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

  • 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 Lifestyles
  • A Bedminster destination for 31 years (formerly Lamington General Store) located in a restored 1890's general store, Lamington Lifestyles offers two floors brimming with home decor, unique gifts, women's apparel, baby gifts, jewelry and artwork... some designed by over 80 American artisans. Specializing in custom farm tables. Tues-Sat, 10AM-5PM; Sunday, Noon-5PM

    285 Lamington Rd., Bedminster 07921, (908) 439-2034

  • Jacobus Vanderveer House
  • The Jacobus Vanderveer house is the only surviving building associated with the Pluckemin encampment.

    1 River Rd W, Bedminster 07921, 908/212-7000 x611

  • Ship Inn Restaurant and Brewery
  • New Jersey''s first brewpub where, in addition to14 British ales and hard cider on tap, you can enjoy selections brewed on-site. The menu is derived exclusively from cuisine from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Lively weekend entertainment, on and off premise catering.

    61 Bridge St., Milford 08848, 908/995-7007

  • Decoys and Wildlife Gallery
  • This wildlife art gallery contains the area?s largest selection of hand carved decoys, representing carvers across the US, as well as an extensive collection of original paintings by some of the nation's most renowned artists.

    55 Bridge St., Frenchtown 08825, 908/996-6501

  • Historic Hunterdon Taverns


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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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