Arthur Miller’s “The Hook” to make American debut in Red Hook

By Stephanie Meditz

BNW Rep held a staged reading of “The Hook” on the barge at The Waterfront Museum in 2019. Photo by Jody Christopherson.

For the first time, Arthur Miller’s unpublished screenplay “The Hook” will be staged at the same geographic location as the true events on which it is based.

On weekends from June 9 to June 25 at 8 p.m, Brave New World Repertory Theatre will present the screenplay’s American premiere as adapted for the stage by Ron Hutchinson and James Dacre onboard the barge at The Waterfront Museum in Red Hook. The show will also host a preview on June 8.

A Brooklyn Heights resident, Miller penned “The Hook” after he learned the true story of Pete Panto, a longshoreman and activist who worked the docks of Red Hook in the 1930s and was killed by the Mob for fighting corruption in his union.

The titular hook thus refers both to the literal hooks used by longshoremen to hoist crates and goods onto ships and to the neighborhood of Red Hook.

At the beginning of the Red Scare, Columbia Pictures insisted that Miller ascribe corruption on the docks to communism rather than the Mob, and he refused.

“Miller never wanted it to be produced. It languished for seventy years in the archives of the University of Austin, Texas until…an English set designer went to Texas and got the archives,” director and BNW Rep co-founder Claire Beckman said.

When Miller scrapped the screenplay and director Elia Kazan used his idea in the film “On the Waterfront,” they moved it to Hoboken, New Jersey rather than Red Hook, where Pete Panto lived and worked.

“The Hook was Miller’s idea. That really would’ve been stealing his intellectual property because he’s the one who went down to the Hook and did all of the investigation and interviews,” she said. “What I’m trying to do as…the founder of a Brooklyn-based theater company and a Brooklynite myself is right that wrong and bring the story back to the community, literally…where it took place.”

Although there was a strong shipping industry in Hoboken, it was far from the actual docks on which Panto fought corruption.

“He really mobilized men and stood up against this machine, and that happened in Brooklyn,” Beckman said. “Pete Panto was born in Brooklyn, he was the son of immigrants. And it’s important to me, especially because he finally, just recently got a tombstone because his body was in an unmarked grave for many, many years… and he’s sort of being celebrated this year,” Beckman said.

Beckman first read about “The Hook” in Miller’s autobiography, “Timebends.”

She had been waiting for the rights to “A View from the Bridge” until, in 2017, Waterfront Museum captain David Sharps connected her to designer Patrick Connellan, who had just designed the set for the UK production of “The Hook.”

Connellan then connected her to Ron Hutchinson, an Irish playwright and adapter of “The Hook” who was coincidentally moving to Brooklyn.

“We met in Brooklyn and we read the play on the barge in the middle of the winter around a pot bellied stove,” she said. “And I cast the show with actors randomly…just so we could hear it. And it was the first time it had ever been read in America. And on the water, no less.”

The American premiere of “The Hook” will take place in the same location where Pete Panto fought corruption in the 1930s. Photo by Jody Christopherson.

They held a staged reading of “The Hook” in 2019 and were set for a full stage production in 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, followed by the Omicron variant in 2021.

“This has been a long time coming and we’ve had many, many very devoted supporters waiting patiently for this production, so everybody’s really excited,” Beckman said. “As an industry, theater has been hit really hard by the pandemic.”

The barge at The Waterfront Museum will leave doors open during performances of “The Hook” to ensure a safe, well-ventilated environment.

Beckman has also directed and acted in several Miller plays, including the role of Catherine in “A View from the Bridge” and later Beatrice, protagonist Eddie Carbone’s wife.

“He’s probably my favorite American playwright,” Beckman said. “I’m absolutely in love with his work.”

When she met Miller and he autographed her copy of “A View from the Bridge,” he wrote “I hope you did it good.”

“I feel that I had his blessing, in a way, even though he never lived to find out that I was going to do this American premiere,” she said.

Beckman believes that the Miller estate granted BNW Rep the rights to “The Hook” precisely because the production would take place in Red Hook.

“They know that that would mean a lot to Arthur Miller, who is now gone,” she said.

“The Hook” remained unpublished and unproduced for seventy years.

Now entering its twentieth anniversary season, Brave New World Repertory Theatre’s mission is to make theater more accessible to Brooklyn communities, including actors, writers and audiences.

“It’s very important to me to celebrate both our favorite 20th century Brooklyn playwright and this Brooklyn hero, Pete Panto, who has gone unrecognized for a long time because his story was overshadowed by a story that became about Marlon Brando and Hoboken,” Beckman said.

Beckman said that “The Hook” is the culmination of the twenty years of work in BNW Rep to build a closely knit community of artists with experience working together.

“Part of the mission of our theater company is to examine plays of social justice,” she said. “I have a diverse cast, and I have had to address and figure out how to address issues of race within the context of his play.”

Despite the different social context in which Miller lived and wrote, Beckman considers him a social justice writer of his time.

“I share a kinship with [Miller] I think, because I also am somebody who is driven by a desire to right social wrongs, to address social inequity, to address social justice issues, and to be able to do that in the borough I live in,” she said. “It’s an extreme privilege and a joy.”

Tickets are available for $35 or $18 for students and seniors at

Fort Greene theater group breaks barriers for disabled and neurodiverse performers

By Stephanie Meditz

EPIC Players prepare for opening night of “Into the Woods” during rehearsal.

At a time when Broadway begins to make strides towards accessibility and amplifying diverse voices, EPIC Players is already steps ahead.

From June 8-18, Fort Greene-based neuro-inclusive theater company EPIC Players will perform James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s iconic musical, “Into the Woods” in the Mezzanine at A.R.T./New York Theatre in Midtown.

Aubrie Therrien founded EPIC, which stands for “Empower, Perform, Include, Create,” in 2016 when she saw a need for disabled and neurodiverse artists to express themselves onstage.

She worked with her mother, a special education teacher, on plays for students based on their assigned reading and saw them blossom as performers.

Students who had trouble reading and speaking memorized lines and stood up in front of their entire school to perform, and their confidence and skill inspired her to continue working with disabled and neurodiverse individuals.

I think overall at EPIC we presume confidence. We presume, not only that our actors can do what we’re asking them to do and rise to the challenge…but they also can grow. And that, I think, is the No. 1 thing that other companies perhaps don’t do,” she said.

Therrien said that disabled and neurodiverse performers often have to self-advocate instead of being in supportive environments in which their needs are met without question.

They are also commonly infantilized, she added, and the roles written for disabled individuals are stereotypical, inaccurate and typically written by able-bodied, neurotypical writers.

You can’t be what you can’t see,” Therrien said.”Representation is very, very important. Just because you’re born with a disability doesn’t mean that you’re also not born with other things that you like to do, that you’re talented.”

Into the Woods” music director Shane Dittmar’s first role in a musical was FDR in their high school production of “Annie.”

The director put them in a wheelchair so that, as a blind performer, they would not fall off the stage.

The EPIC Players surprised their audience at 54 Below with a number from “Into the Woods.”

After catching the theater bug in high school, Dittmar fell in love with the music side of musicals and began writing music and music directing.

They hold a degree in music education and taught music at the Washington State School for the Blind for four years before moving to Midwood.

Dittmar first heard about EPIC from Sarah “Sair” Kaufman, whom they met on a Zoom pertaining to Roundabout Theatre Company’s virtual Reverb Theatre Arts Festival for disabled theater makers.

We started writing together, and they told me all about working with EPIC and being part of it and sort of invited me to shows,” Dittmar said. “And then once I was here especially, it was a thing where Sair and I worked together as much as we humanly can.”

Since then, the two have made a name for themselves as a duo, “They & Them.”

Their major project is entitled “The Reality Shaper: A Musical Podcast,” an adaptation of several fantasy novels that Kaufman wrote during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NonBinary Song”from the musical received more than fifty thousand likes on Kaufman’s TikTok account, and gained over half a million views across posts.

Kaufman joined EPIC during the pandemic and will play the Witch in “Into the Woods,” which has been three years in the making.

We chose this show because…our actors never get the opportunity to play these classic characters and sing a score like this. Either they’re told they can’t or it’s too difficult…or that there’s no role for them,” Therrien said. “I think our actors really find levels that I didn’t even know existed in this show prior. I understand this show much more than I ever have, doing this production with our company.”

They’re not explicitly written to be able-bodied or neurotypical either. We just assume anyone we don’t know is disabled, isn’t disabled,” Dittmar said. “Part of what’s cool about our production, too, is just allowing ourselves to explore adding that dimension to a thing that was just written by people who weren’t imagining a diversely abled world.”

As music director, Dittmar taught all seventy-one musical numbers in the score to the cast and rearranged harmonies to ensure that cast members sing in a comfortable range.

They did so with the help of assistant music director, EPIC player and fellow Brooklynite, Eric Fegan.

At the performances, they will lead the five-person pit band, play piano and conduct.

I feel like I can achieve in storytelling and musical theater at the level of anybody else,” Dittmar said. “And that has been so good for my self-esteem. And when I got into doing these things…I found a community of people in theater because it was a group of people that I got along with and shared interests with that had nothing to do with my disability.”

I have a visible disability. It’s very obvious. I have a big black dog with a harness that says ‘Guide Dog for the Blind’ or I have a big white stick,” they continued. “It is the first thing most people know about me. And getting to do theater and getting to do art stuff allows it to not be the most interesting thing people could know about me.”

Shane Dittmar plays piano onstage at 54 Below during “EPIC Sings for Autism: Let’s Duet.”

EPIC has formed its own community – it had 20 members when it began in August 2016 and now boasts around 80 members, plus a growing waitlist.

It has also expanded its classes since its founding and now offers over 100 classes to its players.

Earlier this year, it introduced EPIC Jr., a free training program for students ages 12-17 with developmental disabilities.

Now we’re kind of a sought-after resource for casting directors and other production companies who are also interested in…casting authentically and working with the disabled community,” Therrien said.

She also noted that several actors have received jobs in TV, film and on Broadway.

Ethan Homan, who plays the Steward in “Into the Woods,” was recently cast on CBS’ “Blue Bloods.”

My hopes are that every theater is a neurodiverse theater,” Therrien said. “I also hope to see more neurodivergent and disabled artists represented on elevated platforms and start getting awards and validations for their work, which I think is really difficult with some of the obstacles in place to that.”

Tickets for “Into the Woods” are available at and range from $35-$65.

Sunday performances will begin at 2 p.m, while shows from Wednesday to Saturday are at 6:45 p.m.

When you look at something like this, it’s really easy to see it as a human interest thing… and assume what the quality of it is going to be based on who it’s inclusive of and how it’s been designed to represent a community,” Dittmar said. “And if you make that assumption, you’re incredibly wrong. Our cast is legitimately fantastically amazing at their roles…it’s a really high quality production and I think in addition to being inclusive…it’s also just really good. Like, objectively good.”

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