BWW Interview: Executive Director Stephen L. Fredericks of THE GROWING STAGE and the 2019/2020 Season
The Growing Stage-The Children's Theatre of New Jersey, located in the Historic Palace Theatre on Route 183 in Netcong, New Jersey has announced their 2019 - 2020 Main Stage Season. The exciting productions being presented include Roald Dahl's MATILDA THE MUSICAL from October 4 - 20, 2019; ELF THE MUSICAL from November 29 - December 22, 2019; the world premiere of BUNNYBOY from February 6 - 9, 2020; PINKALICIOUS THE MUSICAL from March 13 - 29, 2020; and GO, DOG. GO! from May 1 - 17, 2020. Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview Executive Director and Founder of the Growing Stage, Stephen L. Fredericks.
As the founder and Executive Director of The Growing Stage-The Children's Theatre of New Jersey, Stephen serves as the Artistic Director for the company. As a playwright he has adapted and written over a dozen plays for young people either by himself or in collaboration with TGS Resident Artist Perry Arthur Kroeger. Together they have written THE STORY OF THE NUTCRACKER; THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN, AZ; and ALICE IN WONDERLAND performed with Bunraku puppetry. By himself, some of Stephen's works include THE TALES OF BEATRIX POTTER; THE LIFE & ADVENTURES OF Santa Claus, A BOY CALLED CINDER and most recently A BETTER PLACE TO BE which was originally commissioned by NJPAC and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance. Through The Growing Stage's New Play Reading Festival he has directed the East Coast premiere production of Anne Negri's WITH TWO WINGS; and the World Premieres of Susan Rowen Master's THE SECRET LIFE OF HUBIE HARTZEL, Emily Freeman's AND THEN CAME TANGO, Cody Daigle-Oriens THE BOOK OF D, and most recently J.S. Puller's THE BOX OF STORIES. In February, 2020 he will direct BUNNY BOY by Philip Kaplan the 2019 Laurie Award winning piece from last season's Festival.
In 2008, Stephen received the Sara Spencer Award from the American Alliance for Theatre & Education for making a significant contribution to the field of professional theatre for young audiences. Stephen recently served as the Lead Chair of the PLOTYA negotiations with Actor's Equity for the TYA national contract. Stephen is a graduate of Arizona State University.
When did you first know you were destined to work in the performing arts?
My father was very involved in community theatre as a director so theatre was literally always a part of my life. When I went to college at Arizona State University I switched my major of Business Management and minor of Theatre around when I discovered the genre of Theatre for Young Audiences and have made it my professional artistic focus ever since. The impact it has on an audience as well as the young, emerging artist is wonderful and continues to inspire me each day I come to work.
The Growing Stage has an incredible reputation for top-notch family theatre. What are some of the challenges of your job as Executive Director?
We primarily cast age appropriate so our method is unique in how we offer a young person the opportunity to work alongside a professional Equity artist in the production of a piece. The genre itself requires continual explanation in that we have adults performing for children rather than all-youth casts. On a grander scale the greatest challenge these days is fundraising which is needed more now than ever before. One of our organization's goals is ensuring that our programming costs remain affordable and accessible to all families. That's a BIG challenge!
You wear a lot of hats. Tell us a little bit about juggling the different roles you assume at the theatre.
Administratively I oversee the entire operation and do all of the Development work for the organization. Creatively I direct and have written a number of plays that the theatre has produced throughout its life either by myself or with our Resident Artist, Perry Arthur Kroeger. I used to act more than I have recently, unless a Santa Claus is needed.
How were this season's shows selected?
We attempt to pull titles that will appeal to both our young patrons and our artists. We look for new material as well as classic titles that we can creatively put a new spin on. It's a challenging process, but one when it all comes together can be very gratifying.
We'd love to know about the team that makes The Growing Stage so successful.
For the past 20 years I have had the benefit of having Tom Romano beside me as Managing Director. He'll be retiring this fall and will be sorely missed however with change comes opportunity. We're thrilled to have Stephanie Kingsbury join the staff as our Business Manager. Stephanie was one of those young people that spent a lot of time here at TGS while growing up. She was one of our Scholarship Award winners after graduating college, went off to Stockton State as a Theatre Management major, worked in Atlantic City at several casinos before going onto the Pioneer Performing Arts Center in Reno, Nevada. She's come back home to take this position and we're thrilled she has. Cara Scalara has also recently joined the staff as Production Manager and she too has spent time previously as both an performer and director. They join the talented team of Lori B. Lawrence, Director of Educational Programming, Danny Campos, Marketing Director, and Perry Arthur Kroeger, Resident Artist. Thou are staff be small, they are mighty and I'm fortunate to have them to work alongside.
What would you like patrons to know about your 38th Season?
That this coming season, just like the previous 37 will not only entertain the adults and young people, but will be of a quality that will engage, inspire and enlighten your entire family. The Growing Stage prides itself in not creating a moment, but a memory for the entire family!
We know you always have special surprises for guests of The Growing Stage. What's new and noteworthy this year?
If I tell you how will it be a surprise? Seriously though we have plans in action to significantly upgrade our production values and concession area as well as unveil an ongoing exhibit celebrating the past 100 years of the Palace Theatre.
Anything else, absolutely anything you want BWW NJ readers to know.
Like the young people we dedicated our artistic energies towards The Growing Stage is ever evolving in the ways we can serve and engage our audiences. We are a family-friendly theatre that is a magical place for a young child to experience their first show and a jewel box theatre that invites an experienced theatre-goer to a truly professional production. We celebrate our uniqueness in what and how we provide our professional theatre to our audiences!
Season Membership Plans to The Growing Stage are now on sale:
Season Memberships are currently on sale. Purchase a membership today that allows you to have the LOWEST per ticket price, the ONLY reserved seating at the theatre plus flexible booking and so much more. To purchase a membership visit www.growingstage.com or contact the Box Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (973) 347-4946. Group Rates are available for each production.
About The Growing Stage
The Growing Stage-The Children's Theatre of New Jersey is a non-profit professional performing arts center dedicated to theatre for young audiences. A member theatre of the Association of Actor's Equity, we provide opportunity for all to learn and grow through participation in the arts.www.growingstage.com.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stephen Fredericks