TOMS RIVER, NJ — A generous grant from the ArtsCONNECT program of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, brought the fascinating “Layer the Walls” to life on the main stage of the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts last month. The show, created by Liz Parker and Rachel Sullivan of Grand Pistachio, is a performance of puppetry, toy-theater techniques, and masks that explores stories of immigrants in New York City.
Like prehistoric sediment, the walls of a building often contain traces and impressions of lives once lived. Parker and Sullivan conceived “Layer the Walls” for children 7 and older after a visit to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of NYC, where they learned of the old apartments’ many layers of wallpaper, each applied by an immigrant family.
“Layer the Walls” is set within a tenement due to be torn down, the interior of which is plastered with 40 layers of wallpaper. The show’s puppets, designed by Spica Wobbe, help the audience to imagine the proud and perilous histories of the building’s Italian, Jewish, and Irish occupants.
“We are grateful to the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation for funding this production of ‘Layer the Walls.’ Their support made it possible for us to engage with many residents across Ocean County,” said Mark Wilson, Director of Cultural Affairs at the Grunin Center.
“Through our community engagement activity, we are giving students the tools to search out their own immigration stories,” he added.
About the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation was established in 1979 to promote and support multi-state arts programming in a region that includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia. Over the last 35 years, the Foundation has expanded its reach to include national and international initiatives. The Foundation’s work is focused on performing arts touring, jazz, independent film, support for individual artists, and international cultural exchange.
About the Artists
Grand Pistachio was formed by Liz Parker and Rachel Sullivan after 10 years creating and performing together. Infusing their work with a sense of wonder, the duo chooses topics that inspire their own curiosity and imagination. The pair has a signature two-person performance style that utilizes highly theatrical forms of performance including puppetry mask and music to transport and engage audiences. In 2015, Parker and Sullivan were selected for The New Victory Theater’s prestigious LabWorks program, where they began development of “Layer the Walls.” The Jim Henson Foundation selected “Layer the Walls” for a family grant in 2017.
About the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts
The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College, is a performing arts center dedicated to providing art and entertainment to Ocean County and the Jersey Shore. Featuring premiere acts from across the globe, the Grunin Center’s intimate venue allows patrons to experience once-in-a-lifetime from venerated artists, hometown musicians, and unique entertainers. Music performances of all genres, theatre, film, and dance make their way to the Grunin Center stage each season. The Grunin Center is also the home to young performers from various educational performing arts organizations, including Ocean County College students from the performing arts and fine arts programs, and the Ocean County and NJ State Teen Arts Festivals. Our Art Gallery highlights local artists by displaying several collections throughout the year. Additionally, the Garden State Philharmonic is the Orchestra-in-Residence. For more information, visit grunincenter.org.