BWW Interview: " People Behind the Curtain"- Steve Steiner of SURFLIGHT THEATRE

BWW Interview: “ People Behind the Curtain”- Steve Steiner of SURFLIGHT THEATRELet's get to know the man behind, in front of, under and everywhere else; Surflight's Producing Artistic Director and Beach Haven Resident Steve Steiner.

" It's been a difficult couple of years, but thanks to unwavering support from our patrons, the Beach Haven, LBI, and Ocean County communities, and a dedicated group of theatre professionals, Surflight Theatre will once again provide quality professional theatre in the proud tradition of our founder, Joseph P. Hayes. On Friday June 23 the Surflight stage will again come alive with Footloose." ~ Steve Steiner

Surflight Theatre, the New Jersey theatre that closed in early 2015 after 65 seasons and a failed restructuring in 2013, will reopen June 23 with the Broadway musical Footloose, based on the film of the same name. Under the new ownership of New Jersey native Al Parinello, the former owner of WJSE radio station. He was also the lead producer for Off-Broadway's The Fantasticks for the past 10 years. The Surflight venue will offer a full season of musicals, concerts, and more. Steve Steiner, a former artistic director, will return as producing artistic director.

Pati Buehler: Many have followed the demise of the Surflight in 2015. But this didn't BWW Interview: “ People Behind the Curtain”- Steve Steiner of SURFLIGHT THEATREstop your passion for theater. Tell us about your creation of Ocean Professional Theater Company.

Steve Steiner: My passion for Theatre started when I was quite young, attending the MUNY in St. Louis from around age 7. But when the Board at Surflight decided to make a change in leadership, I wanted to continue doing my job, which is to produce great theatre for the residents of and vacationers visiting Southern Ocean County and beyond. So we found a way to get all of my team, both in management as well as actors and technicians, and start a new company. For 3 years we did what we always had been doing, but in new locations.

Pati Buehler: No doubt you always held out hope of the Surflight re-opening its doors. What and who kept you forging ahead towards this goal?

BWW Interview: “ People Behind the Curtain”- Steve Steiner of SURFLIGHT THEATRESteve Steiner: While we were successful for 3 years with OPTC, I saw what was happening at Surflight and several times reached out to the Board asking them to let me help them right their ship. They continued to look elsewhere for solutions and eventually had to declare Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. At that point we decided to stop producing in Barnegat and Manahawkin and find a solution to reopen Surflight Theatre. It just took a lot longer to accomplish than we thought. We felt we had it solved at least 3 times before we finally got it resolved, but there were forces actively trying to thwart our efforts.

Steve's long history with theater is truly remarkable. From 1982 to 2016 Steve has worn many theatrical hats; Acting credits include 3 Broadway Shows, 3 Off Broadway shows, 4 National Tours. Directing credits include 60 productions including, 9 Casino and Regional Musicals, Musical Director for 30 productions just to name a few. He also served 10 years on the Council with the Actors Equity Assoc. AND plays 11 instruments!

Tell us some basics of what you needed to pull together logistically once you took BWW Interview: “ People Behind the Curtain”- Steve Steiner of SURFLIGHT THEATREdown the "For Sale" Sign in March 2017?

Steve Steiner: Well, we had already planned a season (we did that in 2015 and kept tweaking it as new titles became available) so that part was pretty much done. But then of course we had to contract for rights, attend the StrawHat auditions, plan our own NY auditions, cast the season, put notices in the trades for technical staff, contract actors, set up box office software to be able to sell tickets, get phones and website up and running. All of that was while I was performing in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Bristol Riverside.

BWW Interview: “ People Behind the Curtain”- Steve Steiner of SURFLIGHT THEATREAfter that closed we finally took possession of the buildings and began the arduous task of CLEANING THE ENTIRE COMPLEX top to bottom! And of course, we also have the Show Place Ice Cream Parlour, and we had to do all of the same things to get Show Place ready. And we had our commitments that were in place before we knew that we would be up and running in Beach Haven this Summer. (We are producing HAIRSPRAY for Laguna Playhouse in California-it's in rehearsal now, and then the sets & costumes and several of the actors will be joining us for the same show in Beach Haven. We also have The Buddy Holly Story National Tour going out in November and Ebenezer in Tampa, Florida in November.) So, lots going on. Maybe we'll have a day off in September.

BWW Interview: “ People Behind the Curtain”- Steve Steiner of SURFLIGHT THEATREIn a statement to Playbill, Steiner said, "I am honored to be returning to Surflight Theatre as producing artistic director and to welcome back the audiences to our historic landmark theatre. We have assembled a talented and experienced management team who are committed to running an efficient, productive business while continuing the legacy of the Surflight founder Joseph P. Hayes to serve as a training ground for young performers and technicians while entertaining the visitors and residents of the Long Beach Island area. We will also be actively partnering with our community to keep this jewel as a community resource. The Show Place Ice Cream Parlour, which has entertained legions of visitors since the late 70's, will also be reopening."

Pati Buehler: Will you continue your Surflight To- Go- Touring Educational program?

Steve Steiner: At present the plan will be for that to get up and running in the Fall of 2018. As you know, the lead time to book school assembly and classroom programming is extensive. So, we'll be contacting people who book programming like Surflight-To-Go beginning in September of 2017 once the Summer season winds down, and we should have at least 3 shows on the road in the Fall of 2018. We have found it's an excellent way to offer artists year-round employment. Surflight-To-Go operates mid-September through November, then again in January-May. The Cast of STG is then available for our Holiday Show in December, and either for our Summer Season at Surflight or to be Singing Waitri at Show Place. Then it starts all over again. We had several people who did that for 3 full years from 2007-2010.

As a long time resident of South Jersey and frequent beach bum-ette I have enjoyed many wonderful Surflight productions. I am certain the community and businesses of beautiful Beach Haven are thrilled to have you and the Surflight back in business. This is truly a case of "the little theater that could" and did rise from the darkness to the sunrise over the ocean. Wishing you and all at the Surflight continued success!

Following Footloose, which will run through July 9, will be Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (July 11-23), Disney's Newsies (July 25-August 13), Hairspray (August 15-27), Million Dollar Quartet (August 29-September 10), and Home for the Holidays: A Surflight Celebration (December 7-17). Concerts will include John Davidson (July 31), the Coasters, Drifters and Platters (July 17), and the New Millennium Jazz Band Plays The Sinatra Songbook (November 25).

THE SURFLIGHT THEATRE- located at 201 Engleside Ave., Beach Haven NJ. For tickets and more information visit or call 609.492.9477

Photos Courtesy of Steve Steiner: Photo # 3 Steve holding 2015 donation from Beach Haven Schools, #4 Steve and Art Gruber taking down 'for sale' sign, # 5 This year's company...more to come!

Related Articles

New Jersey THEATER Stories | Shows

From This Author Pati Buehler

Pati Buehler Pati has been involved with various aspects of the theater from hosting large groups to Broadway shows in the early 90's to supporting various Broadway (read more...)

  • BWW Review: Dinner and a Show - Levoy's PETER PAN and the Old Oar House Irish Pub
  • 2017-18 THEATER SEASON: Philadelphia Area and South Jersey
  • BWW Review: WICKED is Still Wildly 'Popular'
  • BWW Review: Ritz Theater Brings BEAUTY & THE BEAST to South Jersey
  • Before you go...