Working Theater in New Jersey

Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College

By Melinda Nye

Production companies and presentation houses require different, but equally challenging skills, to survive. Getting people off the couch and away from their flat screens is no easy task. Here is how a local professional theater manages to satisfy a widely diverse audience, sometimes with as much drama off as on the stage.

At first glance, life at a presenting theater appears relatively simple. Booked a year in advance, full-blown productions roll into town like traveling circuses. But presentation theaters have their own elaborate requirements. The search for talent often requires Alan Liddell, Director of the Nash Theatre to travel thousands of miles a year.

Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry , Friday, Feb. 3 at 8PM

Cindy Alexander, a seemingly unflappable theater manager, handles contract fulfillment. A concert pianist might request a nine-foot grand piano of a specific vintage from Steinway. Dancers need a comfy stage to warm up on. In addition, Ms. Alexander adds her own signature touch to ensure a pleasant environment. "I try to create an atmosphere that leads to the best work," she explains. "For Patti Page, who had just won a Grammy, I found some old albums which we gave out as prizes. We had a cake ready for after the show."

Her job could intimate the most experienced wedding planner. Talent comes from around the world. Acts have included the Moscow Ballet, the Bulgarian State Opera, and the Peking Acrobats. Translators help, but routine proves indispensable.

Technical support for a show typically arrives early in the morning. The crew sets the rigging, lights and sound. Ms. Alexander might still have to provide meals, airport transportation, shuttle runs to the hotel, a furnished dressing room, and an area to sell merchandise. Meanwhile, buses stuffed with set pieces, crewmembers, and performers arrive throughout the day. When the performance ends, what goes up must come down; crews often load out until the wee hours of the morning.

Golden Dragon Acrobats, Sunday, Apr. 2 at 3PM

To serve the theater's diverse audience, the process must function as a well-oiled machine. The folks at Nash Theatre seem to have a knack for controlling chaos. Not surprisingly, financial support comes attendant on that ability. As another not-for-profit, Nash depends on public and private subsidies. Recent funding led to upgrades, including new seats and carpeting in the 1,000-seat theater. Improved ticketing software allows patrons to choose and buy their own seats on line. "We try to make it easy for guests," Ms. Alexander explains. "We also offer free parking."

Ms. Alexander possesses a remarkably sensible outlook. If the former actors' agent knows any tales of behind-the-scenes drama, she doesn't tell. She rolls her eyes. "Everyone has heard about rock stars who want the green M&Ms removed from the candy jar. We don't get that." When necessary, Cindy takes matters into her own hands. When a concert violinist, en route to that evening's performance, called to report a broken-down vehicle, Nash's Theater Manager went out in the snow. She found the musician a short distance from Newark Airport, but the violinist neglected to mention companions. Ms. Alexander jammed the violinist, the violin, and the musician's mother, father, aunt and uncle into her car and drove them to the show. "We got here," she says.

There is a Major Artist Series, the Family Series, a Sunday Sampler Series, Tuesdays With Stories, and Club 28, a relaxed on-stage cabaret setting. There are also special school and community performances throughout the year.

The Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College,
Rt. 28 and Lamington Road, North Branch , 908/725-3420

Upcoming RVCC Productions and Events

  • January 20 • A CHORUS LINE. This exciting production features the groundbreaking direction and choreography of Michael Bennett. 8. $25 & $35.
  • January 26 • YAMATO – THE DRUMMERS OF JAPAN. Continually challenging themselves to reach greater heights, this spirited performance celebrates the strength, hope, dreams and courage in all of us. Feel the uninterrupted vibration of the beat throughout our bodies. 7. $25 & $35.
  • February 3 • PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY. Dance maker Paul Taylor is a cultural icon and one of history’s most celebrated artists, hailed as part of the pantheon that created American modern dance. 8. $25 & $35.
  • February 9 • THE MOUNTAINTOP. A gripping reimagination of events that took place the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. 8. $25 & $35.
  • February 10 • IT’S DARK OUTSIDE. A heartfelt exploration of dementia told through puppetry, mask, animation and live performance, this award-winning adventure tells the tale of an old man chasing his memories as they escape into the wild. 3 & 7. $15 & $20.
  • February 16 • PEKING ACROBATS. This troupe of elite gymnasts, cyclists, jugglers and acrobats leave audiences breathless, defying gravity with amazing displays of strength, balance, agility, grace and artistry. 7. $25 & $35.
  • February 27 • TAYO ALUKO: CALL MR. ROBESON. One of the 20th Century’s most impressive but overlooked figures is revived in this powerful, compelling tour-de-force performance that takes audiences on a roller-coaster journey through Robeson’s remarkable, eventful life. 1 & 7.
  • March 1 • EVIE LADIN & KEITH TERRY. Original folk songs, and deep interpretations of old songs, with the kinetic thrill of percussive dance. 1 & 7pm. $15.
  • March 9 • TEA FOR THREE: LADY BIRD, PAT & BETTY. An intimate portrait of three remarkable first ladies who suddenly found themselves in the limelight. 2 & 7. $15.
  • March 13 • DOREEN OLIVER: EVERYTHING IS FINE UNTIL IT’S NOT. A funny, heartfelt one-woman show about a workaholic film producer whose life goes off-script. 1 & 7.
  • March 17 • RHYTHM OF THE DANCE. World champion dancers, a traditional Irish band, and the Young Irish Tenors. 2 & 7. $25 & $35.
  • April 10 • IYABA IBO MANDINGO: UNFRAMED. An emotional, powerful, and uplifting self-portrait. 1 & 7.
  • April 12 • MARTIN TAYLOR. Taylor has invented and developed a way of playing the guitar that is admired, and often imitated by guitarists all over the world. 1 & 7pm. $15.
  • April 27 • MACHINE DE CIRQUE. Five guys masterfully handle a teeterboard, juggling clubs, unicycles, drums, and even bath towels 8. $20 & $30.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Lamington River
  • Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse
  • Artisanal cheeses, wood fired breads, 100% grass-fed beef, whey fed pork, and suckled veal, 100% grass-fed ice cream, pasta made with Emmer wheat and our own free-range eggs, and pesto made with our own basil! Bread and cheesemaking workshops are held on the working farm as well as weekend tours and occasional concerts.

    369 Stamets Road, Milford 08848, 908/86GRASS

  • Duke Farms
  • View historic buildings, elegant bridges, a chain of beautiful man-made lakes, lush meadows, woodlands. waterfalls and ornamental fountains at the historic estate.

    80 Route 206, Hillsborough 08876, 908/722-3700

  • Historic Hunterdon Taverns
  • Made To Order
  • Delightful fantasies beyond words! Gold, Platinum & Silver Jewelry, Wildlife Photos, Crystal, Lighthouses. Perfume Bottles, Santas, Witches Balls, Oil Lamps, Paperweights, Chimes, Art Glass, Wishing Stars. Now featuring Pandora Jewelry.

    44 Main St., Clinton 08809, 908/735-4244

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Comments

Jackie Byleckie
20 Mar 2014, 15:31
I would like to know how I can see the seating for the The Fantasticks on April 13th at 2pm
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