It’s not often a theater has to announce where its next season will take place in addition to its upcoming lineup.
George Street Playhouse, on the move ahead of the construction of a brand-new New Brunswick arts center, did just that Monday — and its creative staff could not be more excited.
Location and accessibility were at the top of the theater’s list when looking for a temporary home, and they found it at the former Agriculture Museum of New Jersey, 103 College Farm Road in the Hub City — just two miles from its current home on Livingston Avenue. The next two seasons will take place there ahead of the 2019 expected opening of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. The site is owned by Rutgers, and George Street expressed appreciation to the university for its assistance in finding and securing its temporary home.
“It was important to us that we stayed closed to home,” said Kelly Ryman, managing director of George Street Playhouse. “We wanted to be in New Brunswick. We didn’t want to leave the city. We’re very, very excited to be going there.”
Ryman said the site is located just off Route 1, and the building is accessible, with nearby parking, no steps to walk up when you enter the front door, and the ability to walk right into the box office area, theater, bathrooms and pre-show concession area.
She also says all of the theater’s programming will continue uninterrupted.
“We want our audiences to know we continue to do everything we normally do during this interim time. We have our five mainstage shows, our education programs are thriving. There’s no downsizing of our season. We’re still here, just a little bit down the road.”
The caliber of the 2017-18 season proves it.
“I wanted to have a season again that had a varied list of options,” said George Street’s longtime artistic director David Saint. “We’re starting with a musical, then a comedy, then a drama and ending with a farce, a nice mix of work.”
Saint also says the temporary location will allow the theater to capitalize on the intimate nature of the space, with shows that portray the intricacies of personal relationships. He also said the runs of shows will be extended to four or five weeks.
The season kicks off with “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” The musical, with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, will take the stage in October in a newly revisited form while following the arc of relationships from first date to marriage to kids and the twilight years. “I said to (DiPietro), ‘the world of dating has changed so drastically in 22 years, would you ever consider going back and re-looking at the show and updating it?’ ” Saint said. “It has become a well-known title around the country, but what makes it specifically George Street, is we’re doing a new version that brings it to 2017.”
Next up is the Broadway comedy “Act of God,” in which God takes human form and, along with two of his archangels, answers some of the questions that have plagued mankind. The show is authored by Emmy Award-winner David Javerbaum. Saint points out the show isn’t tied to a specific gender or race, and says he is excited to cast a perhaps unexpected star.
A year after his “American Son” hit the George Street Playhouse stage, playwright Christopher Demos Brown returns with “American Hero,” about an Iraq war veteran’s life starting to unravel when a fellow Marine threatens to expose a hidden past. The drama “shines a light on how America honors its veteran soldiers as well as the corrupting effect of awards and commendations, and questions what it truly means to be a hero,” according to a news release.
“American Hero” and “American Son” will join an as-yet untitled third work, which also will play at George Street, to create a trilogy exploring American injustice. “American Hero” earned the Steinberg Award Citation from the American Theatre Critics Association.
Next up is “Trying” by Joanna McClelland Glass, based on her real-life experiences as the secretary of Frances Biddle, chief judge of the Nuremberg trials. Biddle, also a fierce opponent of the Japanese internment camps during World War II, as well as attorney general under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, goes head to head with a young secretary at 81 years old in this comic and touching look at how two strangers at different points in life can influence each other.
Finishing out the season is “The Nerd,” a farce from Larry Shue, author of “The Foreigner.” “The Nerd” “begins on Willum’s birthday, and his party gets a jolt of hilarious excitement when Rick Steadman, a fellow ex-soldier who saved his life but who he never met, stops by for a visit. When he realizes that Rick is socially inept and will overstay his welcome with a vengeance, Willum must put together an outrageous plan to rid himself of this wacky GI who came to dinner,” according to the release.
The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center also will be home to Crossroads Theatre Company, American Repertory Ballet and Rutgers University musical theater and opera programs, part of a $17 million partnership with the university.
The $60 million, 60,000-square-foot arts center will open in 2019. It will feature two theater spaces, including a 465-seat lyric proscenium theater, designed to accommodate musical theater, dance, opera and dramatic theater, with an 86-foot stage and an orchestra pit. It also will include a tower for suspended stage scenery and equipment and a trap system below the stage used for scenery effects. The smaller theater will seat 253 people and is designed for theatrical performances, smaller dance performances and lectures, as well as community and musical events. It also will include three rehearsal spaces that replicate the stage spaces, which will free up the main venues for more scheduled performances.
The arts center is part of a $215 million project that also includes 30,000 square feet of office space housing Middlesex County arts organizations, a 207-unit, 18-story residential rental apartment tower and a 344-space parking garage on an existing parking lot on Bayard Street.
George Street Playhouse season subscribers will receive seats at College Farm Road comparable to their current seats, according to the release, and will be offered priority seating options when the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center opens in 2019.
“It’s so thrilling to think about the future of coming back to our downtown location in two years, of what that facility will be, the collaboration of arts organizations in the city, all together, and the opportunity for audiences to experience the arts in such a beautiful new place,” Ryman said.
Saint puts it simply: “I pinch myself every day that it’s actually happening.”
George Street Playhouse’s Summer Theatre Academy for kids ages 5 to 18, will take place July 3-28 at Lord Stirling Community School, 101 Redmond St., in the city. For information on classes offered, or to register, visit GSPonline.org or call 732-846-2895, ext. 117.
For more information on the upcoming season and more, visit georgestreetplayhouse.org.
Contributing: Staff writer Bob Makin
Ilana Keller: 732-643-4260; [email protected]
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