In 1981 Lori Adams, current head of the acting program at Illinois State University, and Deanna Jent, Illinois Wesleyan University alumna, met. Thirty-one years later they created an off-Broadway show together.

Throughout the years, Jent and Adams maintained a personal friendship and professional relationship. In 2011, Jent asked Adams to direct her new play Falling at the Mustard Seed Theatre in St. Louis. Falling was an immediate critical and audience favorite, going on to win the 2012 Kevin Kline Award for Outstanding New Play, the highest honor given in St. Louis theatre.

Discovered there by Tony Award-winning producer Terry Schnuck, the play was then produced in New York at the Minetta Lane Theatre, where it ran from October 15 through December 30, 2012.

Lori Adams, director and John Stark, set designer. Adams is head of the Acting Program and Stark is head of the Production/Design Area at Illinois State University (left). Pictured with Deanna Jent and friend

Lori Adams, director, and John Stark, set designer. Adams is head of the acting program and Stark is head of the production/design area at Illinois State (left). Pictured with Deanna Jent and friend.

This new drama explores how 18-year-old Josh, who has autism, affects the lives of everyone around him. When a relative comes to visit, the entire family is thrown off their equilibrium, with everyone trying to balance what is best for the family and what is best for them. Jent based much of the script on her own life and her experiences.

“This is a story about family. It’s a story about love and what human beings do for each other” Adams stated. “This was a show that perfectly suited my strengths as a director. The family dynamic and the dynamic of human nature have always fascinated me.” Adams was able to bring this world to life.

“Everyone wants to talk about it!” Adams explained that originally Minetta Lane Theatre only planned on holding talkbacks after the Preview performances.

“They were not prepared” said Adams.

Talkbacks are now held after every performance, and the majority of the audience stays to listen and contribute; this is something that you do not see in New York theatre.

“It’s overwhelming to hear the personal stories—the families, friends, health care professionals, teachers, parents—all who have been affected by autism. But also those who know nothing about it and are able to get a real glimpse of what life is like,” she said.

The reviews

“Graceful writing, great acting, exquisite direction, suspense, profound subject matter—you rarely find even one of those elements in a contemporary play opening in commercial New York theater, and never all in the same play at the same time. That’s what makes Falling such a shock. It teaches you something and leaves you sated—and it rocks…. And Lori Adams, the director, has wrenched every ounce of juice from its reservoir of emotions, like water from a dish towel.” – Rex Reed, New York Observer

“Falling,” a new play by Deanna Jent, directed by Lori Adams has its off Broadway premier at the Minetta Lane Theater. Let us take a small moment to revel in the reality that a play is both written and directed by a woman and perhaps because of that we have a work that is wonderfully wrought, deeply personal, tragic and in its larger life, incredibly universal. Both the author and the director have midwestern roots and perhaps that is what accounts for the in-your-face, no nonsense approach to a family living with autism.” – Wickham Boyle, Edge News, New York, NY

“Adams, who helmed the original production of “Falling” at the Mustard Seed Theater in St. Louis, smartly has brought along set designer John Stark, whose realistic interior subtly helps to establish the obstacle course that is the characters’ lives, and lighting designer Julie Mack, who guides us from harsh reality to interludes of escape. Their work anchors this newly cast production of a play that makes clear how little support exists for families such as Josh’s.” – Jonathan Mandell,