Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Interview: Executive Director Colleen Cook Reflects on the Past, Present, and Future of Holmdel Theatre Company

Interview: Executive Director Colleen Cook Reflects on the Past, Present, and Future of Holmdel Theatre Company

Broadwayworld New Jersey continues their series of interviews with theatre professionals to learn about how they are coping with the virus outbreak. We interviewed Colleen Cook, who is currently the Executive Director of the Holmdel Theatre Company.

Colleen Cook joined the Holmdel Theatre Company Board of Directors in September 2018, being named Executive Director a year later in September 2019. As Executive Director she manages all aspects of the business from developing and administering annual budgets to the recruitment and hiring of staff members. She also concentrates on theater funding initiatives, donor solicitations and all fundraising activities. She developed and produces the Broadway at the Barn series as one of the main fundraising activities for HTC. To date, the series has included Tony Winner Alice Ripley, Tony nominee Constantine Maroulis, Betsy Wolfe and Tony Nominee Jennifer Damiano. Up next but currently postponed is Drama Desk Nominee Amy Spanger. Cook also produced Elise Forie Edie's The Pink Unicorn in January 2020 at HTC. She is an associate producer on the upcoming off Broadway revival of Baby with Out of the Box Theatrics. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Roundabout Theatre Company and Out of the Box Theatrics in NYC. She is a former Vice President at JPMorgan Chase where she worked for 13 years.

Last year, HTC celebrated its 30th season at the intimate theater, a 125-year-old barn that has been lovingly transformed into a modern, air-conditioned performance space with seating for just under 100 guests. The "black box" design allows flexibility in staging for each new production and the seating to go around it.

The mission of HTC is to present fresh interpretations of classic plays and lesser-known modern dramas and comedies. For each collaborative production, professional theater artists work together with non-professionals and students, both on and behind the stage.

Can you give us a little background about Holmdel Theatre Company and how it started?

Wendell Smith's son Duncan was an avid theatre kid at Holmdel High School. He went off to college at Johns Hopkins and got diagnosed with cancer. Duncan used to come home in the summer and put on shows with his friends at the parks and ended up dying of cancer. Wendell decided that he wanted a place for those kids to come and do shows in the summer and that's how the theatre was founded 25 or 30 years ago. The theatre was named after Duncan, which is now called the Duncan Smith Theater.

How did you get involved with Holmdel Theatre Company? What is your position there?

I got involved a little over a year ago when they were trying to revitalize it and bring it back to its glory days. I joined the board and then became the Executive Director. I am in charge of the finances, and fundraising. I produce the "Broadway at the Barn" fundraising events, which have now become a series. I help with staffing and general management of the organization.

What has been your favorite show or event at Holmdel Theatre Company?

My favorite event personally was our first "Broadway at the Barn" concert with Alice Ripley because I do think that her saying yes kind of started the whole series and it was a magical night to have someone of her caliber in that 99-seat barn. It was pretty amazing. And now that I think about it, The Pink Unicorn (also starring Alice Ripley) may actually be the best thing we've ever produced in our space. It's a really important story.

Another event that was a highlight was when Jennifer Damiano came in January to teach a masterclass and do a "Broadway at the Barn" concert. The masterclass goes back to our mission with Wendell, to combine non-professionals and students to interact with professionals. That day was everything special about our theatre. A lot of the people who were in the masterclass ages 17-24 were in our shows, Little Women and Next to Normal. It was really awesome, and Jenn is the nicest person I've ever met.

Speaking of "Broadway at the Barn," the series as a whole has become a hit. How did that come about? Any dream guests?

After Alice [Ripley] agreed to do it and we had her name behind it, it seemed that we started to get interest from other people. The next person we had was Constantine Maroulis and he's a Jersey Guy. I actually met him at another fundraising event and spoke to him about it, and he agreed to do it. So when they're all doing it, they do it from their hearts because we can't afford their regular fees and talents. All of the people who have done it believe in our story and believe in giving back to the little theatres. Now it snowballed and we have people coming to us wanting to do their own "Broadway the Barn" concerts. My dream guest would be Caissie Levy. I love her. She would be great at our theatre.

You've had to shut down the theatre due to the virus. How did you and your staff prepare for this?

We talked about it right when the virus was starting to break because we knew that we had a season show that was in rehearsals ("The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail") so we decided then. We were pushing forward because we had equity actors so we're paying everyone. When it looked like the show was not gonna happen, we pulled the plug for two reasons: 1) maybe we would end up getting shut down completely - that we weren't sure about, and 2) we started to get to the point where we didn't have stockpiles of hand sanitizers, we didn't have a cleaning crew, we didn't feel we could put that show on safely. The timeline eventually dictated us closing but we made the decision before that because we just didn't feel comfortable to be able to support that.

Since we're dark during this time, I asked the Little Women cast to make a video of themselves singing a song from the show called "Astonishing" to put on YouTube. It is awesome. The people that come through love to give back. That's what's special about our theatre.

What exciting events do you have coming up in the future?

We have a #RENTStories event with Fredi Walker on June 5th, the play "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail" is postponed to July, Amy Spanger's "Broadway at the Barn" concert is postponed to a future date to be determined, there will be more "Broadway at the Barn" concerts, and our regular 2020 season.

Marketing is a huge part of promoting a theatre. What marketing strategies have you used to keep people informed about what's coming up next?

We have Facebook and Instagram where we put our updates on regularly, we also update our website and have a monthly email list where they can sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can visit our website at https://www.holmdeltheatrecompany.org/


Holmdel Theatre Company is located at 36 Crawfords Corner Road in Holmdel, NJ.

Photo Credit: Holmdel Theatre Company




From This Author - Erica Handel

Erica Handel covers theater in Central New Jersey at venues such as the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Holmdel Theatre Company, and Count Basie Center for the Arts. She has interviewed Broadway st... (read more about this author)


Interview: Anthony Rapp Talks BroadwayCon's Inception, Favorite Moments, and Ideas For Future EventsInterview: Anthony Rapp Talks BroadwayCon's Inception, Favorite Moments, and Ideas For Future Events
July 16, 2022

Anthony Rapp is a legendary performer in the theater industry, and fans are inspired by the iconic roles he originated in popular shows like RENT, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, and If/Then. In 2016, Anthony helped his long-time friend and Mischief Management’s CEO and Founder, Melissa Anelli, launch the first-ever BroadwayCon theater convention as its co-creator. The three-day annual event is in its seventh year, and was held in-person for the first time since the pandemic on July 8-10, 2022 at The New Yorker Hotel and Manhattan Center.

BWW Interview: Laura Bell Bundy Presents BORN TO ENTERTAIN Concert at Holmdel Theatre Company 7/16BWW Interview: Laura Bell Bundy Presents BORN TO ENTERTAIN Concert at Holmdel Theatre Company 7/16
May 19, 2022

Laura Bell Bundy headlines Holmdel Theatre Company's next installment of its 'Broadway at the Barn' series on Saturday, July 16. The Broadway favorite will perform a solo concert called 'Born to Entertain,' which takes audiences through a journey of her life and career.

BWW Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at Center Playhouse Shows How Sisters Bond Over Love and HeartbreakBWW Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at Center Playhouse Shows How Sisters Bond Over Love and Heartbreak
May 9, 2022

Center Playhouse in Freehold presents their newest production of Beth Henley’s classic play, Crimes of the Heart. The tragicomedy is produced by Roberta Fallon and directed by Anthony Marinelli.

BWW Review: A TOMATO CAN'T GROW IN THE BRONX at Center Playhouse Is A Timeless Story About Changing Family DynamicsBWW Review: A TOMATO CAN'T GROW IN THE BRONX at Center Playhouse Is A Timeless Story About Changing Family Dynamics
April 4, 2022

Gary Morgenstein’s original play A Tomato Can’t Grow In The Bronx makes its world premiere this month at Center Playhouse in Freehold. The play is produced by Bob Szita and directed by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who serves as the theatre’s Artistic Director.

BWW Review: THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Axelrod Performing Arts Center Proves That True Love Exists In Unexpected WaysBWW Review: THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Axelrod Performing Arts Center Proves That True Love Exists In Unexpected Ways
March 14, 2022

The Axelrod Performing Arts Center presents its highly anticipated production of Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman’s musical The Bridges of Madison County this March. The production is directed by Hunter Foster who played the role of Bud Johnson in the original Broadway cast. Broadway legends Kate Baldwin and Aaron Lazar star in the respective roles of Francesca Johnson and Robert Kincaid.