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Final NYC bow leads 'Falling' to next level

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 24, 2012 - As the curtain closes on 2012, homegrown play “Falling” is set to end its three-month New York run Dec. 30.

“Ticket sales have peaked and there’s a sense it’s kind of run its course,” playwrightDeanna Jent said.

But “Falling’s” Big Apple finale is hardly the last we’ll hear of Jent’s semi-autobiographical script about a family coping with an autistic teenage son. Look for the play to return to St. Louis’ Mustard Seed Theatre, run in other parts of the country and the world, and spawn a possible sequel.

It’s been a year of upward mobility for “Falling.” Producer Terry Schnuckfinalized his plans to stage the play Off Broadway, beginning previews at the Minetta Lane Theatre this past September. A swift cascade of kudos is exemplified by Broadway World’s review of “Falling” as “One of the finest theatrical productions currently in New York.”

Jent, artistic director of Mustard Seed Theatre and Fontbonne University theater professor, figures she’s seen “Falling” 30 times on the New York stage, including all 21 previews. Her attorney is currently negotiating with script publishers.

Watch a video montage from the Off-Broadway production of "Falling."

“We’ve had interest from theater companies in Australia and Canada and from six or seven others around the United States,” Jent said.

Second acts?

If you missed “Falling” last year, you’ll soon get another chance to see it in St. Louis. Mustard Seed will reprise the play sometime in 2013, Jent said. And, there’s the possibility of a sort of part two.

“I’ve got some ideas about the sibling experience,” Jent said. “So if it were a follow-up to ‘Falling,’ it would be about, where is the daughter, three or four years down the road -- what’s her story?”

In real life, Jent’s 18-year-old autistic son Andy has two siblings, one of whom is living at home. It’s a household from which Jent has had to be away for a total of five weeks this year for New York rehearsals and previews. Turns out, there was a silver lining to her necessary absence: Andy became more independent.

He’s more self-reliant with activities such as getting dressed, performing personal hygiene tasks and asking for preferred foods. Plus, adding additional caregivers resulted in more flexibility, and he learned to vary his routine.

“I realized I needed my son to be more self-sufficient,” Jent said. “And we needed more people, not just immediate family, who could help him get on and off the bus and take him to run errands.”

Helping other families deal with autism and other kinds of differences has always been a primary goal of “Falling.” That mission traveled to New York with the play, with free admission for Autism Speaks staff, and $5 of every full-price ticket sold during October benefiting the organization.

Even though Jent enjoyed her trips to New York, she’s happy to be back in St. Louis and looks forward to devoting her time to Mustard Seed and Fontbonne in 2013.

“New York felt like a home away from home, and that was a surprise to me,” Jent said. “I wouldn’t want to live there for real, but it was great to visit.”

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.

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