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Paper Mill Playhouse Wins The 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award

By Gary Wien

originally published: 05/19/2016

Paper Mill Playhouse Wins The 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award

Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn has been on a rather magical run in recent years with productions like Honeymoon in Vegas, Les Misérables, Disney’s Newsies, and The Bandstand launching national tours and going on to Broadway.  Their work has been recognized by many in the industry and on June 12 the theatre will become the third in New Jersey history to win a Regional Theatre Tony Award, which is presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

“Receiving the Regional Theatre Tony Award is the greatest honor any regional theatre could imagine,” said Paper Mill Playhouse Producing Artistic Director, Mark S. Hoebee. “The most incredible part of this is that the award is bestowed upon you for the work you are doing. You don’t compete for it, you can’t petition for it, it is borne out of a conversation among our colleagues in New York, colleagues whom we admire and emulate. To be recognized by those you hold in such high esteem is beyond words.”

“We have dreamed that one day we might be honored in this way, but it is certainly not something we ever expected,” continued Hoebee.  “We value this so much because this award validates not only the work we are doing on the mainstage and the shows that are finding a life after they premiere at Paper Mill, but also the incredible work that we are doing with arts education, access and outreach. Paper Mill was the first theatre in the country to have an autism-friendly performance and we are dedicated to access for patrons and students of all abilities.  We call this ‘Theatre for Everyone’ and it is key to our deep sense of inclusion in all parts of our organization. The staff and crew at Paper Mill work tirelessly and with passion for a theatre that they truly love but to have this work recognized by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League leaves us all speechless.”

Theatres in 17 different states plus the District of Columbia have won the award, which began being presented on an annual basis in 1976. McCarter Theatre in Princeton became the first in New Jersey to receive the honor in 1994.  Five years later, Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick joined them.

Under the leadership of Hoebee and Managing Director Todd Schmidt, Paper Mill Playhouse is a place where American musical theatre is celebrated, cherished, and pushed in exciting new directions. The theatre is fortunate to be located close enough to New York City that it lures the area’s best talent.  Not just actors, but talented designers, directors, and musicians — aspects that help every production have a level of quality few experience outside of the City.  But Paper Mill never forgets where the theatre is based and often includes New Jersey actors in important cast positions.



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Hoebee, who grew up in Freehold, is proud of the way the theatre incorporates local actors.  “My roots are here,” said Hoebee.  “We love serving the community.  We love when there are local people in our productions.  Sometimes it’s a director who is a Jersey person, sometimes it’s an actor.  We also love when some of the kids who come through our program get to graduate on to the stage as well.  For us, as a community-based organization and as a not-for-profit, that connection is great.  Governor Kean gave us the moniker ‘State Theatre of New Jersey’ and we wear that very proudly.  We think it’s very important.”

With the recent successes and world premieres, like this year’s A Bronx Tale, it’s hard to picture a time when people weren’t bringing new projects to Paper Mill, but Hoebee remembers.  When he first arrived at the theatre about 15 years ago, he says people thought the theatre was located too close to New York to debut shows.  At about 1,200 seats, Paper Mill Playhouse is the same size as some Broadway theatres, but the idea of the ‘out of town try-out’ stayed in people’s minds for decades.  It took until the advent of the Internet for the concept to change.

“There is no escape anymore,” explained Hoebee. “You can go to the west coast  or as far as you can and there’s a preview and everybody knows what’s happening.  That helped us.  Also, I think we’ve built a reputation over the past few years of providing a supportive and professional home in New York’s backyard where work can be created and nurtured in the most positive way.  When you are trying out a show - especially if it’s a big musical - you’re going to see it in an environment just like New York, which is helpful. Your point of view on what things work, what things carry, and how things look are being seen in a like environment.  Not just from a physical standpoint, but from staging and intimate moments.  I think that’s a great advantage for creators.”

“There are plenty of other regional theatres all across the country who do what we do very well,” continued Hoebee.  “Some of them are smaller, which means you’re in a more intimate environment.  Then when you move to New York you have to make adjustments.  Some are bigger houses - maybe 2,300 seats - so when you get to New York you have to focus down.  Here it is a similar experience to a New York experience.”

Todd Schmidt echoes those sentiments.  “Paper Mill has become recognized, I believe, as the kind of place that producers who may have an eye on the future economic viability of their project and writers want to come because they understand what we bring to the show,” said Schmidt.  “We bring an expertise at producing musicals, which is unique in this country.  Very few theatres produce five musicals in their season.  And geographically, we have a proximity to New York for talent on every level. Broadway or New York is still the hub.  The goal is to get your show there.”

Paper Mill Playhouse has been presenting plays since 1938.  The Tony Award honors the theatre’s longevity and history as much its recent run of successful debuts.

“Throughout its rich history, Paper Mill Playhouse has established itself as a foundational pre-Broadway venue for new productions and a welcoming home for world-class theatrical revivals. We are ecstatic to recognize their dynamic role in the tri-state area theatre community and unwavering commitment to fostering future Broadway audiences,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, in a statement.

When the Regional Tony Award news was first reported, theatres throughout New Jersey began congratulating Paper Mill and spreading the word. Despite dozens of professional theatres who produce high quality and world premiere works each year, there’s always been something of an underdog role for the Garden State.  Living in the shadow of New York City, many theatres are still being discovered by fans of Broadway and Off-Broadway.  Thus, when one New Jersey theatre wins the coveted award, it helps shine a spotlight on them all.

“New Jersey Theatre Alliance  is delighted that Paper Mill Playhouse has been selected to receive the 2016 Regional Theatre Award.  This award recognizes the theatre’s long history of producing high quality work, contributing to the American theatre repertoire, and enriching and engaging audiences through a wide range of outreach and education initiatives.  Paper Mill joins two other New Jersey theatres, McCarter Theatre Center and Crossroads Theatre Company, in receiving this prestigious honor. This award puts a spotlight not only on Paper Mill, but also on New Jersey, which is home to a diverse and exceptional community of 33 professional theatres,” said John McEwen, Executive Director, New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

“This is an incredible honor that belongs to everyone at Paper Mill Playhouse who has worked so hard to redefine our beloved theater in these recent years,” stated Hoebee along with Todd Schmidt.  “For 78 seasons, Paper Mill Playhouse has been producing world-class theater that has been recognized throughout the country. We are thrilled to be acknowledged in this way by the Tony Awards® Administration Committee and to bring this honor back to the people of New Jersey.”





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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(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 from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.


Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!










Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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