RED BANK: TWO RIVER THEATER FOUNDER DIES

Robert Rechnitz with his wife, Joan, in 2012. Below, the Two River Theater, where a new plaza was under construction this week. (Photos by Stacie Fanelli and Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

red bank two river theaterRobert 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.

 

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RED BANK: RECHNITZES GIVE $5M TO HOSPITAL

The husband-and-wife founders of Red Bank’s Two River Theater have donated $5 million to kick off a fundraiser for Riverview Medical Center, the hospital’s parent organization announced Thursday. And it’s not the first time, either.

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RED BANK: TWO RIVER TOASTS ARTS ANGELS

Joan_and_Bob_Rechnitz_Ed_Zipprich_Ivan_PolonskyTwo River Theater Company co-founders Joan and Robert Rechnitz were joined on the evening of March 28 by Red Bank Councilman Ed Zipprich and philanthropist Ivan Polonsky, for the 2016-17 Season Announcement event at Two River’s Bridge Avenue arts center. Some 100 of the stage company’s major donors and supporters attended a special reception in the lobby prior to the 7:30 p.m. program, mingling with TRTC artistic director John Dias, Tony nominated actor-director Michael Cumpsty and other artists involved in the new slate of shows that begin in September 2016. A full rundown of the new schedule, including season subscription information, can be found here. (Photo by Teja Anderson)

RED BANK: A LAST CALL FOR ‘REASON’

Lives of Reason TRTC 1-16 063 Lives of Reason, by Robert Rechnitz and Kenneth Stunkel, directed by Jonathan Fox at Two River Theatre Company 1/7/16 Costume Design: Karen Perry Lighting Design: Gina Scherr Set Design: Charlie Corcoran © T Charles Erickson Photography tcepix@comcast.net

Ilona (Mairin Lee) is the center of attention, as the Two River Theater original LIVES OF REASON (above) enters its final round of performances…while Monmouth U’s Frank P. Fury (below) inaugurates a new series of Conversation + Play events at Two River. (Top photo by T. Charles Erickson)

FuryAlthough its authors — longtime Monmouth University English professor Robert Rechnitz, and veteran Dean/ History prof Kenneth Stunkel — have waved away any direct connection to their former place of employment or co-workers, the unmistakable flavor of a life spent in academia permeates Lives of Reason, the original ensemble drama that represents the maiden collaboration for its two octogenarian playwrights.

Even as Lives enters into the final eight performances (today through Sunday, February 7) of its limited engagement at Two River Theater, the venue re-establishes that Monmouth U connection with the help of the organization known as The Navesink, whose TEDxNavesink events used the Bridge Avenue arts center for its sold-out 2014 session (and who since relocated to, you guessed it, the Monmouth campus). Thursday, February 4 marks the first in a three-part series of Conversation + Play “salons” that pair an 8 pm performance of Two River’s current mainstage production with a special pre-show lecture — in this case the young MU faculty member and literature specialist Frank P. Fury, Ph.D.

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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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RED BANK: FUNNY THINGS KEEP HAPPENING

A Funny Thing...Forum TRTC 11-15 175 A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim choreography by Denis Jones directed by Jessica Stone Two River Theatre Company 11/13/15 Scenic Design | Alexander Dodge Costume Design | Clint Ramos Lighting Design | Jeff Croiter and Jake DeGroot Hair and Makeup: David Bova Sound Design | Drew Levy © T Charles Erickson Photography tcepix@comcast.netDavid Josefsburg, Michael Urie, Christopher Fitzgerald and Kevin Isola keep the toga party going for one more weekend, as “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ wraps its run at Two River Theater. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By TOM CHESEK

Red Bank’s Two River Theater offers one more long weekend of happy-humbug harbor to all of us who may feel caught between a Dickens and a Nutcracker this time of year.

Directed by Jessica Stone — and boasting an all-male cast of Tony nominees, TV personalities, Two River returnees and toga-clad Broadway babies — the TRT’s naughty and bawdy production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum reclaims the Stephen Sondheim musical comedy (based on the farcical works of ancient Roman playwright Plautus) from the community church basements and school auditoriums it’s long been consigned to. And it uses the novelty of its “stag” staging to mine maximum gold from its broad burlesque belly-laughs.

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RED BANK: TWO RIVER INTROS NEW SEASON

DirdenStoneRechnitzReturning Broadway veterans Brandon J. Dirden and Jessica Stone — plus rookie playwright Robert Rechnitz, pictured with wife and fellow Two River Theater Company founder Joan — are among the creative forces powering a just-announced 2015-2016 season of shows on Two River stages.

It’s a highly anticipated rite of spring in Red Bank — one that John Dias jokingly referred to as “this totally kooky annual event” — but when the artistic director of Two River Theater Company played host for the 2015-2016 Season Announcement on Monday night, he was entirely serious in first thanking the “loyal, passionate” audience members who “want to be the first to hear what we’re doing each year.”

Kicking off in mid-September, and comprising eight productions on two stages of TRTC’s branded Bridge Avenue arts center, it’s a schedule that boasts fresh takes on familiar classics, and first looks at a couple of world premiere works. There’s some engagingly quirky casting; the return of several fondly regarded members of the extended Two River family — and a debut original work by a forever-young upstart who holds a special resonance with the Red Bank audience.

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HAND IN HAND DINNER DRAWS A FULL HOUSE

katz rechnitzGuest of honor Harvey Katz joined Two River Theater founders Joan and Robert Rechnitz, Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, and Chani Schapiro during last week’s tribute dinner for the community nonprofit Hand in Hand.

Press release from Belfer Communications

On Thursday, June 10th, more than 400 people gathered to honor the teen volunteers of Hand in Hand, a community outreach organization that extends a helping hand to special needs children and their families.

The sold-out tribute event at Red Bank’s Two River Theater also honored Phyllis and Harvey Katz of Long Branch. and Louisa and Marc Liechtung of Wayside. New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno commended the volunteers for making the world a better place through selfless dedication to their community.

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TRTC NAMES SEASON OF PREMIERES, CLASSICS

RubenDavidLeeJessStoneTony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, FRASIER creator David Lee, and Jessica Stone are among the star-quality directors working with Two River Theater Company in the just-announced 2014-2015 season.

“Didn’t we just do this?” joked Two River Theater Company founder Robert Rechnitz, as he stepped up to the podium in the sleek auditorium named for his wife Joan and himself. The TRTC founder joined artistic director John Dias, managing director Michael Hurst and special guests on Monday evening, for an event that’s become a much-anticipated ritual in Red Bank — the unveiling of the upcoming season at Two River’s branded Bridge Avenue arts center.

Spanning centuries-old classics and modern milestones from both sides of the Atlantic — and fulfilling its stated mission of “leading, not following public taste,” with an unprecedented three world premieres — the 2014-2015 slate of mainstage productions stands as one of the company’s most ambitious yet; a schedule that had Rechnitz praising the acclaimed regional theater as “a school, slyly disguised as a place of entertainment…we want to fill the place, but on our terms, and yours.”

Take it just around the corner, for the details on the season that kicks off on September 13.

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TRTC’s 20th SEASON: AS YOU LIKE IT

Tony nominee Michael Cumpsty, Tony and Oscar winner Joel Grey, and Jade King Carroll make their Two River Theater directorial debuts during the just-announced 2013-2014 season.

By TOM CHESEK

As John Dias tells it, “We want to make sure we’re doing work that you want to see.”

The nationally renowned producer and artistic director of Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company was at the podium Sunday night, addressing an audience of supporters during an event that’s become a highly anticipated rite of spring: the announcement of TRTC’s next season of mainstage presentations.

The 2013-2014 schedule that begins on September 14 marks a genuine milestone, as it represents the 20th anniversary season for the troupe founded by Robert M. and Joan Rechnitz, a company that staged its first productions at Monmouth University before spending several years at Manasquan’s Algonquin Arts Theatre and eventually moving into its own branded Bridge Avenue building in May of 2005.

Introducing his third season’s selection of classic comedies, modern American dramas and original musicals, Dias praised the slate as one that meets three crucial criteria: honoring the theater’s mission, bringing in “some of the exciting artists working in the theater today,” and reflecting the two-decade history of TRTC. The 20th Anniversary season, for which subscriptions will soon be made available, unfolds just around the corner.

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