(MILBURN, NJ) -- Paper Mill Playhouse has announced that Jen Bender (Broadway’s The Lion King, The Wedding Singer, Avenue Q) will join the company as Associate Artistic Director, following longtime Associate Artistic Director Patrick Parker, who stepped down on September 30, 2022 after 27 years at the post. Bender worked previously with Paper Mill Playhouse as Associate Director of Honeymoon in Vegas (2013) and as part of the commercial production team for The Sting (2018).
“Jen brings vast and varied experience to this position, and I am very excited to have her help us shape the artistic future of our beloved theatre,” states Producing Artistic Director Mark S. Hoebee.
Coming into this position, Bender shares, “For 20 years I’ve loved going to Millburn to see shows at Paper Mill. It’s always been one of my favorite theaters. They’re equally passionate about producing classics and new work, which are my passions, too. I am thrilled to be joining their artistic family.”
Bender joins Paper Mill Playhouse directly from her role as a member of the musical theater faculty at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Previously, Bender was Senior Vice President of Production and Development at The Araca Group in New York City. Prior to that, she served as the Director of Programming and Artist Services for the New York Musical Festival (NYMF), and as Resident Director for the Broadway productions of The Lion King and Avenue Q. She was the Assistant Artistic Director for Cirque du Soleil's Ovo for productions in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, Taiwan, and Japan. Inspired by her work with The Lion King, Jen co-founded and served as the Artistic Director of Broadway in South Africa, leading a program that brought Broadway artists to work with children in need through a variety of arts disciplines in townships across South Africa. She's been a guest teacher at the Michigan State University, the BFA program at Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, Camp Broadway, The Broadway Experience, The Artist's Crossing, Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, and served as Interim Education Director at the Vineyard Theatre.
Jen Bender will step into her new role in time for Paper Mill Playhouse’s production of The Sound of Music, playing on the mainstage from December 2, 2022 through January 1, 2023.
Paper Mill Playhouse, recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is a nationally renowned not-for-profit theater under the direction of Mark S. Hoebee (Producing Artistic Director) and Michael Stotts (Managing Director). A beloved New Jersey arts institution since 1938, Paper Mill creates and produces groundbreaking new musicals and reimagined classics. Several productions have gone on to Broadway and launched national tours, including Disney's Newsies, Honeymoon in Vegas, Les Misérables, A Bronx Tale, and Bandstand. The theater is also the home to an award-winning center for musical theater education and artist training, with outreach programs that impact thousands of students each year. As one of the nation’s premier musical theaters, Paper Mill fosters a creative environment to advance the art form, educate students, develop future theater lovers, nurture inclusion, and provide access for all. We acknowledge that our theater stands on the traditional land of the Lenni-Lenape, and we honor the Indigenous people who inhabited it for thousands of years before European settlers arrived.
Paper Mill Playhouse programs are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.
PHOTO: Jen Bender © Michael Kushner