the stairs to exit past my door from the balcony.
I was not conscious at the time, even after I was welcomed by the audience and my friends, that like the characters I had written in ONAJE, after a long journey, I had finally come home.
About the Play
Exploring the fallout of violent racism, ONAJE is set in two worlds: the open road in Maryland 1980, and the civil rights riots in the Eastern shore in 1967. It features a trio of characters inextricably linked through long-buried secrets of their past and forced to return to everything they escaped. ONAJE is about one mistake that could forever steal a hero’s soul, his humanity, and his path toward redemption.
The Cambridge riot of 1967 was one of 159 race riots that swept cities in the United States during the “Long Hot Summer of 1967.” This riot occurred on July 24, 1967, in Cambridge, Maryland, a small town on the Eastern Shore. Check out the award-winning video below, created by high school students of the Eastern Shore.
“The Naked House Painting Society”
“Easily the festival’s best. Riveting drama with genuine humor and intense relationships. Mystical in nature, the play turns on incisive philosophical dialogue.” — Winifred Walsh, The Baltimore Sun
“Slavery,” a play in one act
Ownership is the issue as two associates draft a patent at a huge law firm in Robert Bowie, Jr’s one‑act play “Slavery.”
“Crash & Burn PA”
“It’s pretty damned refreshing. Tightly woven, with comic prowess and a nicely fast pace. If you want a carefree night of fun and laughs, this is your ticket.” — Pandora Locks
“Witchcraft,” a play in one act
“‘Witchcraft’ offers the suspenseful flavor of Alfred Hitchcock show. The drama unfolds with many unanticipated twists and turns…” — Janet Stidman Evleth
More plays by Robert Bowie, Jr…
The beauty of FringeNYC is that it demands creativity from the start at every level.
By way of example, I want to introduce you to the creativity and resourcefulness of our director, Pat Golden, and producer, Sue Conover Marinello.
ONAJE has set directions that specify a convertible with working lights, horn, and doors, a picnic table that might weigh several hundred pounds, and a working kitchen in a waterman’s house next to the Chesapeake Bay on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
FringeNYC is similar to a film festival in that a new performance goes up in the same space with only half an hour in between. Each play is given 15 minutes to set up and 15 minutes to break down the set. Obviously, we cannot assemble and deconstruct and store a set that contains a car, a big picnic table, and a kitchen in 15 minutes!
Nonetheless, ONAJE’s creative team is embracing the challenges as an opportunity to increase the impact of an already dramatic play — using light and sound and imaginative props to create a set that will be constructed in the minds of the audience.
Their ideas are already better than what was originally called for in the script.
Come see for yourself this October! We should know our venue and performance dates soon. If you’d like to secure advance tickets you can do so by helping us with a contribution: http://theplayonaje.com/contribute.ONAJE’s creative team is embracing the challenges as an opportunity to increase the impact of an already dramatic play — using light and sound and imaginative props to create a set that will be constructed in the minds of the audience. Click To Tweet
I am continually humbled by the amazing talents of the people who have come together to help bring ONAJE to life at FringeNYC. Two standouts are our tenacious, indispensable producer, Sue Conover Marinello, and our inspired, insightful director, Pat Golden. I am...read more
ONAJE Staged Reading in L.A. a great success ONAJE received a new staged reading at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills on April 15th, superbly directed by Adrian Cohen and featuring an amazing cast: Travon McCall, Annalee Scott, Cathy Tomlin, David Hunt Stafford, David...read more
On May 24, 2018, at 3:25 pm I received an email from the New York Fringe Festival (FringeNYC.org) telling me that my play, Onaje, was accepted for production in New York in October. At the heart of the play is the Civil Rights riots and burning of Cambridge, Maryland...read more
About Robert Bowie, Jr.
Playwright and Poet Robert Bowie, Jr. of Baltimore, Maryland has had nine plays produced, including “There Ain’t No Wyoming” and “Naked House Painting Society” through The Baltimore Playwrights Festival, and has several more scripts in development. Bowie’s political farce “Crash & Burn P.A.” was the only submission selected by the 2016 Festival Committee for a full production at Theatrical Mining Company, Baltimore. Bowie’s plays are focused on social justice and span a broad spectrum between drama and comedy. His subject matter ranges from plays about racial prejudice and civil rights to political farce. Bowie is a graduate of Harvard University and is the Poet Laureate of The Harvard Alumni Association (HAA).
“Without the arts, we are a rudderless boat.”
— Robert Bowie, Jr.