BWW Interview: Stephen Fredericks, Founder and Executive Director of THE GROWING STAGE

BWW Interview:  Stephen Fredericks, Founder and Executive Director of THE GROWING STAGE

Stephen L. Fredericks founded The Growing Stage in 1981 following his graduation from Arizona State University. He has served as artistic director for the majority of the company's Main Stage productions and contributed as a playwright and designer as well.

Stephen has received numerous awards throughout his career that include The American Alliance for Theatre and Education Sara Spencer Award, presented to both Stephen and TGS, in recognition of significant contributions to the field of theatre for young audiences; The Community Foundation of New Jersey Exemplary Performance in Nonprofit Management Award; The New Jersey Theatre Alliance Award of Recognition.

Stephen is also graduate of the Stanford University's Graduate School of Business Executive Program for NonProfit Leaders - Arts. He recently served as Lead Chair of the Producer's League of Theatre for Young Audiences, a five-member negotiating team crafting the national contract with the Association of Actors Equity. Stephen currently serves as the President of the Netcong Community Partnership. had the opportunity to interview Stephen L. Fredericks about his career, The Growing Stage and the exciting season ahead.

Tell us a little about your earliest interest in theatre and the performing arts.

My father ran a community theatre group that was generally church based, so as a child I was often involved in the productions one way or another. I believe the first time I was around nine years old. It was all social and a lot of fun, but it came naturally to me so I continued in it throughout my teen years. It wasn't until college that I developed more of an appreciation for it beyond the applause and comradery. It was then that I learned not only the artistic of it, but more importantly the discipline and craft required to pursue it.

I know you have mentored a lot of performers. What advice do you have for young people interested in the profession?

Persistence. I believe that within this industry that element is as important if not more so than overall talent. Of course talent matters, but there are a lot of very talented artists out there. Persistence in pursuing your dream includes constantly working on your craft, continuing the learning process from one experience to the next, and learning that in order to reach the level of being a true professional requires the acceptance that it is a business.

What has made The Growing Stage such a lasting success?

One of the aspects I am most proud of is our consistent commitment to our mission. Despite all the challenges that can face a not-for-profit organization through the years, we have never wavered from our goal which is to present professional, quality theatre for young audiences and their families at a level unique to our genre of theatre.

Tell us a little about the Growing Stage team.

Stephen Fox (Musical Director) Stephen has served as musical director and conductor for many collegiate, community and professional productions. He currently serves as the conductor of the Fordham University Women's Choir and also has his own Private Voice Studio, where students have gone on to be cast in Broadway productions such as Next to Normal and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (starring Daniel Radcliffe), as well as the first national tour of Wicked. Jillian Petrie (Choreographer) Jillian has choreographed over twenty-five full-length musicals professionally. Jillian's concert dance choreography has been performed internationally in venues such as The Ailey Citigroup Theater and Queens Museum of Art. She was a Broadway World Award nominee two years in a row for best choreography in professional theatre. She's trained at the Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. Jillian has had the privilege of studying under and performing works by Mark Morris and Larry Keigwin. As a teaching artist she instructs elementary through the collegiate level. She is most proud of her work behind the scenes as company choreographer for The Growing Stage: TANGO; SHREK; THE WIZARD OF OZ, and SEUSSICAL to name a few.

Beauty and the Beast is an exciting season's opener. What are some of the challenges of directing the show?

Disney production are generally bigger than life, extravaganzas sometimes to the detriment of the story. One of the Unique Features of our theatre is that it is intimate and allows the audience to truly share the experience before them. For a production like BEAUTY my goal as director is to find those special moments, not to drown them in special effects, but rather allow the emotions and the essence of the story to be told.

Tell us a little about what guests can expect in the upcoming season.

Our season theme is "Dare to Dream" for a number of different reasons. One is because with all the social unrest and questioning that is taking place, we believe a safe, artistic, engaging place like a theatre dedicated for young people is perhaps needed more now than ever before - and we encourage dreams! The second reason we chose the title is because we needed as artists to be challenged as well, and this season is one of our most ambitious to date.

Anything else, absolutely anything you want BWW readers to know.

The Growing Stage prides itself in delivering a professional product while maintaining an economically accessible policy for our patrons. It's a wonderful, an inviting atmosphere to introduce theatre to a child and for an entire family to not only share a moment in the theatre, but to create a lasting memory together.

The Growing Stage is located at 7 Ledgewood Avenue, Netcong, NJ 07857. Call them at 973.347.4946 and visit their web site at

You can also follow them on social media.; Twitter & Instagram: @thegrowingstage;

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stephen L. Fredericks

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