TRTC NAMES NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

johndiasJohn Dias will be learning the ropes at Two River Theater, when he takes his post as the company’s new artistic director in August.

By TOM CHESEK

After a talent search spanning nearly five months, Red Bank’s Two River Theater has named an advocate for “bold new American plays” as its artistic director for the 2010-2011 season, the company announced yesterday.

John Dias comes to the professional stage troupe with a formidable folio of credentials that includes a 12-year stint as a producer and dramaturg with the New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theater. He is also the founder of a production company dedicated to bringing daring new works from around the world to New York, and has served on the nominating committee for the annual Tony Awards.

According to PR director Deeksha Gaur, Dias will be “spending time at the theater, getting to know the organization and meeting the local community” prior to his first official workday on August 16. He’ll also reportedly be moving to Red Bank from New York City before the start of the new season, which kicks off in late September with the ensemble piece Intimate Apparel.

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SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SANCHEZ AT TWO RIVER

lifeinmiddlebOne class act: Adam Canterbury (Red Bank Middle School), Spencer Mullen (Thompson Middle School) and Sophia Jackman (Ranney School) are among the local students featured in the original musical LIFE IN THE MIDDLE, going up this weekend at Two River Theater. (Rehearsal photos by Janine Kamouh)

By TOM CHESEK

With the official arrival of summer and the much-anticipated winding down of the school year, thousands of area middle schoolers are fully willing and ready to slam shut the yearbook on the 2009-2010 session.

For a select group of local students, however, the middle school experience — complete with shifting alliances, weirdly morphing bodies and classroom politics — is ready to go another round. Beginning with an invitation-only dress rehearsal on Thursday and continuing with four performances through Sunday, a cast of 22 young actors and musicians will be taking the Two River Theater stage in Life in the Middle, an original rock musical that “looks at what it’s really like to be right in the middle,” courtesy of dialogue taken directly from middle schoolers.

With every one of the performers boasting his or her own home-grown fan club, it’s no wonder that the entire (expanded) schedule of shows sold out in a flash. But if director and co-author KJ Sanchez has her druthers, everyone in America will get a chance to catch this oral history-based project in the months and years to come.

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IN TRTC’S LINEUP: SHAW, BREL & A SPIDER

charlottes-web1Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris (as Charlotte the spider) and Owen Doherty (as Wilbur the pig) perform a scene from CHARLOTTE’S WEB, scheduled to go up in December at Two River Theater. (Click to enlarge)

By TOM CHESEK

There’s a classic work by the most formidable scribe this side of Mr. Shakespeare. A reimagining of one of the most timeless tales in children’s literature. Some long-overdue encores for a couple of New York favorites from the 1960s — and a pair of exciting new items that you may not have heard of.

It’s all on the agenda beginning next September as Red Bank’s resident professional stage troupe, Two River Theater Company, announced its 2010-2011 season of shows with a full-house reception last night at its Bridge Avenue auditorium.

Here’s the lineup:

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TRT’S ‘ORESTES:’ MATRICIDE AND SONG

To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

Some pix from the reception that followed the opening-night performance of ‘Orestes‘ at Red Bank’s Two River Theater Saturday.

Star-Ledger theater critic Peter Filichia has a review of the “tragic romp,” for which playwright Anne Washburn updated the 2,400-year-old original by Euripides.

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IN oRBit: TRAGIC MAGIC AT TWO RIVER

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It’s got a leading man who keeps his Redford-esque looks even when marinated in blood, dust and grime. A chorus of maidens whose siren songs are worth the price of admission in themselves. A couple of drag parts, a bonus comic book — and a surprise cameo from a member of show business royalty.

In today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit, we review and report on the opening of Orestes, A Tragic Romp, the new version of the 2,400 year old Euripides drama (adapted by Anne Washburn) now on stage at Two River Theater Company. We’ll tell you that it boasts a sharp cast (toplined by Jay Sullivan, above) plus a savvy satirical edge — and it’s a romp made all the more tragic in that it represents the final show that departing TRTC artistic director Aaron Posner developed for the Red Bank stage.

While we’re on the aisle, we’ll bring you an update on the Performance with Passion Players, the local community troupe (headed by Debby and Mike Schwartz) who recently lost their longtime home at the Eatontown Playhouse on Route 35. We’ll tell you about the company’s spacious new digs — and we’ll let you know where you’ll now be able to find fellow E’town exiles Improv Jam — right here  in Red Bank oRBit!

IN oRBit: THIS AIN’T NO TOGA PARTY

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For most of us who had to make his acquaintance in school, Euripides is a stonefaced statue, and his 2,400 year old play Orestes a dusty and decaying scroll of papyrus. But to Aaron Posner, the classical Greek dramatist is “a rebel…anything but old fashioned” — and his work a theatrical experience that’s “modern, surprising, complex.”

In fact, when Orestes begins its run at Two River Theater Company this week, it’ll be subtitled A Tragic Romp — with Posner and playwright Anne Washburn blowing the dust off this landmark work in a way that’s sure to recall the director’s energized editions of Shakespeare, Shaw and other stage titans. We’ve got an interview with Posner — on the eve of what unfortunately looks to be the last Red Bank show personally helmed by the departing TRTC artistic director — today, in Red Bank oRBit!

IN oRBit: POSNER, TWO RIVER PART WAYS

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In a surprise announcement made just hours before the first preview of their new production Barefoot in the Park, Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company dislcosed that its dynamic artistic director, Aaron Posner, is departing the company when his contract expires at the end of the current stage season.

In a statement that you’ll read first on Red Bank oRBit, the TRTC board praises Posner for having “made huge strides in increasing the national profile of the theater,” while emphasizing that “it is equally important… to strengthen our presence in this community.” And, while it’s likely that today’s Snowmageddon sequel will force the cancellation of this evening’s preview performance at the Bridge Avenue auditorium, the board maintains that a nationwide search for Posner’s replacement will proceed apace.

While he’s a sought-after hot property as director and playwright, Posner (pictured red-handed for his smash production of Macbeth) is hardly cleaning out his desk just yet. He’s actively involved in the planning of next season’s mainstage schedule — and next month, he’ll be directing an acclaimed new adaptation of an ancient classic, called Orestes, A Tragic Romp.

We’ve got the details from Two River on this work-at-home Wednesday, along with a look back at Posner’s run in Red Bank — ONLY in  Red Bank oRBit!