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

  • September 14 • NORTH SEA GAS. One of Scotland's most popular folk bands 1 & 7pm. $15.
  • September 22-September 23 • AIKEN & FRIENDS FEST. Enjoy three writers' music and conversation about their writing and inspiration. Sat. at Noon, concurrent, 60-minute workshops in guitar, songwriting or indie music promotion. Sat., 2-5pm: Free Concert On The Quad featuring sets by three bands. LOCAL MUSICIANS: Bring your instrument and join the jam in the Pickers Tent! Sat. at 7pm, Tall Tales & Troubadours with the Mike Aiken Band.
  • October 6 • LEGALLY BLONDE, THE MUSICAL. Production based on the popular movie. 8pm.
  • October 7 • SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Play based on one of Jane Austen’s most popular novels. 8pm.
  • October 17 • TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE. Autobiographical story of Mitch Albom, an accomplished career-driven journalist, and Morrie Schwartz, his former college professor. 7pm.
  • October 19 • LAURA CORTESE & THE DANCE CARDS. Rich vocal harmonies and arresting original songs 1 & 7pm. $15.
  • October 20 • BABYLON. Puppets bring to life seven refugees at a metaphorical hearing about their need for asylum. 7pm.
  • October 24 • THE OTHER MOZART. The true, forgotten story of Nannerl Mozart, the sister of Amadeus. 1 & 7.
  • October 28 • THE CAPITOL STEPS. Political satire 8pm.
  • November 11-November 12 • CRANKIE STORYTELLING. A variety of shadow puppet crankies based on songs and tales.
  • November 19 • NOBUNTO. A cappella quintet from Zimbabwe. 2pm.
  • November 28 • THE ELEPHANT IN EVERY ROOM. This intimate solo piece is about living with Tourette's Syndrome. 1 & 7.
  • November 30 • TIM FARRELL. Fingerstyle guitar. 1 & 7pm. $15.
  • December 2 • THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS SHOW (ABRIDGED). Three Wise Guys send-up and celebrate your favorite winter holiday traditions. 8pm.
  • December 3 • CHRISTMAS WITH THE ANNIE MOSES BAND. 2pm.
  • December 5 • IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. It’s Christmas Eve in 1945, and only a handful of WVL Radio’s actors have braved the blizzard to perform that evening’s broadcast of It’s a Wonderful Life and keep the station afloat. 2 & 7pm.
  • December 8 • THE GREAT RUSSIAN NUTCRACKER. Moscow Ballet’s spectacular scenic design, gorgeous costumes and the exquisite artistry of 40 top Russian dances have made The Great Russian Nutcracker an American holiday tradition not to be missed. 4 & 8pm.
  • December 10 • A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Nebraska Theatre Caravan 2pm.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Lamington River
  • 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

  • Bucks County River Country
  • Fifty years of family fun for all ages! Tubing, calm water rafting, canoeing & kayaking trips on the Delaware River in historic Bucks County (near New Hope, PA). "We love to see you wet!"

    2 Walters Lane, Point Pleasant 18950, 215/297-5000

  • Farmstead Arts Center
  • Farmstead Arts, in Basking Ridge, is a vibrant arts center and serves as a model for adaptive reuse of an historic treasure.

    , ,

  • Millstone Scenic Byway
  • , Millstone

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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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