BWW Interview: Stephen L. Fredericks and WORLD PREMIERE SHOWS at The Growing Stage

BWW Interview: Stephen L. Fredericks and WORLD PREMIERE SHOWS at The Growing Stage

The Growing Stage, The Children's Theatre of New Jersey is continuing their successful 2018/2019 Season with two world premiere shows. John Henry will be on the Netcong Stage from February 8 to February 10. A Better Place to Be will be performed from February 15 to February 17. had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Fredericks, the Theatre's Founder and Executive Director about the new shows that are coming up soon.

We are excited about your winter season of shows. Tell us a little about the line-up.

Our second half really embraces the idea of bring the page to the stage. Each of our four pieces, from John Henry to MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS come from cherished books for young people. And just as the folk tale of John Henry has been passed down generation to generation, so too does A BETTER PLACE TO BE include folktales from both Scandinavia and Syria. Storytelling whether in book form or shared through the spoken word, especially ones we remember being read or told to us as children are gifts because of the memories they invoke, as well as the lessons.

Why do you think audiences will enjoy John Henry?

John Henry as adapted by Elise Forier Edie, our 2018 Laurie Award winning playwright, has not only embraced the popular American Folk Tale she has created a beautiful story about family. The relationship between John Henry and his son Jayjay is special and inspiring, as is Jayjay's friendship with Grace a young girl whose father also works on the line. The piece looks at both our past during the post-Civil War and just before the Industrial Age as well as celebrates the timeless gifts of family, friendship and dreams for a better tomorrow.

How does it feel to stage your own play, A Better Place to Be?

Scary. As an actor or director I share the words of others and hope to do my best with the material provided. As a playwright I'm fully exposed with no one to blame than my own imagination. I have been blessed to have the support of both the NJPAC and New Jersey Theatre Alliance who first provided the opportunity to write the piece through the Stage Exchange program and for Writer's Theatre to include it recently in their Soundings Staged Readings this past January. I am excited to see it performed.

Why do you feel the timing is right for John Henry and A Better Place to Be for NJ audiences?

Regardless of anyone's political affiliations or beliefs we are living in a very unsettled time. What I believe John Henry and A BETTER PLACE TO BE provides our family patrons is a chance to see the similarities we share, rather than focusing on our differences which has taken the forefront of so much of our daily conversations. Each celebrates timeless folktales that enrich our respective cultures while embracing the universal dream for a better tomorrow.

We know that you have had a very successful 2018/2019 season. What are some of the reasons you think that audiences continue to visit The Growing Stage?

After 37 seasons we're still unique in that our sole commitment is to provide a professional performing arts experience for young people and their families. Whether on the stage or in the classroom The Growing Stage has strived to create engaging, inclusive, affordable programming where a family shares not just a moment, but a memory together.

Tell us a little about the team that makes The Growing Stage, The Children's Theatre of NJ possible.

As Founder and Executive Director I have been blessed to have the ongoing support of our Board of Trustees, several of whom actually participated in our programming as a young person and have now taken on leadership roles on the Board as adults. Our staff is comprised of Thomas J. Romano, Managing Director who oversees our finances, Lori B. Lawrence, Director of Educational Programming who steers our Creative Arts Academy that includes our New Play Reading Festival, All-Youth Studio Series programming, all of our educational programming that we offer for young people pre-school through high school, our Touring program for the schools, and our Summer Arts Day Camp. Danny Campos, Director of Audience Development also wears multiple hats in that he is one of our company directors, Director of the New Play Reading Festival, and an incredible Teaching Artist. Perry Arthur Kroeger is our Resident Artist and for anyone that has had the opportunity to visit our theatre sees his artistry as you enter. In addition to serving as our Production Artist for all of our Main Stage shows, Perry has singlehandedly transformed the Palace Theatre into a jewel box theatre that ignites the imagination of every patron - regardless of age.

What can guests of the Growing Stage look forward to this Spring?

Twenty-four years ago The Growing Stage purchased The Palace Theatre the day before it went to Sheriff's Sale. The facility was in a dire state and its future uncertain. Today, due to the commitment of our organization and through the incredible support of countless patrons, business leaders and community support The Palace Theatre is not only listed on the County, State and National Registers of Historic Places, but collectively we have made it possible for the building to celebrate its 100thBirthday this year. We are having a very special event on April 7th to officially recognize the ground-breaking that took place in 1919 and throughout the year we will be hosting special events to mark this anniversary. Stay tuned by visiting our website at

The Growing Stage is located at 7 Ledgewood Avenue, Netcong, NJ 07857. For tickets to upcoming shows, visit and call them at 973.347.4946. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stephen L. Fredericks

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