Sammi’s Favorite Things: Joyland
Crack open a Ballantine beer and put on The Beach Boys. Or mix a martini to Dean Martin. Turn on Walter Cronkite, who might talk about a faraway place called Vietnam. Hey, take a toke. And come with us back to the tumultuous 1960s, where today began.
Developed by critically acclaimed novelist-playwright Gary Morgenstein, Emmy Award-winning veteran network executive Russell Friedman and the award-winning Broadway performer and director DeMone Seraphin, who will also direct, the new eight-episode scripted television series Joyland will launch on Zoom on Monday, March 22 at 7PM/ET.
Joyland begins in 1964 in New York City, aflame with protests after a cop has shot an unarmed African American teen, and at a Catskills bungalow colony, the iconic summer getaway for New York’s working and middle class.
Joyland follows the stories of former New York Knicks star Marty Dent’s dream of resurrecting his city – and himself – by bringing a basketball team to Brooklyn in the new American Basketball Association, and his former teammate and best friend Reverend Julian Bass, the dynamic Martin Luther King-like minister of Brooklyn’s First Church of Christ, who is trying to bridge the racial and class divide.
Joyland encompasses Julian’s wife Tyra Bass, the city’s first Black assistant high school vice principal who’s swept up in the explosive initial wave of school desegregation busing, pitting her against Marty’s wife Deb Dent, a conservative political activist, and Kenneth Lapidus, a powerful, politically connected department store magnate who mulls a run for Mayor while his defiant daughter Karen struggles to carve out her own career, juggling an unfaithful husband and unstable teenage daughter.
As we see the gray moralities of business owners Mr. Wilt and Sal Cumpella, the struggles of Edna Miller and her African American lover Red Harrison – recovering from a brutal racist attack – to save the Breezy Corners Bungalow, and teenager Aaron Dent, a fast-talking would-be talent agent terrified of his awakening homosexuality, the series intersects real-life personalities and real-life events from the worlds of politics, entertainment and sports, from Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy, Rodney Dangerfield and Moms Mabley, to Bob Cousy and Connie Hawkins.
Said Morgenstein, Friedman and Seraphin: “Although the series is set nearly 60 years ago, the similarity to the issues of today are unsettling, from racism, sexism, government lies, partisan politics to class warfare. So much began back then, that the period is ripe for dramatic exploration through the compelling stories of this complicated diverse ensemble. While we wait for the entertainment industry to return to post-pandemic normalcy, we decided the strongest way to tell our powerful stories was by presenting the series virtually.”
Ellen Adair (Karen Lapidus); Sandra Bargman (Edna Miller); Kit L. Bromovsky (Laurie Lapidus); J. Dolan Byrnes (Kenneth Lapidus; Peter Collier (Aaron Dent); Jamyl Dobson (Julian Bass); Bernard Dotson (Elijah X); Ian Campbell Dunn (Larry Lapidus); Michelle Fahrenheim (Deb Dent); Carlo Fiorletta (Sal Cumpella); Michael A. Green (Mickey Mantle); Thomas Kane (Ray O’Brien); Jack Kusher (LBJ, Rodney Dangerfield); Robert McKay (Red Harrison); Chris Collins-Pisano; Erich Rausch (John Kelly); Mike Roche (Cherry Donaldson); Xavier Rodney; Arthur Ross (Mr. Wilt); Roslyn Seale (Tyra Bass); Tim Weinert (Marty Dent); Andrea Wolff.
Technical producer: Paul Litwak. Stage manager: Cassie Saunders. Stage directions: Brett Owen.
JOYLAND CREATIVE TEAM
Gary Morgenstein’s novels and plays have been featured in national media from the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Parade Magazine, the New York Post, Sports Illustrated to NPR. His sixth novel A Fastball for Freedom (“the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ of the series”), the sequel to his critically-acclaimed dystopian baseball-science fiction A Mound Over Hell (“1984 Meets Shoeless Joe”), will be published by BHC Press on March 25. In addition to the new post-pandemic play Black and White Cookie, he is the author of the stage dramas Saving Stan and A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx, and the off-Broadway sci-fi rock musical The Anthem.
Russell Friedman began a 30+ year career as a television executive after graduating from the University of Maryland, where he studied Radio, TV and Film. The Emmy Award-winning Friedman has worked for the Syfy Channel, USA Network, PGA Tour Productions, ABC Sports, NBC News and Specials, and ESPN in his long and varied career.
DeMone Seraphin is a Helen Hayes Award nominee for his direction of TOPDOG UNDERDOG. Other directing credits include the Off-Broadway revivals of SPLIT SECOND and THE EXONERATED, the world premiere musical “ONCE UPONZI TIME: A Tale of An American Scheme” at the McCarter Theatre, Off-Broadway premieres of “YOURS TRULY, ELLA! A Celebration of The Ella Fitzgerald Songbook”, “BACK O TOWN”, the German premiere of August Wilson’s JITNEY and the regional revival of the musical RUNAWAYS. As an actor DeMone has appeared on Broadway, nationally, and internationally in MISS SAIGON, RENT, RAGTIME, J.C. SUPERSTAR, AIN’T MISBEHAVIN, and MAN OF LA MANCHA. DeMone is the Founding Artistic Director of The New American Theatre Co. NY.