Posts Tagged ‘Theatre’

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Four Days, 44 Shows (Really.)

February 2, 2011

By Lian Farrer, Vice President for Education

The week before last I was in Tampa Bay, FL, at the annual IPAY (International Performing Arts for Youth) Showcase and conference. And yes, I really did see 44 shows in just 4 days. And went to workshops, meetings, lectures, and a party or two. Despite the grueling schedule, I came home reenergized and excited about the things I saw, heard, and did.

I’ll begin with the sheep. Or, I should say, Les moutons. That’s the name of this bizarre but inspired interactive performance piece presented by a dance company from Toronto called Corpus. They set up a sheep pen (complete with sheep dung that I hope wasn’t real) on the plaza alongside the river walk. Through the crowd came a shepherd driving his flock: dancers dressed in sheep’s costumes. The dancer/actors who played the sheep should all win awards for never once breaking character during the show. They did the usual sheep-y things, including getting shorn and milked. I tasted the milk, warm from the udder. (Don’t ask.) Kids in the audience had a chance to come up to the pen and feed the critters. This show was totally goofy and unexpected. I’d like to figure out a way to work Les moutons into our State Theatre season. Can you hear me out there, Cook College?

Another show featuring herd animals was equally strange and wonderful: The Wolf and the Goat, by Italy’s Compagnia Rodisio. A wolf and a goat, natural enemies, take shelter one stormy night and, not recognizing each other in the dark, become friends. When daylight comes, will the wolf eat the goat? Will the goat manage to escape? Or will they break the accepted order of things and remain friends? (The audience never finds out.) The show is basically two actors—not in animal costumes, thank goodness—a red velvet settee, and three small lighted trees. Dressed in a simple white frock, Manuela Capece, playing the goat was all wide-eyed innocence, while Davide Doro, as the wolf, managed to be both sleazy and seductively sexy at the same time. The Wolf and the Goat was originally in Italian; my colleagues and I were further impressed when we learned that Davide Doro spoke no English, and had learned his part phonetically. Bravo, Davide!

Without a doubt, my very favorite showcase was Grug. Now, I will confess to you here that I normally don’t get too excited about shows for really little kids. But I lost my heart to a character who “began his life as the top of a burrawong tree” and who looks like this:

Grug was created by Australia’s Windmill Theatre and is based on a children’s book series that I confess I’d never heard of. The production was everything theater should be: imaginative, expertly performed, and completely captivating. I loved the clever design of the sets and puppets. Most of all, I was struck by how the actors seemed genuinely delighted to be performing for their young audience; there was no condescension and none of that exaggerated cheerfulness that makes me cringe at so many other shows targeted to kids this age. As we like to remind each other in my profession, children are just like our adult audience, only smaller.
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Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority lends a hand and bakes cookies!

October 19, 2010

Guest Blog by Rutgers, Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority Treasurer Angelica Poon

On the weekend of October 2nd, the Sisters of Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority from Rutgers University were most pleased to volunteer at Milk & Cookies- an event held in the State Theatre to encourage appreciation of the art of theatre in young children. It was the first time we were exposed to this event, which was eye-opening. We felt it was a great education outreach program to encourage learning beyond school. Many of us enjoyed the storytelling ourselves, even though it was aimed at a much younger audience! Our contribution was to usher and sign in guests, and most importantly donate fresh homemade cookies to the program, which were then distributed (free of charge) to the children who attended the event. (Milk was also generously sponsored by another party to complement the delicious cookies!)

We were delighted to see the joy in the young children as they collected their cookies and milk, as we reminisced to our own childhood where milk and cookies were a divine combination and treat to always look forward to. Our Sisters also prepared a milk-free and egg-free batch of cookies and lo and behold, there was a young boy who had egg allergies. Being able to help a child who was originally excluded from the joy of cookies, was extremely rewarding. The Kappa Sisters were more than happy to put in our time to bake and volunteer at the event, as it was fun, eye-opening, and we love to help our community! We would gladly and enthusiastically do this again.

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Living like a Celebrity: State Theatre Date Night Packages

October 12, 2010

By Brigitte Bastaldo, Marketing & PR intern

Fine decadent chocolates, VIP seats to phenomenal theater, palette blinding dining and luxurious hotel accommodations… After a tiresome week of work, noisy kids, and towering piles of household chores, the lifestyle of the glamorous is, without doubt, an experience worth drooling over. As a New Jersey professional, wife and mom the thought of living like a celebrity—for even just one evening—is often far from fathomable. But something has changed recently that brings more glee to my soul than a random impulse purchase of a designer purse. You see, my husband and I just learned about the exciting Date Night packages offered by the prestigious State Theatre. Since then we have had the opportunity to not only see top-notch performances by international artists but we have had the opportunity to mingle backstage, sip wine, dine gloriously and more upon our recent trips to the State Theatre. Truly, State Theatre’s Date Night packages have brought a sense of exhilaration back into our lives—something well overdue.

Most who haven’t tried it yet just don’t understand my enthusiasm and loyalty to State Theatre as well as their Date Night packages. It is true that some other venues, commonly in NYC, occasionally offer some of the same perks I mentioned earlier. But it must be known that there is a distinct difference between State Theatre and these other venues that makes me favor the State Theatre without a blink.

I like the State Theatre and especially these packages because they are customizable; such that the package options are available on countless shows—not just a handful of specific shows throughout the year. I prefer them because, as a New Jersey professional, wife and mom, I don’t have to commute all the way to NYC to enjoy a wondrous night out. I like the State Theatre because I’m feel good about supporting my own community and a New Jersey based not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the arts.

Thank you State Theatre for the glamour and romance.

Listed below are some the packages offered now:

VIP Tickets

  • Two Seats in VIP Box Right or VIP Box Left
  • Backstage Pass Access
  • Boraie Donor Lounge Access for Complimentary Drinks and Snacks

Tickets Plus

  • Two Mid-orchestra Tickets
  • Two Glasses of Wine
  • One Box of Chocolate

Getaway

  • Two Mid-orchestra Tickets
  • Hotel Accommodations
  • and sometimes Parking & Dining Credits

Dining

  • Two Mid-orchestra Tickets
  • $100 Dining Gift Certificate from Your Choice one of the Featured Restaurants Below
  • One Rose at Your Seat Before the Show

To learn more, visit: http://www.statetheatrenj.org/datenight

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Rola-bola of death! Tell me more!

September 16, 2010

By Kelly Blithe, Director of Public Relations

You may or may not have seen, but recently we posted The Passing Zone’s (a juggling duo here on 11/21/10) “Top 5 Dangerous Tricks” …which are…

5. The Chainsaw Ballet
4. The Rola-bola… of death!
3. Wearing white after Labor Day
2. Rat Traps, Leapfrog, Volunteer, need we say more?
1. Hurling dangerous objects so close to the audience, without properly warming up!

Now, I don’t know about you but I want to know what the “Rola-bola of death” is!! And that’s what these guys are all about, keeping us on our toes, in fact they literally keep audiences on their toes since many of their tricks include volunteer participation. I know volunteer participation is not for everyone, but isn’t it funny when your Dad, husband, wife, or crazy Uncle get dragged into it? I think so. Any way, I’ll let you decide for yourself, enjoy the clip below…

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NEW LEADERSHIP AT THE STATE THEATRE

July 26, 2010

We recently announced a new Executive Committee, two new Trustees, as well as the appointment of an Interim Chief Operating Officer.

The new Executive Committee elected at the June annual meeting of the Board of Trustees includes Warren R. Zimmerman, Chairman; Efrem B. Dlugacz, Vice Chairman; Douglas M. Garback, Secretary; and Frederick P. Pierce, Treasurer.

We are also happy to announce the addition of two new Trustees, Susan Podlogar, Worldwide VP Compensation Resources & Productivity at Johnson & Johnson, and a resident of New Brunswick; and Raj Singh, Managing Director and Head of the Recapitalization & Restructuring Investment Banking Group for Raymond James and Associates from New York City.

“It is truly my pleasure to serve as the new Chairman of this great historic State Theatre,” recently stated Zimmerman. “I am committed to the patrons, staff, and the Board of Trustees in providing the leadership and support to continue to build the best theatre we can. With our strong capable staff and committed Board of Trustees, I have no doubt we will continue to maintain and improve the level of quality and service our patrons deserve. I am excited about the future of the State Theatre and I look forward to seeing everyone there!”

As our search for a new State Theatre President & CEO continues, following the June retirement of former President & CEO Wes Brustad, we have announced that Marion Combs, Senior Vice President for Development, will assume responsibility as Interim Chief Operating Officer. Combs will act as Interim COO until a successor for Brustad is hired later in the fall.

“The State Theatre staff is really excited about our upcoming 2010-2011 lineup of performances and festivals! We’ve got something for everybody, including great performing arts experiences for school children. Working with the Board of Trustees and its dynamic leadership team, we will continue to focus on artistic excellence and financial stability,” commented Marion Combs.

Chairman Warren R. Zimmerman, a resident of Piscataway, is an AVP in Information Technology at Chubb & Son. Vice Chairman Efrem B. Dlugacz of Princeton is Vice President of Worldwide Benefits for Johnson & Johnson; Secretary Douglas M. Garback, a resident of North Brunswick, is the owner/premiere agent of The Garback Agency; and Treasurer Frederick P. Pierce, a resident of Basking Ridge, is a Senior Vice President of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

The continuing Board members are Ann H. Asbaty of Randolph; Sam Boraie of New Brunswick; Elizabeth Hance of New Brunswick; Bill Herman of Clifton; Patricia Howard of Manalapan; Joe Light of Somerset; Andrew J. Markey of Basking Ridge; Sherard Murphy of Piscataway; and Robin Suydam of Somerset.

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Q & A with Runt of the Litter star Bo Eason

July 14, 2010

 Bo Eason, a former NFL player turned actor/writer performs his one-man play Runt of the Litter at the State Theatre March 2011. Recently, Bo took some time to talk to us about his upcoming show, how he made the move from the NFL to theater, and his big plans for bringing Runt of the Litter to the silver screen.
 
Q: How were you received by your fans, as well as your peers, when you made the transition from the NFL to acting/writing?
A: What’s funny about this, is that I’ve always kept one eye on drama. When I was in high school, I was taking acting classes and none of my football teammates ever knew. Then, in college I minored in drama, and still none of my teammates knew. So, in 1989 when I retired from the NFL, I moved to New York City and I did play after play. I was afraid they would make fun. I remember my first play was a children’s play in which I was the mayor of this elf town and my brother (Tony Eason) who was the quarterback of the New England Patriots at the time and my friend Kenny O’Brien who was the quarterback of the Jets, came to see me. After the play, they came up to me and said “six months ago, you were playing football and signing autographs for fans and now you’re in a top hat and performing in front of a bunch of kids who aren’t paying attention.” From that point on I knew I had to start from the bottom. So, when Runt premiered in Houston, where I used to play, it was great to hear my former teammates say “that’s so cool Bo,” or “Bo, I didn’t know you liked that, man, I wish I would have done that.” So, acting was a secret all my life but now everyone was rallying around it and it was a great feeling.

Q: How much of the show is autobiographical?
A: Most of it is based on the truth, and the story of my brother and I. However, there is a segment in the play that is not true but I thought it would be an interesting concept to explore and it has to do with two brothers meeting face to face.

Q: What would you say is more challenging, football or acting? Do you find they have similar challenges or are they complete opposites?
A: A lot, a lot of training for both. Twenty years of training for football and 20 years of training for acting. And in stage acting, the preparation is the same as football, you have to learn all the elements to do it well and it takes years and years. The training for being a safety in football is so specific, running forward and sideways and backwards, and the same goes for acting but they both involve body, movement, and structure.

Q: In terms of preparation, rehearsing, practicing, etc, what goes into preparing for a game versus preparing for a show?
A: There was this one sensation that happened to me before a game, where I would be in tunnel, in the dark and I would hear the music and the announcer start introducing the players and I would just think, ‘what if I just turned around and ran out of the stadium and drove off in my car.’ And the same happens before a show, I am sitting backstage, in the dark, and I think ‘what if I just turned around and ran out the back door.’ But there is something that always makes me take that step. And I love overcoming it, I love overcoming my fears, whether it is playing an NFL game or performing on Broadway.

Q: We hear that you have written a screen play based on the show and that it will soon be a major motion picture. Can you tell us a little about that and how far along that is? Is there a director or have any actors been cast yet?
A: A couple of years ago, Frank Darabont (the director of the Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile) came to see Runt in Santa Monica in a little theater with about 30 people. And after the show, he came up to me and said ‘Bo, I think this would be a great movie, and I think you should be the one to write the screenplay.’ And I thought, I don’t know the first thing about writing a screenplay. So, together Frank and I pitched Castlerock and they bought the rights and I went on to write the screenplay with Frank kind of looking over my shoulder. Frank is a multi-Academy Award nominated writer, so it was like I was in Grad school and Frank was the teacher. And after a few years, I ended up taking the movie rights back and I just finished rewriting the screenplay. We are hoping to start filming next year, late spring or early summer. There have been a few directors who have show interest including Rob Reiner, DJ Caruso (Eagle Eye), and John Lee Hancock (The Blindside). The actors interested have ranged from Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and James Franco to Nicholas Cage, Ryan Phillipe, and Orlando Bloom. All of whom have either asked to be in the movie or if I could write them a movie with roles like that. So, a lot of people have circled around the movie because of the play.

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This Summer – Music and Air Conditioning!

June 10, 2010

Summer is here! And for us, summer means music! And this year we have 3 big music concerts: Ringo Starr (7/5/10), Melissa Etheridge (7/16/10), and Squeeze and Cheap Trick (7/18/10). We are super excited and ready to rock! So, now you know what we have this summer, but what you don’t know is why only 3? That my friends, is because we are gearing up for an installation of a new HVAC system! I know, not as exciting as our 3 star concerts, but important nevertheless. For years, as an older venue, we have had on again, off again issues with our air conditioning and heat (as some of you may recall). So, finally after years of “temporary fixes,” this summer Middlesex County has decided to invest a million dollars into a new HVAC system for the theater. And because we are an older building (est. 1921) the process will take much longer than most. This the reason why we must temporarily close down the building for the summer following our 3 music concerts.

In fact, preliminary work has already begun. We are in the first stage, which is the “foundations for steel” stage (not quite sure what that exactly means just yet). So, we have a long way to go, but I will definitely keep everyone posted on the project. For now, stay cool and don’t forget to buy your summer concert tickets before they sell out (because they will)!

—Kelly Skinner, Director of Public Relations