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 26 • CHE MALAMBO. Argentine-based company excites audiences through precise footwork and rhythmic stomping, drumming and singing. 3pm.
  • March 30 • A WOMAN’S STORY: A CELEBRATION OF CULTURE. The program will consist of presentations by a five-member panel of women from a variety of cultural backgrounds who will discuss their experiences as immigrants to the United States. A question-and-answer period will follow. 7 - 9pm.
  • April 2 • GOLDEN DRAGON ACROBATS. The best of a time-honored tradition that began more than 25 centuries ago. 3pm.
  • April 8 • BROADWAY'S NEXT HIT MUSICAL. Master improvisers gather made-up hit song suggestions from the audience and create a spontaneous evening of music, humor and laughter. 8pm.
  • April 29 • TAYLOR, CHAPIN & EVA. Together, the exceptional artistry of these renowned musicians create an unparalleled musical dynamic and unique new sound. 8pm.
  • May 6-May 7 • BEND BEND. Using shadow and projection, theatre artist Kimi Maeda retells the story of her father and Noguchi, both of whom were incarcerated in a camp in Poston, Arizona.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • 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.

    , ,

  • 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

  • Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve
  • Paths of green, fields of gold!

    2121 Larger Cross Road, Bedminster

  • American Spirits Roadhouse
  • A comfortable, come-as-you-are environment in the classic tradition of America's best roadhouses, American Spirits Roadhouse is a haven for those who love classic favorites with new twists, extensive drink choices, and nights filled with music. Something special every night: great bands, open mic, poker, trivia, karaoke, and more.

    1090 Route 173, Asbury 08802, 908/735-0101

  • 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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