Kings 2009 grad directs NYC play

KiHS 2009 grad Emily Lerer found her passion at Kings.

Helaine Berman

H. Berman

A 2009 Kings High School graduate has worked her way into the New York City theater scene.

Emily Lerer said she has always been passionate about theater. So much so that she even moved to New York to pursue her career. Now, Lerer is directing a new play, “R Culture”, scheduled to be performed in Manhattan in just two weeks.

Lerer’s initial interest in theater began when she was a child and her grandfather took her to a Broadway production of “Annie”. As a Kings student, she started painting performance sets in middle school and then acted in many of the plays at Kings High School.

Pete Moore, head of the King High School drama department, said he knew early on that Lerer had a talent for theater.

“Emily had passion for the whole world of theater,” Moore said. “She was different than the other students. She was also very introspective and analytical, which allowed her to always see what needed work.”

After graduating from Kings, Lerer studied acting at Ohio University, where she discovered her passion for directing.

“I was a good actor,” she said in an interview with The Knight Times. “I loved performing and completely embodying a character, but I kept finding myself looking for “the bigger picture” only to be told that was the director’s job, not the actors. At some point it just clicked: maybe I should try this directing thing.”

Lerer found out she was good at directing and became an assistant director for creative projects in college.

“Senior year, I cut, directed, and produced a 30-minute, 5-character version of Julius Caesar. That might have been the ‘aha’ moment for me.”

The idea for her new play came to Lerer when she was talking about directing with a mentor.


writer Cecilia Copeland

“He told me not to wait around for something to come to me and find something I can do better than anyone else,” she said. “I was walking around upper west side when I realized what material I wanted to cover. It scared me and inspired me and makes me feel way more exposed than I’m comfortable with, and I knew I had to do it now” she said.

Lerer decided she wanted to direct a play that explores the controversial but important topic of rape. For a script for “R Culture,” Lerer approached feminist writer, Cecilia Copeland, via Facebook. Copeland agreed to write something specifically for the show.

“The first couple months she’d send me scenes in bits, I’d read them and give feedback,” Lerer said. “Then I had to find the space, budget, designers, and actors. We did our first read-through at the Lark Play Development Center.

And that’s when the long journey began. With some help from an online fundraising effort, Lerer started to put the pieces together and bring her idea to life. Promotional meterials describe the play as a “dark comedy,” a “biting look at Modern American culture.”

“It’s been more of a process getting a new work out there than anyone told me. It’s been the most learning on the job I’ve ever done. I’m often the youngest creative in the room for this piece,” she said.

But despite the tough work, “R Culture” is now in its final stages of production and will premiere next month in New York. Lerer hopes the play will make an impact.

“I wanted to take on a subject matter that I felt both passionate about and scared of conquering,“ she said. “I hope we have created a space where both men and women can be both entertained and moved in an evening.”

Showtimes for the 75-minute play begin on Nov. 7 at the IRT Theater in Manhattan, and run until Nov. 23. For more information, check out the production’s promotional website. Tickets are also available here.

One thought on “

  1. Very interesting article. It’s always fun to read about the passions and experiences of Kings students after they graduate. Pursuing your dreams in New York takes a lot of ambition and courage. Best of luck to Emily, and look forward to following her career.

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