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RED BANK: WHO’S UP FOR BASIE AWARDS?

MHSS American Idiot Ayo OladejiThe Middletown South production of Green Day’s “American Idiot” (above) score big in musical nominations — while RBR’s Patrick Monaghan (at right below, with Davis Bush) earned a dramatic acting nomination for “Amadeus.”  (Photo above by Ayo Oladeji)

Amadeus Davis Bush Pat MonaghanIt’s Red Bank’s own homegrown answer to the Tonys, the Obies, and any other major accolade for live stage performance. What else but the BASIES, the awards that honor tomorrow’s talents today — or rather this Wednesday, May 18, when the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank once again celebrates excellence in dramatic and musical productions among Monmouth County high schools, with the presentation of the 11th annual Basie Awards.

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RBR’S MONAGHAN AN OUT-LOUD WINNER

Patrick MonaghanPress release from Red Bank Regional High School

On March 17, Red Bank Regional High School senior Patrick Monaghan of Little Silver came in second in the very competitive New Jersey Regional Poetry Out Loud State Championship. This was the second visit to the competition’s stage for the celebrated RBR thespian, who has won the Regional competition for the past two years.

For his performance at the College of New Jersey, Patrick performed William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29: When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes as well as two other selections: Or by Thomas Sayers Ellis and Ode to the Midwest by Kevin Young.

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RED BANK: NEW ‘REASON’ FOR OLD FRIENDS

rechnitz stunkel 010616 2Ken Stunkel, left, and Two River Theater founder Bob Rechnitz are first-time, eighty-something playwrights getting the big-time treatment. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)  

By TOM CHESEK

hot-topicWhen the 2015-2016 season resumes at the Two River Theater in Red Bank this weekend, it will find the celebrated company once again departing from familiar Broadway-tested properties like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Seven Guitars to the latest in an ongoing slate of world premiere dramas by relatively “new” playwrights.

This time out, the play is called Lives of Reason, and the rookie playwrights are a couple of eighty-something colleagues named Bob Rechnitz and Ken Stunkel.

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A LITTLE SILVER NIGHTMUSIK, AT RBR

AmadeusUPDATE: Due to the playoff schedule of Red Bank Regional’s undefeated football team, the school announced today a change to the published performance schedule for AMADEUS. New dates are Saturday November 21 at 7 pm, Sunday November 22 at 3 pm, and Monday November 23 at 7 pm.

As its Fall 2015 dramatic production, the Red Bank Regional High School Theatre Company will present an 18th century period piece that became a Tony winning 20th century hit on Broadway. Written by Peter Shaffer, Amadeus freely sketches a portrait of the young, brilliantly talented and boorishly behaving Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — as seen through the eyes and actions of his insanely jealous, revenge-obsessed fellow composer Antonio Salieri. The lead roles of Mozart and Salieri are played by Davis Bush of Millstone and Patrick Monaghan of Little Silver (left and right in photo), with the production marking the debut of RBR’s new drama director Reuben Jackson. The play goes up for three performances in the school’s auditorium, beginning Friday, November 20.

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BASIE AWARDS HONOR RBR’S JOE RUSSO

BasiespressLong-time Red Bank Regional High School faculty member Joe Russo was honored at the 2015 Basie Awards with the Basie Lifetime Achievement Award in Arts Education. The school’s first and only drama teacher and theater director retires this year, following a distinguished 32-year career with RBR’s Visual and Performing Arts Academy. Pictured are: RBR art teacher Claudia O’Connor, senior Justin Giegerich, senior Noah Beller, Joe Russo, junior Patrick Monaghan, senior Eliana Swartz, Katherine Kennedy, and RBR tech teacher Carl Grillo. Monaghan and Kennedy also won Basie Awards for Best Actor and Actress in a drama, during the May 20 ceremony in Red Bank.

RED BANK AREA SCHOOLS DOMINATE BASIES

BasiesStudent performers from over a dozen area schools are the stars of the show at Wednesday’s tenth annual Basie Awards.

Broadway has its well-established Tonys; Off Broadway its Obies — and every other branch of show business its various Grammys, Emmys, and Academys. And when the 10th annual Basie Awards roll out the red carpet in front of the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank Wednesday night they’ll be doing what they’ve done so well: honoring tomorrow’s talents in the performing arts, both on stage and behind the scenes.

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RED BANK: A BARD OF EDUCATION, AT TRTC

LilShakes1A cast and crew of teens from local schools rehearse A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, the annual “Little Shakespeare” production  that presents four public performances this weekend. (Photos courtesy of Two River Theater Company)

They hail from Red Bank Regional, Markham Place Middle School and Rumson Country Day School — and they meet by moonlight in the enchanted woods outside Athens, as conjured by William Shakespeare in his most kinetic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Actually, the forest faeries, passionate young lovers and amateur actors of the Bard’s most magical mystery tour will assemble inside the “black box” performance space at Two River Theater this week. And when the imaginary curtain goes up on this Midsummer Night for 10 performances between April 23 (Shakespeare’s birthday) and May 1, it will mark the latest in a new series of annual productions presented   under a program entitled “A Little Shakespeare.”

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OUT-LOUD WIN FOR RED BANK REGIONAL JR.

PoetryOutloudPressPress release from Red Bank Regional High School

In late February, Patrick Monaghan of Little Silver, a VPA drama major at Red Bank Regional High School, won the New Jersey Regional Poetry Out Loud Region 3 Semi-finals held at Two River Theater. The Little Silver junior is the first student to advance this far in the competition in the six years that RBR has been participating in the event, in which competitors were represented from numerous towns in Monmouth, Ocean, Middlesex and Mercer Counties.

For his first place regional performance, Patrick performed “Self Inquiry Before the Job Interview” by Gary Soto, “Sonnet 55” by William Shakespeare, and “So This is Nebraska” by Ted Kooser. He shared the top honor with a student from Piscataway High School, and the two winners went on to compete in the State Championship in Princeton on March 13.

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M’TOWN: HIGH SCHOOLERS ‘SPEAK THE SPEECH’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPress release from English-Speaking Union of Monmouth County

On February 28, a dozen high school students each took the stage of the Middletown Arts Center and, without scenery, costumes or props, brought William Shakespeare’s words to life. It was the 25th annual Shakespeare Competition for high school students, sponsored by the Monmouth County Branch of the English-Speaking Union, and the stakes were high.

Each of the contestants had practiced and prepared, each had studied and rehearsed, and all of them performed wonderfully. Despite the competition, the atmosphere among the students was mutually supportive.  Their audience included teachers, parents, and members of the ESU, as well as five theater professionals who served as expert judges.  Each student presented a sonnet and a short monologue.

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LITTLE SILVER: MUCH MORE ADO, AT RBR

MuchadoaboutnothingBenedick (Patrick Monaghan, Little Silver) kneels before his Beatrice (Katherine Kennedy, Avon), as the Red Bank Regional VPA drama majors rehearse their lead roles in the school production of Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, opening November 20 at RBR.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

It’s a bit more than three years since William Shakespeare’s classic couple Beatrice and Benedick — a pair of combatants in “a merry war” known as Much Ado About Nothing — were last seen onstage around the greater Red Bank Green. But while the occasion (the season opener for the professional Two River Theater Company) and the talent (Tony-nominated superstar director Sam Buntrock; Obie-winning leading man Michael Cumpsty; Tony-nominated leading lady Kathleen Meisle) set the bar high for all who dared to follow, that’s hardly the sort of thing to deter the students of the Visual and Performing Arts program at Red Bank Regional High School.

Beginning on the evening of Thursday, November 20 and continuing for two more performances through November 23, the VPA drama majors present the Bard’s circa-1600 comedy of battling sexes, courtship intrigues and (eventually) reconciled lovers as their fall dramatic production on the RBR Theatre.

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WEEKEND: 60 MORE HOURS OF WINTER FUN

ALSAYLI-herobar

Above: A cast of local high school students brings A LITTLE SHAKESPEARE: AS YOU LIKE IT to young theatergoers at Two River…while below, Ms. Lauryn Hill appears to have cancelled her (already previously rescheduled) Homecoming appearance at the Count Basie. (cast photo by Ozzie Rodriguez)

laurynFriday, February 7:

RED BANK: If we’ve learned anything from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, it’s that springtime comes in turn to even the bleakest of wintry landscapes. So, with that warming thought in mind — well, that and the caveat that all events described herein are subject to change due to “no enemy but winter and rough weather” — we sally forth once more, where no groundhog dare tread.

While Two River Theater Company carries on with its vibrant and tuneful mainstage production of the Bard’s cross-dressing comedy, a talented troupe of high school performers have put together an intriguing bonus feature inside TRTC’s “black box” Marion Huber space. Adapted and directed by Jason McDowell-Green, A Little Shakespeare: As You Like It is a 75-minute version of the play, aimed at audiences age 9 and up, and designed “to fulfill the not-so-secret grand ambition of Artistic Director John Dias: to have some Shakespeare resonating in every corner of our theater, and to get everyone in our community turned on to the thrill of his exquisite language.” Red Bank Regional students Alicia Moeller and Patrick Monaghan are the lovestruck leads Rosalind and Orlando — and they’re joined in the cast by fellow RBR actors Halle Butler, Raquel Diaz and Alyssa Rogers, plus Michaela Farrell of Red Bank Catholic, and student players from several other Monmouth County high schools. Public performances, for which the actors will also be performing a score of original music by Shanna Jones, are Friday at 7 pm, and Saturday at 12 and 4 pm. Take it here for tickets ($15) and bios of the cast members — or here for tickets to the grownup version of the show that continues this weekend through February 16. 

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