The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater and The Arthur Laurents Theater Come to New Jersey

By: Mar. 21, 2019
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The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater and The Arthur Laurents Theater Come to New Jersey

The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC), City of New Brunswick, and George Street Playhouse today announced The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater and The Arthur Laurents Theater named after two George Street Playhouse benefactors. The $7.75 million in gifts, the largest in George Street Playhouse history, strengthens NBPAC as the premier center for the performing arts. NBPAC, a $172 million redevelopment initiative that will transform New Brunswick's Downtown Cultural Arts District, opens its doors to the public this fall.

The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center represents the absolute best in the arts, public and private partnerships and state-of-the-art entertainment and culture, said City of New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill. We look forward to raising the curtain this year to welcome the next chapter of our outstanding performing arts scene in these new and modern spaces, named in honor of two beloved champions of the arts and culture.

The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater, the center's larger theater, is named in memory of the daughter of Betty Wold Johnson and Robert Wood Johnson, III. The Arthur Laurents Theater is named for a longtime friend of George Street Playhouse, award-winning playwright and author Arthur Laurents.

We are grateful and honored by the generosity of Betty Wold Johnson, The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Charitable Trust, and The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, said Kelly Ryman, Managing Director of George Street Playhouse. As we prepare to take residence in this new, state-of-the-art performing arts center, the confidence our benefactors have in the work we do takes on new meaning.

Betty Wold Johnson, through The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Charitable Trust, gifted $5 million to George Street Playhouse in honor of her daughter. Elizabeth Ross Johnson grew up in Princeton and dedicated her life to the service of others. She was a benefactor to the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Central Park Conservancy, among others. She also supported wildlife conservation in Africa and created a not-for-profit organization in Cambodia called the Sovann Komar, or Golden Children .

The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, named for Arthur Laurents and his partner Tom Hatcher, gifted $2.75 million to the Playhouse which will support the Playhouse's commitment to the development and production of new plays and musicals. Arthur Laurents wrote the books for musicals such as Gypsy and West Side Story, and the screenplays The Way We Were and The Turning Point. Mr. Laurents premiered nine of his plays at George Street Playhouse.

Arthur always said George Street Playhouse was his favorite theater, said David Saint, Artistic Director of George Street Playhouse. It is fitting that this brilliant artist, who contributed profoundly to the theater and film canons, will be honored in this way. Arthur was a true friend, and it means so much to this community that his name will be etched into this extraordinary performing arts center that George Street Playhouse will call home.

The legacy of Elizabeth Ross Johnson, and the commitment of her family to New Brunswick and the State of New Jersey, continues with this generous gift, said James N. Heston, George Street Playhouse Board Chairman. This will ensure George Street Playhouse, and the strong, vibrant, and celebrated arts community in this city, will continue to thrive. We are also honored that our artistic director David Saint's long-standing collaboration with Arthur Laurents and George Street Playhouse led to this extraordinary contribution from the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation.

Featuring two state-of-the-art theaters, NBPAC will offer new theater technology such as a fly loft that will allow for scenery to raise and lower, an expansive orchestra pit, and more. George Street Playhouse's inaugural season in the NBPAC will feature five productions in both the Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater, which seats 463, and The Arthur Laurents Theater, which seats 259. The performing arts center also features a spacious lobby, a donor lounge, expanded restroom facilities, and barrier free access to all levels in addition to many other modern amenities.

The new arts center will also be home to Crossroads Theatre Company, American Repertory Ballet, and Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. NBPAC will attract and support arts professionals and organizations, sparking creativity and innovation across New Brunswick's arts community. In addition to the new arts center, the 450,000-square-foot, 23-story project also includes 30,000 feet of office space, owned by Middlesex County located on two floors above the theater complex. A 207- unit residential apartment tower will rise above the theater complex, featuring both market rate and affordable apartment units, equipped with state-of-the-art appliances, finishes, 10-foot ceilings and open floor plans.

This is an exciting moment for the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center and the City of New Brunswick, said Christopher J. Paladino, President of Devco. The extraordinary generosity of these two benefactors further distinguishes New Brunswick as a premier center for the performing arts. NBPAC continues to deliver on its promise to transform New Brunswick's Downtown Cultural Arts District.

The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center is a public-private partnership among Devco, the City of New Brunswick, Rutgers University, Middlesex County, New Jersey Economic Development Authority, New Brunswick Cultural Center, Pennrose, LLC, and New Brunswick Parking Authority, along with 11 other groups and organizations. For more information about the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center visit