Monday, January 30, 2012

New Jersey Theatre Alliance's fifteenth annual Stages Festival set for March

The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, its 35 professional member theatres, and partner organizations are presnting the fifteenth annual Stages Festival throughout the month of March 2012.

“New Jersey’s professional theatres have so much to offer,” says John McEwen, Executive Director of the Theatre Alliance.  “The Stages Festival serves as a month-long open-house to the state’s residents – giving them a chance to see the wide variety of programming that exists right in their own back yard – with shows, sample classes or play-development events at little to no cost.”

The Stages Festival began 15 years ago as a one-week program for young people and their families (originally called Family Week at the Theatre), but the program was so popular, and member theatres kept offering new events for people of all ages, that the Theatre Alliance – with the help of their funding partners – expanded it beyond the original week. The organization and its member theatres now provide a full month of performances, workshops and programs for theatre lovers in all the stages of their lives.

Events are held at member theatres, but also in local libraries, schools, hospitals and senior centers.  For the fifth year in a row, the Theatre Alliance is also sponsoring a private event for service men and women and their families on McGuire Air Force Base in Burlington County.

The Stages Festivalis a co-sponsored project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.  Additional program sponsors are Bank of America and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.

The program’s mission is to give families the opportunity to experience the diversity of New Jersey’s professional theatres by offering affordable, exciting and educational programming at member theatres and in non-traditional venues throughout the state.

Ocean County teacher Joanne Betancourt has been hosting a Stages Festival event in her district for many years.  “Though all the years that I’ve worked with this wonderful program, I’ve seen how families share the bonding experience and how kids light up watching characters they’ve read about come to life. If the Theatre Alliance didn’t bring this program to our school, there are many children who wouldn’t have the chance to go to the theatre with their families.”

Performances aren’t the only part of the program; classes and workshops have always been a popular aspect The Stages Festival and this year over 20 offerings give theatre lovers a chance to participate in a variety of workshops under the guidance of professional artists.

Examples of workshops from north to south include:  Actors Shakespeare Company (Hudson county) – is offering a stage combat workshop for young people, an physical comedy workshop for ages 12 and up, and a Shakespearian centered acting workshop for the whole family; Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre (Essex county) – is offering an acting workshop for middle and high school students; East Lynne Theater Company (Cape May county) – is offering a workshop that covers improvisation and the basics of scene work for ages 15 and up.   Other member theatres will be offering acting workshops, pre- and post- show discussions, and more for all ages.

Some highlights of this year’s Stages Festival andFamily Week at the Theatre include:
Familiar stories told with laughter and adventure serve as a wonderful way to introduce children to the delights of live theatre, while keeping their parents happily entertained.
Touring productions from Pushcart Players and Centenary Stage Company and Surflight Theatre will be performing all over the state – in Atlantic, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, and Warren Counties  – with several productions including: A Year With Frog and Toad; If You Give a Mouse a Cookie; Red Riding Hood & Other Stories; Stone Soup and Other Stories; and the popular bi-lingual Cuentos del Arbol (Tree Tales).

George Street Playhouse will offer several opportunities to see their acclaimed production IRL: In Real Life – in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean.  The production, and the conversation that will follow, will invite discussion about how young people can take an active role to end cyber bullying. 
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s (Morris) Shakespeare LIVE! Company will bring the best of the Bard to audiences in a fast-paced and exciting productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth (both adapted for young audiences), at their Madison, NJ theatre.
Surflight Theatre's touring company will perform the popular Schoolhouse Rock LIVE! –– with songs and laughs for kids and their parents, who may recall the Saturday morning television of their youth with productions in Cumberland, Morris, and Ocean counties.

The Growing Stageoffers a reading series – produced in association with Playwrights Theatre – that features four thought-provoking new plays at their historic theatre in Morris County.
There are several opportunities to catch East Lynne Theater Company’s popular “radio play” Sherlock Holmes’ Adventure of the Norwood Builder at their performance space in Cape May and in Ocean and Bergen County.

Cuentos del Arbol(Tree Tales) will be performed by Pushcart Players in Cape May, Essex, Mercer and Passaic County on March 19.  Sharing delightful stories with universal themes, this language-enriching show inspires an appreciation for other cultures.  These performances are made possible by the support of The HMS Foundation.

Several member theatres are offering special deals to The Stages Festival patrons for main-stage productions in March including: 
Actors Shakespeare Company(Hudson) – Macbeth, from March 16 – 31.
Centenary Stage Company(Warren) – Ladies Man, from March 2 – 4.
Dreamcatcher Repertory Company(Essex) – Blood: A Comedy, Saturday, March 10.
Paper Mill Playhouse(Essex) – Damn Yankees, March 7 – 31.
Ticket deals vary; check for more information about dates, times and restrictions.

Accessibility/Accessible Performances
"The New Jersey Theatre Alliance is committed to making all of its programs and services fully accessible to the public."  Most venues participating in The Stages Festival are wheelchair accessible.  Call the venue directly for details regarding physical access (i.e. parking, wheelchair seating, rest-room access).  Any attendees requiring assisted services (i.e. sign language interpretation, assistive listening) may contact the New Jersey Theatre Alliance at 973-731-6582 x15 at least two weeks prior to the scheduled event.  The Alliance will work with the venue to meet accessibility needs.

The following performances by Pushcart Players are being offered during The Stages Festival on Saturday, March 3. 

An Open Captioned performance of Happily Ever After – A Cinderella Tale will take place at the Bickford Theatre, Morristown at 12:30pm.
A Sign Language Interpreted performance of Happily Ever After — A Cinderella Tale will take place at the Bickford Theatre, Morristown at 2:30pm.
An Audio Described performance of Red Riding Hood and Other Stories will take place at the Shea Center for Performing Arts at William Paterson University, Wayne at 2:00pm.

The highlights listed here are only a sampling of the diversity of this years’ schedule of events, and reservations are necessary for most of them.  For an up-to-the-minute schedule of The Stages Festival and Family Week at the Theatre,  visit the website at

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