The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey Announces Plans for New Support Facility

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The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey Announces Plans for New Support Facility

As The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey launches its milestone 50th Anniversary Season, the leadership team of the State's largest classic theatre is announcing a major achievement towards the accomplishment of a significant, long-range strategic goal.

Artistic Director, Bonnie J. Monte, Managing Director, Jeanne Barrett, and the Board of Trustees announced today that the institution will soon open a vital, new support facility that will house the entirety of its behind-the-scenes operations, as well as provide new space allowing for an expansion of its education programs. The 50,000 square foot building, located at 3 Vreeland Road in Florham Park, N.J., will unite the many facets of the Theatre's administrative, educational, artistic and technical operations under one roof. In addition to office space and education classrooms, the facility will provide areas for the construction of sets, costumes and other scenic elements; a Board room; a rehearsal hall; a Green Room; and ample storage for the Theatre's extensive collections of props, stock scenery, costumes, stage weapons, archives, and much, much more.

The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre in Madison and the Outdoor Stage in Morris Township will continue to function as the performance venues for the 50 year old company which is the longest-running Shakespeare Theatre on the East coast and one of the largest and most prominent classic theatres in the nation.

"In this landmark year in our history, The Shakespeare Theatre will enter a new era, and not just by virtue of beginning our second half-century of operation," said Artistic Director, Bonnie J. Monte. "This long-sought after achievement will eradicate many of the obstacles and difficult issues that we have been struggling with for years. Our support operations will no longer be spread across multiple, temporary sites spanning several counties. Until now, the Theatre has occupied up to eight less-than-adequate locations annually, and we have had to move from one or more locations an average of every two years. We will finally have a centralized facility in which to conduct all of the work that supports and makes our stage productions a reality. We can now ensure our standing as one of the most respected theatres in the nation, with a physical plant where our standards of artistry can be fulfilled and sustained consistently, safely, efficiently, cost-effectively and in close proximity to both our performance venues. Best of all, we can increase our educational impact for the many communities we serve. The acquisition of such a space has, especially over the past ten years, become an absolute mandate to guarantee our company's survival, responsible operation, future strength and expansion potential."

Ms. Monte elaborated on the project by saying, "There are many other exciting aspects to this acquisition. We are thrilled that we are 'recycling' an old building for new use - taking what was an industrial site, and turning it not only into a place where art is created, but that is a work of art in itself. A multi-year plan is in place to create an extraordinary workplace that exemplifies, at every turn, aspects of our art form. I think most people are unaware of the fact that we build our own scenery, costumes, props, and often even furniture, specifically for our productions. Scores of the Theatre's artisans will be working with us to create a unique and beautiful environment not only in which to create theatrical art, but to display our art form for the many people who will visit our site. Our set designers and scenic artists will be creating large murals throughout the building depicting portions of scenic designs or elements of the theatrical art form. Stage curtains, props, and costumes from past shows will be recycled to create incredible "moments" of art throughout the facility, some of which will be permanent, others of which will cycle out and change frequently. And, the tools of our trades will be used to create installation art and even lighting fixtures throughout the building. Every room has been given a fabulous name and the art installed will reflect the name and function of each space. The building will literally become a showcase for the amazing artistry and craftsmanship that goes into the creation of the visual landscapes and worlds that appear on our stages. In addition, many of our actors who have special skills will be donating their time and talents to help us create special outdoor spaces as well, including a Shakespeare garden, an outdoor reading and relaxation "room," and a Forest of Arden Walking Trail. The building and grounds will not only provide a unique space in which to produce our work, but one that will allow us to train the next generation of theatre artists, and groom the patrons of the future. We especially look forward to partnering with the town of Florham Park to introduce new education programs for the community."

Managing Director, Jeanne Barrett, said, "There are so many people who have come together to help us secure this new facility: first and foremost, our extraordinary Board of Trustees, who have had the keen foresight and courage to embark on such an undertaking; our friends at Prudential Real Estate Investors who have provided much guidance; Tom Ryan of NAI James E. Hanson, who has been, and continues to be, a key player and true champion in helping us negotiate and procure the site; a heroic team of expert project managers from Jones Lang LaSalle has been instrumental in guiding us through the renovation process; and our wonderful architects from the firm of Parette Somjen Architects have been brilliant in working with us and our engineers at The Rock Brook Consulting Group to create an inventive, minimalist renovation that will allow for the transformation from a valve factory to a theatrical 'laboratory.' Bob Chemi, our Construction Manager, from Sweetwater Construction Corp., our construction firm, has been fabulous in understanding the constraints of our modest budget and our tight time-line, and has worked in excellent collaboration with the Theatre's Board and staff to ensure a move in June. Our many consultants and team members have all been terrific with many donating a portion of their services as a give back to this institution that does so much for the local region, the state and the nation."

Board President, John Rathgeber, added, "Getting our staff into this building is the first step and priority of a much broader campaign. Now that a site has been identified and leased, we are raising critical dollars for the renovation and ultimate purchase of the site in Florham Park and for the endowment. This campaign, currently in the private phase, was an absolute necessity to sustain and protect The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, one of our state's most important cultural institutions."

The acclaimed Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is one of the leading Shakespeare theatres in the nation, serving 100,000 adults and children annually. It is New Jersey's largest professional company dedicated solely to Shakespeare's canon and other world masterworks. Through its distinguished productions and education programs, the company strives to illuminate the universal and lasting relevance and importance of the classics for contemporary audiences.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's Main Stage, the 308-seat F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, is conveniently located in Madison at 36 Madison Avenue (Rt. 124) at Lancaster Road on the Drew University campus, just minutes from Routes 287, 78 and 10. Parking is free. The Theatre's Outdoor Stage is located on the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morris Township. The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre is barrier-free with access into the Theatre via a ramp and elevator access to all floors. Wheelchair seating and transfer seating is available. Braille and large print programs are available. Infrared listening devices are available free of charge. Some performances are audio-described. Contact the Theatre for more information or to purchase tickets at 973-408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org.

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