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Dreamcatcher Turns 20!

By Gary Wien

This article was originally designed to be read in the September 2014 issue of New Jersey Stage magazine. To read it in its original format, click here

Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre is a professional ensemble company in Summit, NJ that presents a mix of new plays and world/New Jersey premieres each season. The company is celebrating its 20th anniversary season this year. New Jersey Stage spoke with Laura Ekstrand, the company's Artistic Director, about the new season and the company's mission.

Dreamcatcher believes in presenting new plays. How are the productions chosen?
Throughout the year, we're always looking at what's happening around us, both in New York and around the country. I read plays all year long, with a big push in the early spring to narrow down the list. All the plays we consider have to fit our mission, our budget, and our acting ensemble. When I have a list of 5-10 pieces I'm considering, I send them out to the company and we gather to read excerpts and discuss them. From that discussion, I select the three we'll produce the following year.

How exciting is it to be able to introduce a new work?
I love it when one or more of our plays is new – we really want to contribute to the growth of our field, and this is one of the best ways to do that. Another is to write our own plays, which we've done once and are working on doing again for next season!

How does having an ensemble of actors influence and affect the work?
The single most important feature of Dreamcatcher is its ensemble. Their talents and personalities shape our work and give our productions a continuity and context that I don't think you can achieve by using strangers for every show. It's more like the model of a dance company or orchestra, where the material changes but the artists present the work together over time.

I think we all have grown because there's such a huge amount of trust and support in the group – there's nothing we won't try because there's really no fear of failure when we're together. We all have each other's backs and are all rooting for everyone to do their very best work.

What are some of your favorite memories of the 20 years?
When we all get to be onstage together (or most of us!) for group projects like The Laramie Ensemble, The Neighborhood, or many of our improv shows and gala celebrations. The love we feel for each other and the work is overpowering and tremendous.

Some of the worst memories?
There were also a lot of moments when I was ready to throw in the towel, when it seemed impossible that we could go on. I have to say it was the strength of the individuals in the group, and I would include our board, staff and families in that group, that kept us going and allowed us to find a way to continue. I can't believe it's been 20 years, mostly because I've often been frustrated and exhausted but never, never bored.

What are some of the challenges the theatre still faces each year?
No surprise – money. Over the past several years, corporate and foundation funding has dropped. Categories have gotten narrower and there just isn't a lot of money out there. So we're thinking more like a for-profit in that we need to earn more of our money the old-fashioned way. We've increased our audience, which really helps, and we've also added educational and outreach programming so we can take our work out into the community. That way we don't have to wait for the people to come to us – we go to them!

The 2011-2012 season was the first for Dreamcatcher to be able to present 3 MainStage productions. How did it feel to reach that level?
Yes – so exciting! Our audience was growing to the point where it seemed like too much time was passing between our mainstage shows, and there might be interest in seeing us do more. We put Shooting Star in the winter slot, and it outperformed every other show that season. It was a pretty resounding “yes” to the question of whether we could support a third show.

What are you most excited about the upcoming season?
I absolutely cannot wait to see The Most Deserving. Clark Carmichael is directing and the company members onstage will be Janet Sales, Scott McGowan, Jason Szamreta and Noreen Farley. Two guests will also be cast, and I just think that script is so doggone funny I can't wait to see what they do with it.

What would you like people to know about the company?
I would love for people to know that we really want to give them an experience when they come through the door. If you've thought, laughed, cried, and hugged a cast member before you left the theatre, that's a good night out in our book. We're not looking for a one-night stand. We want a long-term relationship.

For more by this author, click here

The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.
4th Wall Theatre Presents "Intimate Apparel" by Lynn Nottage
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- 4TH WALL THEATRE continues its 22nd season with a one weekend run of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  The show will be presented as part of the Black History Month celebrations on February 22, 23, and 24 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.  The show is directed by 4th Wall Executive Director Gwen Ricks-Spencer.
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present Murder Mystery Weekends
(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- The award-winning East Lynne Theater Company, with The Henry Sawyer Inn and Twin Gables Inn, present Murder Mystery Weekends on February 15-16, March 8-9, March 22-23, March 29-30, and April 5-6. Participants can test their crime-solving skills while staying in one of these lovely Bed & Breakfasts. East Lynne Theater Company's Murder Mystery Weekends were cited among one of the top five in the country by "AM NY."  

It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.

Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

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