Undressing New Jersey (and other states of mind) is Wendy's second solo play. Her first, "Sweat/Pants", written and produced in 1982, was developed under the guidance of the of the late great monologist Spalding Gray. When audiences responded to her autobiographical work with laughter, it occurred to Wendy that standup comedy would be a more interesting vocation than selling typewriter ribbons over the phone (which is what she was doing at the time).
undressing...was born in January of 1990. First presented as a work in progress at the Carpet Company Stage as part of the LA Open Festival under the development and direction of Ron Orbach; later, more workshopping at the Second Stage Theatre, directed there by Dani Klein and produced by Jon Rivera.
In January of 1992, Wendy joined forces with director Mark W. Travis. This delightful collaboration resulted in a successful run at the Court Theatre in Hollywood, garnering two Dramalogue Awards and a Critic's choice award. The play was also chosen to be spotlighted at the Sacramento Solo Theatre Festival. To date, Undressing has been performed to SRO crowds in Los Angeles over a hundred times.
Other L.A. theatre credits include: Funny Business (Mark Taper Forum's New Work Festival), Laughing Wild (Dramalogue Recipient), The Hungry & Horny Show (Creator, Co -exec. Producer, Performer). Mrs. Hammers' has also toured Jewish Community Centers and performing arts organizations across the country with an original two character play, Breakfast with the Mittlemans, which she also co - wrote.
Mark W. Travis has been represented for many years on the Los Angeles and Off-Broadway stages by such critically acclaimed productions as A Bronx Tale, Faithful, Time Flies When You're Alive, Cafe 50's, No Place Like Home, And a Nightengale Sang and Natural Causes. Equally versitile in comedy, drama, and musicals, he has directed A Little Night Music at Theatre West, Under Milk Wood at the Odyssey Theatre, and Donald Freed's The Quartered Man at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama and a former creative consultant to film director Mark Rydell, his highly praised work on Arthur Kopit's Wings, David Williamson's The Coming of Stork, Peter Shaffer's Equus, the improvisational Linke vs. Redfield, and Jim Beaver's Verdigris have garnered a total of twenty-one Drama Logue, L.A. Weekly, and Drama Critics' Circle Awards. He's been instrumental in the creation and development of 1-person shows, including A Bronx Tale, Dana Gould's Insomnia, Time Flies When You're Alive, No Place like Home, Beyond the Laughter and Sparks, and consequently has been credited in the Los Angeles Times with having "carved a mini-genre staging one-man, real-life theatre pieces." Mark's television credits include The Facts of Life, Family Ties and the Emmy Award Winning PBS dramatic special, Blind Tom: The Thomas Bethune Story. He recently completed a film for Warner Bros., a comedy entitled Going Under, and has opened The Travis Group, a Theater/Film development & Production Company.
undressing...is a classic coming of age story - a story of wanting to be noticed and be loved; to fit in and be cool. The play deals with the issue of hunger in every sense of the word - from literal and physical hunger to figurative and spiritual, sexual, etc. It's a story about being Jewish and having a love/hate relationship with food and body image, about loss of innocence, about growing into one's own skin. In the end, it is about knowing and embracing one's place in the world.
Performed with no intermission, the play runs 1 hour, 25 minutes and spans four decades of a Jersey girls' life. Hammers brings to life a dozen vibrant characters: her sweet but uptight Mom and intense foodaholic Dad; her beloved, unconditionally loving Grandma Gussie: the tough Italian girl Celeste from the neighborhood, the bossy Weight Watcher Lady, to name a few.
From her suburban roots in Jersey to her NY college years in the 80's - from being single, then married, then single again, and finding self love and then, eventually, true love, the play humorously highlights a series of firsts: first best friend, first cigarette, first love. We come to uncover - undress, if you will, not only Jersey, but many other states of mind.
These folks did and here's what they had to say:
I've laughed. I've cried. I am filled with admiration. I love the character work. The dialects are impeccable and most of all, the heart.
- Laraine Newman, SNL, Original Cast Member
... it would be a shame to ignore dark, twisted, and utterly normal Wendy Hammers ... a reassuring and often hilarious story.
A seamless adventure with vivid characters and beautifully told. I didn't really want it to end.
- Janet S. Blake, writer/former Disney Development Exec.
Wonderful the way you got to the marrow of your characters. Difficult to do...create characters that elicit laughter and tears within seconds — especially when all of them are you. You stirred memories of my own Jersey Girl past. Looking forward to seeing more of your work...
- Susan Sisko Carter, Writer/Author
As a guy who was born in NJ (Ridgewood), I can attest to the spot-on precision of your portrayal of those people, even though I've never met them. I almost forgot it was a cast of one. You really are amazing. Anyway, just wanted to give you a shout-out, and thank you for a REALLY great night of theatre on the West Coast.
- Andrew Tarr, Webseries Producer/Host
Wendy Hammers ... remember this name because you are going to see it around for a long time.
- Larry Jonas, Dramalogue