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The Growing Stage Wants You To Dare To Dream This Season

By Gary Wien

originally published: 09/25/2017

The Growing Stage Wants You To Dare To Dream This Season

Introducing children to the theatre is important for many parents.  Unfortunately, some productions designed with kids in mind lead parents to steal glances at their watch as they wonder how much time is left in the show.  That’s not the case at The Growing Stage. They may be known as the Children’s Theatre of New Jersey, but their shows are not just for kids. The theatre, located in the Historic Palace Theatre in Netcong, strives to put on productions that the entire family will enjoy and the upcoming 2017-18 season continues that mission. 

The 2017-18 season not only finds Growing Stage taking on the challenge of presenting a pair of big productions (Disney's Beauty and the Beast and Dreamworks' Madagascar), but it includes a new adaptation of Cinderella and the world premiere of Boy Sees Flying Saucer.  It’s definitely not dull theatre; this is a season that will accomplish the goal of daring you to dream — a theme that was inspired by everything that is currently happening culturally and socially in the country.

“We figured we needed to do our job as artists to collectively inspire others to dream of better things as opposed to all of the negativity we’ve been forced to focus on in the last few months,” explained Stephen L. Fredericks, Executive Director of the theatre.  “So, we wanted to remind people and challenge ourselves as artists to create an environment which is positive and gives people the opportunity to dream about better things.”

In addition to dreaming, the season offers escapism for the theatre-goer as well.

“It’s kind of reestablishing ourselves as a safe haven,” continued Fredericks.  “And while we’re still encouraging folks to be able to learn and grow and experience the arts - at the same time, it’s establishing that the theatre is a place they can express creatively without any kind of concern.  To be able to experience the arts and share the moment in the theatre as a family.”



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One of the most intriguing plays on the schedule is the new adaptation of Cinderella. Taking place over the holiday season, the piece comes from Chicago’s Emerald City Theatre and this adaption of a fairy tale is a musical holiday wish come true.  It offers a significant twist on the main character - subtle hints of feminism or “realism” as Fredericks puts it.

“In this production, Cinderella is less of a victim,” said Fredericks.  “More than that, she’s in control of her own destiny.  While there’s still fairy magic mixed into the plot that everyone is used to, she’s a sword-wielding heroine that culminates with her being good friends with the prince as opposed to looking to him for all of the answers.  It’s kind of exciting to be able to bring the fairy tale genre to life, but, at the same time, send along a message that’s more positive for young women and men.  It’s a message to learn to respect one another and things of that nature.”

In the crowded field of holiday productions from annual performances of The Nutcracker to A Christmas Carol, the addition of Cinderella to the mix is welcome.  It’s a production that fits in with the holiday spirit, but is something that can be enjoyed even if you do not celebrate the holidays.

The Growing Stage Wants You To Dare To Dream This SeasonAnother production is Boy Sees Flying Saucer.  As science fiction fans, we are always interested when the genre finds its way on to the stage. Based on the true and original story by Brian Dorscht and written by Mike Czuba, the play won the annual play competition at The Growing Stage.

“We have an annual new play reading festival and each year we receive in the area of 150-175 scripts from around the world,” said Fredericks.  “They are new works and adaptations but all for our genre of theatre.  Last year we had 26 of the 50 states represented and work from six countries.  From all of the submissions we select four.  We give two readings - one in the fall and one in the spring.  And then we select one of those and give it a fully mounted Equity production; that’s the prize itself.  This winner came from Alberta, Canada.”

In Boy Sees Flying Saucer, Bobby Radcliffe is sure he has lost his brand-new bicycle. After his parents go out for the evening, he is left with his sister and instructions from his father to “make sure the bike is found and in the garage” before Bobby goes to bed. Frustrated that he can’t find his bike, he returns home and decides to tell a lie to his gullible sister; “A flying saucer came down and took my bike.” Half believing what he says, she asks him for details of how it happened – and a story starts to develop. The sister runs to the phone to tell her best friend what Bobby just told her. The best friend tells her father who is the town Sheriff and tells her he is coming over to the house. 

“The story just grows and grows,” continued Fredericks.  “The national media gets involved and he becomes very popular in school because he’s had this experience.  It’s just one turn after another as this young man goes through the journey of being the boy who cried wolf and science fiction all melded into one.”

The Growing Stage Wants You To Dare To Dream This SeasonParents may have taken a trip into New York City to see the pair of hit musicals on the schedule, but The Growing Stage offers an intriguing take on them. The theatre turns the challenge of presenting these large musicals in a smaller space as a positive.  Within the intimate confines of the Palace Theatre, the plays rely less on special effects and more on the story itself.

“The parents and families actually become part of the story!” said Fredericks.  “By making it smaller, we’re not making it less.  We focus more on the story and on the musical moments rather than the big extravaganza and spectacle.  We’re not doing movies, we’re not doing computer games, so why are we trying to replicate it? Let’s keep it to being live theatre and celebrate that in and of itself.”

Fredericks founded The Growing Stage back in 1982 and says he never expected it to still be going strong three decades later.  He is grateful for all of the people he’s had the opportunity to work alongside, noting that a theatre is never a one person show.

“I’ve had the opportunity over the past 36 years to learn and work alongside some wonderful artists in and of themselves who have only enhanced what the mission of the organization has remained to be, which is to provide professional theatre for young people and their families,” he added.  “I think the genre itself is one that perhaps deserves a little more respect and recognition - not only because of the quality we try to do in each of our productions, but the responsibility we feel as artists that we’re helping to develop a theatre audience of tomorrow.  By putting on a quality piece of theatre that a young person and a family can appreciate, we’re only encouraging those young people to become patrons of the arts as they grow up and make the arts part of their life.”





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American Poetry Theater Presents "Gun Love"
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- The American Poetry Theater presents Gun Love from October 5-7.  The play, written by cast and community members, runs about one hour and is a collection of monologues and a skit dealing with gun violence in America.  
Seuls en Scene 2018 Runs This Week At Lewis Center For The Arts
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène will present the seventh annual Seuls en ScèneFrench Theater Festival, which will take place from September 21 to 29 at venues across the University’s campus. Most performances will be in French with English subtitles; all are free and open to the public.
Smugbug Productions presents The Eleventh Hour! at The Raritan River Festival
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Eleventh Hour!'s Chris Pasi with composer David Seamon for a night of acoustic renditions of songs from the rock musical comedy at the Raritan River Festival at Boyd Park in New Brunswick, NJ on Sunday, September 30 at 1:00pm. 
Lewis Center for the Arts presents a Conversation about the History of Casting
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- Associate Professor of Theater at Princeton University and performance historian Brian Herrera will lead a conversation about the history of casting in U.S. popular performance on Monday, September 24 at 4:30pm in the Wallace Theater in the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. The event is free and open to the public.
"Nightmare Alley: An Introduction" to debut during West End Festival of the Arts
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- The West End Festival of the Arts presents the World Premiere of Nightmare Alley: An Introduction - a new musical based on the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham and the 1947 noir film that starred Tyrone Power. The musical stars Cole Burden, Kevyn Morrow and Lauren Zakrin and can be seen for one night only as part of the West End Festival of the Arts on Friday, September 21 at 8:00pm presented at 132 West End Avenue in Long Branch.


The Jersey Devil on stage: An interview with playwright Brandon Monokian
Up-and-coming New Jersey native Brandon Monokian has worked as an actor, writer, director, producer, and popcorn sample distributor. He wrote and starred in the film Happy Yummy Chicken and co-founded the production company Love Drunk Life with Katie Frazer. Together they have produced plays, films, books, and, to support their creative work financially, a product line: lovedrunklife.com. Monokian received national attention through Revolutionary Readings (his TEDx talk at Princeton Library), which was used to fight the banning of the book Revolutionary Voices from two New Jersey libraries. 
An Interview With Nicole Pandolfo
Nicole Pandolfo is a talented playwright from New Jersey whose work has been produced on four continents along with readings and productions throughout the Garden State. Her play, Brick City, is currently being presented at Premiere Stages at Kean University now through September 23rd. The play was commissioned and developed via the NJPAC Stage Exchange program. Premiere's production features Rafael Benoit, Jacqueline Correa, Madison Ferris and Chris Grant under the direction of Jessi D. Hill.
Ritz Opens Season With "Incorruptible"
Fun seems to be the operative word for “Incorruptible,” the production that opens the fall season at  the Ritz Theatre Company on Thursday, September 13.
"Bright Star" at Surflight Theatre
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Broadway musical “Bright Star” has come to Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven. The comedian and the songwriter created the show after collaborating on a Grammy-winning bluegrass album called “Love Has Come For You.” “Bright Star” is set in the American South in the 1920s and ’40s, and it’s on a similar musical wavelength. We recently spoke with Surflight’s Artistic Director Steve Steiner, actor Adrianne Hick and director Elizabeth Lucas about bringing “Bright Star” to Long Beach Island.
"By The Water" at The Waterfront South Theatre
“By the Water,” a play about a family dealing with the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, will have its regional premiere at the Waterfront South Theatre in Camden on September 7, 2018. Written by New York City-based playwright Sharyn Rothstein, “By the Water” has been called a “Superstorm drama” by Time Out (New York), “a first-rate play” with a “bittersweet ending” by The Huffington Post, and “a solid play about a dissolving world” by The New York Times. It’s part of the theatre’s current Celebrating Female Playwrights season, entirely dedicated to work by women.






Event calendar
Thursday, Sep 20, 2018


MUSIC

ELI YOUNG BAND WITH CODY BRYAN @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

CELTIC THUNDER X @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm

Lost 80's Live @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Citizen Cope @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm

ICON 2018: ELIMINATION ROUND 2 @ Hamilton Stage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

Linda Eder @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Souvenir @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

East Lynne Theater Company presents SILENT SKY @ First Presbyterian Church (Cape May), Cape May - 8:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

Auditions for Seussical at CDC Theatre @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 7:00pm

Playhouse 22's Third-Thursday Play Reading Series @ Playhouse 22, East Brunswick - 7:30pm

West End Festival of the Arts- Opening Reception @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 6:00pm

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Brick City @ Premiere Stages at Kean University, Union - 8:00pm


FILM

New Jersey Film Festival @ Ruth Adams Building #001, New Brunswick - 6:00pm


KIDS

Crybaby Matinee: The Triplets of Belleville @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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