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The outdoor plaza at Two River Theater is the scene of a public-welcome patio party on Wednesday evening, as the seventh annual Crossing Borders Festival arrives for a five-day stand.

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. More →


A colorful new mural bloomed to life on the Catherine Street wall of Kitch Organic restaurant in Red Bank over the weekend.

Executed by local children — and some adults who pulled a couple of all-nighters — the mural promotes two cultural events: the Indie Street Film Festival, which returns to town for a four-day run starting July 26; and the Crossing Borders Festival, featuring five days of free-admission Latino-flavored plays and food at the Two River Theater beginning August 2.

Artist Misha Tyutyunik, also known as MDot, created the design, reprising his role from the 2016 Indie Street mural on Monmouth Street. Click read more for additional pix. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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Flamenco_DancersThe outdoor plaza at Two River Theater comes alive on Wednesday evening with a colorful keynote to the Crossing Borders Festival, the annual free celebration of Latino theater curated by Stephanie Ybarra (below).

Stephanie YbarraIt’s become an eagerly anticipated annual feature of the programming from Two River Theater; a celebration of cultural diversity and connections that occurs on the border between the professional company’s mainstage seasons — and on a street named Bridge Avenue, no less.

Even as issues of national identity and immigration have been forced to the front once more during a superheated election-year summer, the frontiers represented by the Crossing Borders Festival go beyond mere lines on maps. Returning for a sixth annual edition this week, the five-day celebration of emerging Latino theater examines the barriers, access points and grey areas between heritage and assimilation; reality and fantasy; the pull of memory and the need to move on.

Kicking off with the now-traditional outdoor Neighborhood Party on Wednesday, August 3 — and continuing through Sunday, August 7 with a menu of play readings (one of them presented in both English and Spanish), lectures and audience forums — the festival maintains its mission of “bringing together writers and stories from all over the country to explore questions of individual and national identity, and what it means to be a part of the Latino diaspora,” in the words of guest curator Stephanie Ybarra.

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ChariseRogelioAbelCharise Castro Smith, Rogelio Martinez, and Abel Gonzalez Melo are among the Cuban and Cuban-American playwrights represented in this year’s Crossing Borders Festival at Two River Theater. 

In case you didn’t know, New Jersey is second only to Florida among states in its number of Cuban-heritage residents. So when relations between Washington and Havana took a turn toward normalization this year, Jerry Ruiz saw an opportunity to dedicate this year’s Crossing Borders Festival to a genuinely historic milestone.

For the director and curator of the annual event – a free, multi-day celebration of new works by Latino creatives at Red Bank’s Two River Theater – the “Crossing Borders” brand already carried multiple layers of meaning, and with the figurative crossing into Cuba comes a chance to fulfill a mission that Ruiz has described as “creating a new audience, by building a bridge to a community.”

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Flamenco_DancersFlamenco dancers, live music and samplings from area restaurants are on hand outside Two River Theater during Thursday’s pre-party for Crossing Borders, the annual festival of new Latino plays curated by Jerry Ruiz (below).

Jerry_Ruiz“It’s this big, impressive, kind of intimidating space,” is how Jerry Ruiz describes Bridge Avenue’s Two River Theater, where the annual Crossing Borders Festival goes up this week. “You can understand how someone in the community might walk by and think, that’s not for me.”

“Well, with Crossing Borders, by removing the cost barrier, removing that language barrier, we let them know that this theater is their space, too.”

Beginning this Thursday, and for the fourth consecutive summer, Two River Theater Company presages the start of their new season by hosting a four-day event showcasing the talents of the nation’s most dynamic Latino playwrights, actors and directors. As curator of the festival since its inception, NYC-based director Ruiz has once again assembled a program that’s drawn “a pretty diverse, local crowd…it’s about creating a new audience, by building a bridge to a community.”

Having played a major role in developing one of last season’s mainstage productions from TRTC (Pinkolandia), it’s a slate of new works-in-progress that share “forceful Latina protagonists…strong Latin women that defy and shatter stereotypes, make bold decisions, and determine their own destinies.”

Running August 14 through 17,  the festival launches with a 5:30 pm outdoor party on Thursday evening, offering up food from local restaurants — along with music, dancing and a chance to meet the artists behind this year’s featured plays — all in the plaza outside the Two River building. From there, the action moves indoors for a slate of dramas and comedies — a couple of them brought to you by the creative people behind some buzzed-about TV series — all read by professional casts, and with one show presented in both English and Spanish.

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RuizTanyaAlban(L-R): Director Jerry Ruiz and playwright Tanya Saracho (pictured with actor Carlo Albán during a past edition of the annual CROSSING BORDERS festival at Two River Theater) invite Red Bank’s Latino community to the first in a series of Storytelling Workshops on Saturday, April 26.

Press release from Two River Theater Company 

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, a generous $40,000 grant through the foundation’s Building Demand for the Arts program. The initiative, which launched last year, funds inventive partnerships that create new methods for reaching the public and developing their interest in and access to the performing arts.

Two River Theater will host a residency for Tanya Saracho (an award-winning playwright and writer on TV’s Girls, Looking, and Devious Maids) and director Jerry Ruiz (curator of Two River’s annual Crossing Borders festival of new Latino plays and free community programs) to build demand for theater among Latino audiences. Through the Duke residency, Saracho and Ruiz will create and lead storytelling workshops (utilizing both writing and multimedia) for Red Bank’s Latino community, bringing them into direct contact with the process of creating theater and allowing them to experience the art form as something that is vital and relevant to them. As a result of this project, Two River will commission Saracho to write a play that speaks directly to experiences and challenges that are specific to this community, which will be developed at the theater and directed by Ruiz.

Two River Theater invites Red Bank’s Latino community to participate in the first community workshop on Saturday, April 26, 2014. No experience is necessary to join. The workshops are open to all people who identify as Latino or Latina, regardless of national or ethnic background, and young people, women, and transgender people are especially encouraged to participate. Workshops will include opportunities for the participants to talk, share stories, and play games, using storytelling models devised by Saracho. In addition to the workshops, participants will be invited to events, shows, and programs at Two River throughout the year, all free and at no cost. For information, interested community members should call (732)936-8843.

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The musical act Early Elton — featuring members of the Asbury Jukes and the Fab Faux — brings its tribute to Elton John and Bernie Taupin to Two River Theater in a Saturday night benefit show.

The start of the 20th Anniversary stage season at Two River Theater is still more than a month away, but even as Tony- and Oscar-winning actor/director Joel Grey rehearses his cast for the upcoming production of On Borrowed Time, the stage of the Bridge Avenue performing arts center is abuzz with activity in these dog-day afternoons and evenings.

It’s a late-summer slate that kicked off with this past Sunday’s Beatlemania benefit concert — and which continues tonight with a sold-out screening of the locally produced documentary feature Destiny’s Bridge.

The sights and sounds and screenings roll on right to Labor Day’s doorstep, with a Saturday night benefit concert that captures the soulful spirit of an international music superstar’s introspective early albums.

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Director and curator Jerry Ruiz, playwright Tanya Saracho and actor-writer Carlo Albán return to Red Bank for the second annual CROSSING BORDERS festival Thursday through Sunday at Two River Theater.

When the event known as Crossing Borders makes its second annual stand at Red Bank’s Two River Theater this week, it will do more than roll into town with a precious cargo of four new works by Latino playwrights. It will cross between matters of cultural curiosity and personal identity — and it will cross over into some surprising settings that range from chilly Wisconsin to some of the lesser known stretches of Sesame Street.

A follow-up to last year’s successful series, Crossing Borders takes over the black-box Marion Huber space at the Bridge Avenue arts center for four days between Thursday, June 28 and Sunday, July 1 — a four-day interval in which audiences will be treated to “bare bones” readings of acclaimed new plays, bookended by public-welcome parties, and all presented free of charge.

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