By JOHN T. WARD
The T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, built to honor a pioneering African-American journalist with Red Bank ties, plans to spotlight the borough-born musical giant William ‘Count’ Basie through 2020.
The occasion is the 85th anniversary of the formation of the Count Basie Orchestra, which is still touring 36 years after its founder’s death.
By JOHN T. WARD
Robert M. Rechnitz, who co-founded Red Bank’s Two River Theater with his wife, Joan, died at his home Saturday, the theater announced Wednesday. He was 89 years old.
By JOHN T. WARD
On Thursday’s Red Bank busy zoning board agenda: a proposal for a downtown food market and speakeasy, plus a plan to build a new house on the site of a devastating fire, and changes outside the Two River Theater.
By JOHN T. WARD
It may always be best known to locals as ‘the Basie,’ but Red Bank’s oldest and most prominent entertainment venue is nothing if not prolific with monikers.
On Friday, yet another new one went up on the Monmouth Street marquee that bears the name of the town’s most famous son.
By JOHN T. WARD
By JOHN T. WARD
Marking the start of a new chapter — and the end of that whole ‘theater or theatre?’ conundrum — Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre has been rebranded the Count Basie Center for the Arts, officials said Monday.
The name reflects the 92-year-old venue’s present and future as a “campus,” where performance art is learned, developed and staged, said Basie chief executive officer Adam Philipson. Read More
“Giving Tuesday,” founded in 2012 by New York City’s 92nd St. YMCA and the United Nations Foundation, was originally a “response to commercialism and consumerism” during the holiday season. It has since turned into an international day of giving.
Next Tuesday, Nov. 28, the nonprofit Count Basie Theatre will join forces with 94.3 The Point and The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation for a day-long, live broadcast from the Basie to raise funds for the Veterans Tickets Foundation, or Vet Tix.
”An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be,” says a character in Oscar Wilde’s Victorian farce, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’
And just hours before the opening-night performance of the play at the Two River Theater in Red Bank Friday night, one of the theater’s employees was surprised by a real-life marriage proposal on the stage. (Photos by Yurik Lozano. Click to enlarge)
In a world where the spectre of all-out war can out-spook any hooded goblin, it might seem that the old Halloween haunts can no longer hold a flickering candle to the horrors of the day’s headlines. If anything, the cobwebbed corridors of a walk-through “haunted house” can creak with a reassuring nostalgia, as its familiar fiends create a welcome momentary refuge from the edgy uncertainties of the real world.
As if on cue, the fearless crew of Brookdale Haunted Theater is ready to serve with the return of the annual attraction that transforms Brookdale Community College’s Performing Arts Center into an indoor flesh-and-blood fright factory that runs for three big weekends, beginning — wait for it — Friday the 13th.
It’s been described as “a love letter to women of color,” one that “reveals heartfelt emotions about intimacy, sexual responsibility and overcoming adversity.” Credited to author and producer Yetta Young — but acknowledged by her as a collaborative effort that features the input of some dozen different women — the intimate theatrical experience entitled Butterfly Confessions has spread its wings and its message to communities from coast to coast, including audiences right here in Red Bank who enjoyed it for the first time in the spring of 2016.
Leave the first-nighting formalwear at home — and feel free to attend in your finest PJs, footed onesies and “sleeping pants” — when Two River Theater presents six public performances of Skeletons: A Day of the Dead Bedtime Story beginning this Thursday, October 12. A production of New York’s Teatro SEA company, it’s the latest in a series of family-friendly events imported to Red Bank from some of North America’s finest purveyors of theater experiences for young audiences — and despite the name, it’s a show that’s far more fanciful than frightening.
Here in the season of the Great Pumpkin Spice, thoughts stray across the Oceanic Bridge, and into the Navesink-Locust precincts of Middletown Township — a place of rustic old landmarks, foliage-festooned hillside trails, and the mist-shrouded banks of Many Mind Creek.
Beginning this weekend, and for many October days and nights to come, two of the area’s most historic haunts are offering up some diversions designed to take some that encroaching seasonal chill from the bones.
Press release from Red Bank Regional High School
When New Jersey Repertory, the acclaimed professional stage company in Long Branch, inaugurates its new West End Arts Center facility in October, it will be with a multi-media Theater and Arts Festival organized around the theme “All About Eve.” At the heart of the eight-day festival will be the world premieres of 28 short plays — a select group winnowed from over 450 submissions — and a collection that includes a one-act drama authored by a 16 year old high school senior who attends the Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Red Bank Regional.
Dozens of local politicians and players in the arts world turned out for the event. Below, Basie board members Steven Van Zandt and his wife, Maureen Van Zandt. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
A $23 million expansion of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre formally got underway Wednesday, beginning what’s expected to be a 20-month endeavor to turn the Vaudeville-era venue into a powerhouse for live performance and arts education.
The aim, musician and actor Steven Van Zandt told an al fresco gathering, is “to make Red Bank an example to the rest of the county of what it is possible to do” in elevating the arts.
Joseph York (The Prince), Alison Levier (Cinderella) and Gina Teschke (Little Red) are among the storybook characters going “Into the Woods,” when Phoenix Productions stages the Sondheim musical at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre. (Photos courtesy Tom Martini)
On a weekend that marks the official curtain-up for Two River Theater’s season-opening production of A Raisin in the Sun, two of the area’s longest established community stage companies are offering up something for those who get a thrill from first-nighting — with fresh local looks at a couple of Broadway favorites from the 1980s and 1990s.
When last we looked in on Red Bank’s own Phoenix Productions, the resident theatrical troupe of the Count Basie Theatre was marking its turf with a revisit to West Side Story — an early success for the young lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and an indicator of great things to come. When the company’s 2017 season resumes this Friday, September 15, it will once again look to the Sondheim playbook — and to the storybook realm of the Brothers Grimm — with a musical journey Into the Woods.
While it doesn’t claim anything resembling a formal “stock company” of actors and other creative types, Red Bank’s professional Two River Theater Company has been more than happy to foster some mutually beneficial relationships with a number of recurring players — perhaps none more so than Brandon J. Dirden, the Tony-nominated, Obie-winning stage-screen talent who’s made himself quite comfortable on Bridge Avenue, even as his star ascended on television (The Americans) and Broadway (All the Way, in which he appeared as no less iconic a presence than Martin Luther King Jr.).
When the folks at Two River Theater Company launch a new slate of mainstage shows next month, they’ll be bringing in the 2017-2018 season with a fresh look at a genuine American classic — A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 drama of a black Chicago family’s struggle to achieve their dreams.
Before the “raisin” of the curtain, however, the Red Bank institution will be raisin’ the roof this Thursday evening with a community “block party,” a public-welcome affair that boasts live music, dancing, food and a a meet-and-greet opportunity with cast members from the show that opens officially on September 15.
Despite its claim as the area’s longest established theatrical company — having first “put on a show” back in 1953, well before the involvement of any of its current principals — the Monmouth Players have not been ones to stay snug in their comfort zone of their Middletown beginnings.
Under producers Paul and Lori Renick, the company has continued to challenge the local audience with projects that have ranged from offbeat and edgy, to as literary-minded as the former library in which they make their home.
At the very least, it’s a bridge between the borders of one mainstage season and the next at Two River Theater — a summertime transition that even takes place on a street named Bridge Avenue.
Of course, the name Crossing Borders (or Cruzando Fronteras) carries with it connotations of those walled obstacles, points of access, and grey areas between heritage and assimilation — to say nothing of reality and fantasy, or past and future. And when the five-day Crossing Borders Festival comes to the Red Bank venue this week for its seventh annual celebration of contemporary “Latinx” theater (more on that in a moment), it will continue its mission of bringing such themes to the forefront, here in a socio-political landscape where they remain as hot-button an issue as ever — while endeavoring to break down the barriers of language and cost for the local audience. Read More