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ALL RED BANK’S A STAGE, FOR ACTOR OWENS

GeoffreyOwensFormer COSBY SHOW cast member Geoffrey Owens is BACK, as Jaques — and Two River Theater Company’s got him, as previews begin this weekend for TRTC’s production of Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT.

By TOM CHESEK

As a regular for the last seven seasons of The Cosby Show, Geoffrey Owens was part of a pop-cultural juggernaut that TV Guide named as The Greatest Sitcom of the 1980s; a Reagan-era repository of positive role models and fatherly sweaters that consistently topped the Nielsens — before ultimately being toppled by The Simpsons and other heirs to the throne of tubeland’s most dysfunctional modern family.

While his recurring role as Cliff Huxtable’s occasionally opinionated but nice-guy son-in-law Elvin allowed him to have the odd moment of good-natured fun with Bill Cosby’s proven shtick, it wasn’t until returning to the stage that the son of former U.S. Congressman Major Owens discovered a surprising specialty — as a sought-after interpreter of the comedic and tragic characters from the quill of Wm. Shakespeare.

Seen recently on Broadway in Romeo and Juliet (with Orlando Bloom), Owens has starred and co-starred in major productions of Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and many others — including a Joseph Papp-produced As You Like It that brought him to the Broadway boards as Orlando, the exiled young noble and dashing leading man of the Bard’s “comedy of cross-dressing heroines and triumphant heroes.” Beginning this weekend, the actor returns to As You Like It‘s “Forest of Arden” setting for the first in a series of preview performances this Saturday night, January 25.

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A LITTLE SHAKESPEARE, FOR YOUNG PLAYERS

two-river-theater-extTwo River Theater Company invites young actors ages 9 to 12 to audition on October 14 and 15, for a special teen version of Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT to be performed at the theater in February 2014. (click to enlarge)

Press release from Two River Theater Company

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, announces the launch of a new program, A Little Shakespeare, as part of its expanded education programming in its 20th Anniversary Season.

In February 2014, during the run of Shakespeare’s As You Like It in the Rechnitz Theater, Two River will present a 75-minute version of the play adapted and directed by Jason McDowell-Green in its black-box Marion Huber Theater. The production will be performed by high-school students for audiences of young people ages 9-12; there will also be three performances open to the general public. Auditions are scheduled for Monday, October 14 and Tuesday, October 15. Actors with musical ability are encouraged to audition. For more information, including the complete rehearsal and performance schedule, visit tworivertheater.org or contact Heidi Schoenenberger at hschoenenberger@trtc.org.

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WEEKEND: MUSIC, ART, THE BARD AND MORE

In this video from last May, Olivia Mullen, then a junior at Red Bank Catholic, gives a taste of the English Speaking Union’s Shakespeare Competition, which returns to Brookdale Community College Saturday. Below, a Martha Rand portrait from the show opening Friday night at Gallery U. (Click to enlarge)

Friday, March 1 

MIDDLETOWN: Girls in grades 5 to 10 are invited to discuss Cynthia Lord’s Touch Blue with their moms at this free monthly event held at the main library hosts at 2 p.m. for the mother-daughter book club. 55 New Monmouth Road.

RED BANK: An opening reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at GalleryU for SWART (Social Work Works), a special exhibition of artwork by New Jersey social workers and art therapists. Joann Lense and Martha Rand are among the 17 contributing artists represented in the exhibit, which will remain on display until March 23. 80 Broad Street.

RED BANK: An opening reception will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. at McKay Imaging Gallery for “The Silence After,” a new exhibit showcasing local scenes of “Sandy’s new landscape” by photographer Mike McLaughlin. The exhibit continues through March 14. 12 Monmouth Street.

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RBC STUDENT DOTH GIVE GOOD REPORT

Olivia Mullen ducked into a Red Bank store to get out of the wind so she could recite a bit of the Bard for redbankgreen earlier this week.

By DANIELLE TEPPER

As Olivia Mullen knows, the works of William Shakespeare are a fundamental component of any acting student’s growth as a performer. The Red Bank Catholic junior has shared passions for drama and music, and to her ear, Shakespeare embodies both.

“Shakespeare’s work is beautiful,” she told redbankgreen this week. “It comes to me almost like a song. I’m not nervous performing it.”

Mullen’s heartfelt appreciation of the Bard of Avon won her a spot in the 29th annual English-Speaking Union‘s National Shakespeare Competition held in New York last month.

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TRTC: ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH

A slew of classic characters from the pens of Shakespeare, Coward and Wilson and more will tread the boards of the Red Bank stage this season.  (Click to enlarge)

By TOM CHESEK

“I feel like I’m having a dream,” the playwright and performance artist Lisa Kron said as she faced a capacity crowd at Two River Theater Monday night.

“In high school, we, the theater people, were like the outcasts,” she said. “This is the pep rally we never had.”

The occasion for the spirited assembly was the annual new-season announcement  by Two River Theater Company — one of the most highly anticipated such events in New Jersey stage circles, and one presided over by John Dias, now in his second season as TRTC’s artistic director.

As introduced by the nationally renowned producer and some celebrated associates, the 2012-2013 schedule builds upon the successful template established in the current 2011-2012 season — a season that climaxes with the production of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day, going up in previews on May 15.

Utilizing both the mainstage Rechnitz auditorium and the “black box” Marion Huber space at TRTC’s branded Bridge Avenue arts center, the new slate of eight shows mixes classics of the English language with new American voices; intimate solos with exquisite ensembles, and new faces with a whole lot of returning favorites — with words from the likes of Noel Coward, August Wilson and a guy by the name of Shakespeare.

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TRTC’s NEXT SEASON: 8 SHOWS, NO WAITING

trt-extArtistic director John Dias, below, and the Two River Theater announced the lineup of shows for the 2011-’12 season Monday night. (Click to enlarge)

By TOM CHESEK

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The onstage ensemble included a formidable British-born actor who won an Obie award, for playing no less a role than Hamlet. An actor-director-playwright (and cast member of TV’s Castle) with a Tony to call his own. A young actress and singer who’s co-starred on Broadway in Les Miz and Miss Saigon.

Even with all that collected charisma, however, all eyes were on the soft-spoken guy at the podium — John Dias, artistic director of Two River Theater Company, and the man at the center of attention as the borough-based stage troupe announced its 2011-2012 season of shows Monday night.

As presented to an audience of invited guests at TRTC’s branded Bridge Avenue artspace, it’s an expanded slate of eight shows that makes use of the building’s mainstage auditorium as well as its companion “black box” space, the Marion J. Huber Theater. Adding to the buzz, of course, was the fact that the upcoming season represents the first full schedule of offerings selected by Dias, who joined TRTC in August of last year.

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‘MIDSUMMER NIGHT’ GETS EXTENDED FALL RUN

Scenes from the opening night reception at the Two River Theater last Saturday night. To enlarge the display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

Now in its first full week of stagings, the Two River Theater Company‘s run of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘ has already been extended by a week.

The Red Bank company, citing boffo activity, announced the tag-on yesterday.

Star-Ledger theater writer Peter Filichia pretty much raves about the production top to Bottom in a review today.

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IN oRBit: WEE WILLIE, WELL-GOTTEN GAINES

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Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit has an exclusive interview with a performer who’s always been something of a favorite around these parts — Jeffrey Gaines, the singer and songwriter who famously dueled with Peter Gabriel some years back over who would have the biggest hit with “In Your Eyes.”

gaines

A frequent visitor to the greater Red Bank area, Gaines was one of the stars of last May’s Band Together For Survival benefit at the Basie. This Sunday, June 28, he’ll be back in the borough for a special show at The Downtown. We talked to him about Red Bank, his Pennsylvania roots, and some places that can’t be triangulated on Google Earth.

From there, it’s a quick look at The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), the actual title of a speed-record spoof of all 37 Shakespeare comedies, tragedies and — in the form of an onstage football game — regal histories. Devised by a British improv troupe, the show comes to the historic and slightly haunted environs of the Woods Theatre at Monmouth U, for the first in its 2009 Shadow Lawn series of summertime stage presentations.

Like a lost packet of Astronaut Ice Cream, it’s all there, going round and round, forever in oRBit.