Asbury Park, N.J. (January 31, 2017) — TEDxNavesink, one of the largest TEDx conferences on the East Coast, has selected four winners from its Open Mic auditions to give talks at its main event on May 20 in Asbury Park.

Eric Burdge (Rumson), Alexandra Lewis (Tinton Falls), Jenan Matari (Hoboken), and Avery Rose Puryear (Fair Haven) were chosen out of 20 performers who took the stage Jan. 20 at the Paramount Theatre. Winners were selected from a combination of audience votes and organizers’ evaluations.

“We were blown away by the talent of everyone who performed at the Open Mic,” said Mary Rawlinson, TEDxNavesink chief of staff. “These four individuals stood out to us as the best talent to share their ideas on identity at our event in May.”

More than 200 people filled the Paramount Theatre stage to see the auditions, which were held in partnership with the Asbury Park Boardwalk. Performances focused on a variety of topics, including gender, ethnicity, psychology, and education.

Jenan Matari

Jenan Matari

“I’m super excited to be confirmed as a speaker for the TEDxNavesink talk about identity,” said Matari, who spoke about her identity as a Muslim, Arab, Latina and American woman. “Seeing as my identity has been something I’ve struggled to fully understand throughout my life and I’m now in a place where I must defend it, I am honored to be given this platform in order to help the audience relate to other people like myself and to develop compassion for those who are different than us. Hopefully, I’ll even be able to help others embrace their own identities with my talk.”

Burdge spoke about his path to becoming a master craftsman. Lewis, just 14, delivered a poem on diversity, and Puryear performed an original song, “Inhaling Can Go Wrong.”

In its fifth year, TEDxNavesink brings thought-provoking talks, art and entertainment to Monmouth County, mixing local, national, and global themes and talent. This year, the event will explore the theme of Identity, with featured talks from former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey, founder of the Gender & Family Project Jean Malpas, bestselling author and former Silicon Valley CEO Patty Azzarello, and neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin. Discussions surrounding identity quite often boil over into personal experiences and would make for some interesting reading topics. In this case, perhaps the authors and writers amongst the speakers would be able to shed some light on How to write a memoir for those looking to chronicle their musings on their own identities and life experiences.

TEDxNavesink IDENTITY will explore all aspects of identity: America, authenticity, brand, communications, design, DNA, education, entertainment, fakery, gravitas, gender, and Jersey. After selling out its first four years at the Two River Theatre and Monmouth University, TEDxNavesink moves to the Paramount Theatre on the Asbury Park Boardwalk on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased at For a limited time use the promo code TEDXLUV17 for $14 off individual tickets.

About TEDxNavesink
Founded in 2012, TEDxNavesink is a self-organizing annual Monmouth County-based event dedicated to education, community, innovation, and “ideas worth spreading.” Each year, a different theme is chosen to build the day of nonfiction theater. Business and nonprofit leaders, artists, and students from local universities plan, manage and fund the all-day event.

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