"Cora & Stevie" celebrate Stephen Crane's birthday, with new play premiere

She was a business owner, a pioneer female war correspondent, and a world traveler; a socialite, a scandal queen, a published author, and one of the most memorable American women of her day. But while it might not have been off base to refer to Cora Ethel Eaton Howarth Murphy Stewart as “Cora Taylor,” the proprietor of a notorious “house of assignation” in Jacksonville, Florida preferred that she be called “Cora Crane” — the common-law “wife” of Stephen Crane, the noted storyteller, poet and journalist best known for “The Red Badge of Courage.”

On Sunday, November 7 — in observance of the 150th birthday of the world-famous author and “True Jerseyman” who began his writing career in Asbury Park — the historic Stephen Crane House presents the premiere of “Cora & Stevie: Heaven and Hell,” a new one-woman show written by and starring actor-playwright and longtime friend of the Crane House, Marjorie Conn. Hosted for one performance only inside the recently renovated Lecture Room Theatre of the State and National Historic Site located at 508 Fourth Avenue in Asbury Park, the play finds the twice-married Cora as the dynamic companion, partner and muse to Stephen — a journey that extended from Florida to the battlefields of Cuba and Mediterranean Europe, to a life as expatriate gentry in the English countryside. Drawing from Cora’s own writings, the New York- based founder of the Provincetown Fringe Festival paints a portrait of her real-life subject with the same vivid detail that she brought to her acclaimed works on historical figures ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt and Ethel Rosenberg, to Miss Lizzie Borden.

Produced by the Asbury Park Historical Society, and made possible in part by a grant from Monmouth Arts, “Cora & Stevie” will go up at 3:00 p.m., inside the house where young Crane composed his first short story, and began his career in earnest as a cub reporter for his brother Townley’s locally based news service. As the first theatrical offering to be hosted at the Crane House since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the event will observe precautionary measures for the safety of the audience, with attendees asked to show proof of vaccination (or recent negative test result) upon entry, and all guests asked to wear a mask while inside the performance space. Attendance will be limited to a maximum of 20 people, and complimentary light refreshments will be served in the house’s reception area at the conclusion of each performance.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m. for the 3:00 performance of “Cora & Stevie: Heaven and Hell.” Admission is with a suggested donation of $10 at the door, and attendees can reserve seating by calling 732-361-0189. Help us welcome the remarkable Cora Crane to Asbury Park, as we re-open our doors to public arts events — follow the Stephen Crane House on Facebook, or watch this space for more exciting happenings in the weeks and months to come, at the headquarters of the Asbury Park Historical Society.