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RED BANK: ENJOY THE SHOW, WEAR YOUR PJ’S

The smart theatergoers will be wearing pajamas, when Two River Theater hosts four family-friendly days’ worth of SKELETONS: A Day of the Dead Bedtime Story, beginning October 12.

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.

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RED BANK: RAISIN’ A FAMILY @ TWO RIVER

Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden share the stage in the season opening production of ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ (Photo by Lisa Campbell)

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.).

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RED BANK: A CURTAIN-RAISIN’ FREE BBQ

Red Bank’s own blues specialist Gary Wright takes it to the Two River Theater on Thursday for a “block party” previewing the upcoming production of ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ (Photo by Terri Walliczek.)

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.

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RED BANK: NEW CHAIR FOR VISITORS CENTER

Two River Theater marketing director Courtney Schroeder is the new chair of the board for the Red Bank Visitors Center. (Photo by Danny Sanchez)

Press release from Red Bank Visitors Center

In a recent press release, the Red Bank Visitors Center announced the appointment of Courtney Schroeder as the Chair of the Board, for the nonprofit organization founded in 2002.

A magna cum laude graduate of Wagner College, with a BS in Arts Administration and a double minor in Dance and Spanish, Schroeder has for the past six years held the position of Director of Marketing at Two River Theater. Prior to landing at Two River, she worked in the development wing for Ballet Hispanico in New York City.

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RED BANK: SMITH BIOPIC ANCHORS FILM FEST

Mark Frost plays Kevin Smith in the biopic ‘Shooting Clerks,’ which screens at the second Monmouth Film Festival at the Two River Theater this weekend.

It seems that no sooner had the last of the popcorn been swept after the recent Indie Street Film Festival than another weekend-long celebration of independent cinema prepared to unspool in Red Bank, the town that Nicholas Marchese calls “the arts mecca of Monmouth County.”

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RED BANK: A SEVENTH ‘CROSSING’ ON BRIDGE

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. Read More »

RED BANK: INDIE FILM FEST GETS UNDERWAY

Lead festival organizer Jay Webb, right, with guests at Wednesday night’s opening reception on the patio of the Count Basie Theatre. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

With a display of carved-surfboard art, a New Jersey premiere screening of Dave Made a Maze and a DJ’d after-party at three separate venues, the second annual Indie Street Film Festival officially got underway in Red Bank Wednesday evening, ushering in a four-days-and-nights slate of screenings, panels, workshops and get-togethers with an admirable “Cannes-do” spirit.

A project of the fillmajer cooperative Indie Street (working in partnership with Red Bank RiverCenter), the sequel to last year’s inaugural event looks to make a long-running “tentpole franchise” of the venture. It’s a multi-venue happening that offers plenty of reasons to visit the borough’s theaters, restaurants and nightspots — or even its best-kept-secret middle school auditorium — during that time of year when the beaches make their biggest bid for buzz.

Take it here for info on individual event tickets and festival passes — and read on, for a rundown of goings-on between through Sunday. Read More »

RED BANK: TALENT ON TAP AT TWO RIVER

A company of young tap-dance talents brings the work of two top choreographers to the stage of Two River Theater this Sunday, with the Syn•Co•Pate production of ‘Sights and Sounds.’

The interval between mainstage seasons at Red Bank’s Two River Theater has seldom been one of rest, and this one’s no exception. Witness the annual occurrence of the Crossing Borders Festival (about which more to come here on redbankgreen), the Summer Jazz Café slate that calls closing time this weekend.

This Sunday evening, Two River continues its industrious ways when choreographers Nick Dinicolangelo and Emily Shoemaker bring ‘Sights and Sounds’ to the Bridge Avenue venue.

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RED BANK: FESTIVAL SERVES FILMS & EVENTS

A portion of the colorful mural painted earlier this month on the Catherine Street wall of Kitch Organic heralds the second annual coming of the Indie Street Film Festival, co-founded by Jay Webb, below.

To Wanamassa resident Jay Webb, losing oneself in the flickering lights of a hushed, darkened room is only part of the joy of a film festival for cinephiles. Another is getting together and gabbing about what they’ve seen, and who’s doing what in an art form wholly dependent on collaboration.

Which is one reason the schedule for the second edition of the Indie Street Film Festival, which returns to Red Bank next week, is studded with community events in between screenings of some 60 films.

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RED BANK: NEW MURAL POPS INTO VIEW

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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RED BANK: ‘CAFÉ SOCIETY’ JAZZES TWO RIVER

Harmonica/vibes virtuoso Hendrik Muerkens (right, with vocalist Angelita Li) joins his Samba Jazz East combo to inaugurate a new series of Summer Jazz Café events Friday and Saturday at Two River Theater.

“We’ve curated this summer series for more than a decade now,” says Joe Muccioli, noted conductor/arranger, impresario and artistic director of Red Bank-based Jazz Arts Project. “Each night is truly a unique experience, paying homage to a bygone era of swinging, yet elegant café society.”

Whether he’s auditioning hopefuls for the annual Sinatra Birthday Bash at the Basie; kicking it old-school scholarly via his Talkin’ Jazz lectures; working with the student cats and kittens of the Jazz Arts Academy, or programming the summertime Jazz in the Park series at Riverside Gardens, the man called “Mooche” is one passionately productive guy — but perhaps his greatest passion is reserved for Summer Jazz Café, the annual slate of intimate weekend occurrences that return to the borough of Basie this Friday and Saturday.

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RED BANK: A LAST ROUNDUP FOR ‘LITTLE JO’

Teal Wicks (right) stars as the title character — with bride and groom Jane Bruce and Eric William Morris as frontier friends — as “The Ballad of Little Jo” enters its final week of performances at Two River Theater. (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

It’s always a pleasure to see the physical space and human resources of Two River Theater Company employed to their full potential, and with the current mainstage musical The Ballad of Little Jo, TRTC artistic director John Dias and company have crowned their 2016-2017 season with a polished production that packs something of a homegrown pedigree; that doesn’t skimp on the quality or quantity of assembled talent — and that speaks to the American soul in all of its conflicted, enterprising, ambitious, messy and often melancholy glory.

Co-written by, developed and directed here by Dias — and adapted from a 1993 film of the same name — the show that made its formal debut some 17 years ago at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre has traced a journey to the Red Bank stage almost as long as that of the real-life 19th century woman whose story (very loosely) inspired it. It’s a journey that enters its final stretch for the time being, as the production wraps its limited engagement with eight more performances, today through Sunday, June 25.

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RED BANK: ‘LITTLE JO’ GETS ACTUAL BALLADS

Teal Wicks (second from left) is the title character — and Daniel K. Isaac, Jane Bruce and Eric William Morris lend solid support — as the screen-to-stage musical adaptation “The Ballad of Little Jo” begins previews at Two River Theater. (Photo by Amanda Crommett)

In the 1993 film The Ballad of Little Jo, director Maggie Greenwald told the story of Josephine Monaghan, a young 19th-century woman from a proper Boston family who adapts to a life of self-exile in an Idaho frontier town by living her life as a man.

While the movie left the actual ballads at the door, a handful of creative people heard the music in its fact-based tale. And beginning with its first preview performance this Saturday, Little Jo adapts to life in the 21st century in its new incarnation, as a musical stage production from Red Bank’s own Two River Theater Company.

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RED BANK: A FRONTIER FUNDER AT TWO RIVER

Two River Theater.

Although it’s a brand-spanking-new addition to the growing crop of world premieres from Red Bank’s own Two River Theater Company, the upcoming production The Ballad of Little Jo represents the culmination of a years-long process, through which the borough-based stage troupe nurtured and developed the highly anticipated musical adaptation that closes out its 2016-’17 season in grand style.

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RED BANK: JAZZED AND ENCHANTED

Master of ceremonies Bob Tuzzo (above) and the Belle Tones (below) are among the performers joining Joe Muccioli’s Red Bank Jazz Orchestra Saturday night at the Two River Theater.

The partnership of the borough-based nonprofit Jazz Arts Project with the Count Basie Theatre has yielded some swingin’ly successful results, from the young-musician Jazz Arts Academy to April’s recently wrapped Talkin’ Jazz series; and from December’s annual Sinatra Birthday Bash to other big-stage events showcasing our very own Red Bank Jazz Orchestra.

That said, just as Red Bank’s connection to America’s classical music is bigger even than the legendary “Kid from Red Bank” Count himself, so too does the Jazz Arts brand bust out of the boundaries of the Basie from time to time — witness the summertime slate of open-air concerts at Riverside Gardens, or the Summer Jazz Cafe series that candle-lights up the warm weekend nights at Two River Theater.

This Saturday night, the organization under the artistic direction of conductor-arranger-scholar Joe “Mooche” Muccioli returns to the Two River stage for the latest edition of what’s fast become a rhythmic rite of spring — the fundraiser concert event known as ‘An Enchanted Evening of Song.’

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RED BANK: PADILLA ‘WOMEN’ ON THE WING

The cast of ‘The Women of Padilla’ share a cathartic moment in the Tony Meneses play that concludes its world premiere engagement this week at Two River Theater. (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Beginning with a 1 p.m. performance Wednesday, seven opportunities remain for the general public to catch The Women of Padilla, the latest in an ever-growing portfolio of plays that have made their world premiere on the Red Bank stage of Two River Theater.

Written by Tony Meneses (whose previously produced project here was Guadalupe in the Guest Room), the drama is an ensemble piece that reflects an ongoing commitment by the theater company to develop and promote new works by Latino creators. It’s also a succinct and slightly surreal piece with an underlying universal quality — a glimpse at the home front in a time of seemingly eternal war, as well as the ways in which we find family, build community, and latch onto gossamer wings of hope whenever something important goes missing from our lives.

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RED BANK: A SENSES-FRIENDLY SUMMER CAMP

As part of its 2017 Summer Theater Camp, Red Bank’s Two River Theater will offer its first classes for students with autism ages 10-17, plus a special “sensory-friendly” performance of the play ‘The Way Back Home’ on June 10.

Press release from Two River Theater Company

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, has announced two new initiatives designed to support young people on the autism spectrum, and welcome them to the theater.

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RED BANK: THEATER ADDITION APPROVED

A rendering of the proposed addition to the left of the existing theater and fly tower at center, as seen from the northeast. (Rendering by Kaplan Gaunt Desantis Architects. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank’s Two River Theater won raves from neighbors, and zoning board approval, Thursday night for a plan to expand its non-performance space.

But West Street residents pressed for, and failed to obtain, changes to aspects of the plan that they worry will direct more traffic onto their block, some of it from motorists using the theater lot simply to avoid street traffic.

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RED BANK: EIGHT WOMEN, A WAR AND LOVE

Previews for ‘The Women of Padilla’ start this weekend at the Two River Theater. Below, playwright Tony Meneses.(Click to enlarge.)

In a 2015 redbankgreen interview, Tony Meneses confessed he “had a sense from the start that I was never gonna make money as a playwright, that it had to mean something more to me than that.”

The Guadalajara-born, Brooklyn-based dramatist was speaking about Guadalupe in the Guest Room, a comedy-drama with a personal slant that made its fully staged world premiere at Red Bank’s Two River Theater.

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RED BANK: TWO RIVER INTROS NEW SEASON

Michael Cumpsty, Brandon Dirden and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (pictured at an August 2016 event promoting the Two River Theater production of MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM) are among the returning artists who are scheduled to contribute to the upcoming 2017-18 season at the Bridge Avenue arts center.

It’s a season highlighted by a bevy of returning talents, both on the stage and behind the scenes. A season that boasts an enhanced slate of offerings for young theatergoers; more outreach to the area’s growing Spanish-speaking audience, some never-before-seen works, and several fresh perspectives on familiar stories — including two by a certain Wilde man of English letters, as well as one even Wilder.

When Two River Theater Company raised the curtain on its upcoming 2017-2018 schedule of productions on Sunday night, it did so via a genuine “rite of spring” tradition at the Bridge Avenue artspace, as TRTC’s celebrated artistic director John Dias and a panel of guests heralded the company’s 24th season with a “debt of gratitude” to founders Robert and Joan Rechnitz (“the two most glorious people I know”), a tip of the hat to the faithful supporters (“we know you care about this as much as we do”), and a brief channeling of Sally Field (“you actually like us!”).

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RED BANK: LAUNDROMAT & APARTMENTS OK’D

The new structure would be built between a six-unit apartment building, at left, and Juanito’s Market, at right, with all three properties sharing parking in back. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The Red Bank zoning board approved the creation of a new laundromat and four apartments on a vacant Shrewsbury Avenue lot Thursday night.

But before the project can get underway, grocer and restaurateur Juan Torres will have to reduce a possible tab for water and sewer hookups that could total $562,000.

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RED BANK: MAKING ‘MERRY’ IN MARCH

Zuzanna Szadowski, Jason O’Connell and Nicole Lewis are the whole company in the Two River Theater staging of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor,’ playing through March 26. (Photos by T. Charles Erickson. Click to enlarge.)

Whether it was an amateur outing in a gnat-infested public park or a top-ticket import from London’s West End, veteran observers of William Shakespeare’s works have by now gotten used to seeing the great dramatist’s plays twisted, teased and teleported into all manner of settings — more than a few of which might have made him flip his folio.

From Romeo and Juliet in modern Miami and Hamlet on Wall Street to a World War II Richard III and a Tempest on a planet named Altair IV, it seems as if there’s no place in space or time from which the Bard is barred — and at Red Bank’s Two River Theater, where last year we saw Pericles re-imagined as the world’s most epic saloon story, the comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor continues for two more weeks, during its long-term stay at the sort of roadside motel that would normally specialize in hourly rates.

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RED BANK: TWO RIVER PLANS ADDITION

A rendering of the proposed addition to the left of the existing theater and tower above, as seen from the northeast. (Rendering by Kaplan Gaunt Desantis Architects. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The backstage area of Red Bank’s Two River Theater is about to get bigger, if a plan in the works gets a green light from borough officials.

Scheduled for consideration by the zoning board next week, the plan calls for the construction of an architecturally bold addition to the existing theater for rehearsal spaces, costume-making and the building of props and scenery, according to documents on file.

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RED BANK: TWO WAYS TO MAKE ‘MERRY’

Two River Theater hosts two very different takes on Shakespeare’s comedy ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor,’ beginning with Saturday’s first preview of a three-actor free for all. 

When William Shakespeare put quill to parchment and began work on The Merry Wives of Windsor, he probably wasn’t laboring under the illusion he might create something to be dissected by critics and scholars for hundreds of years to come. The more immediate tastes of the popular audience were calling out to him, and with Wives the busy Bard had the opportunity to spin one of his most crowd-pleasing creations — Sir John Falstaff, the portly and roguish companion to the future king in the two parts of his historical drama Henry IV — into a rowdy (and cheerfully out-of-time) little knock-down farce.

Beginning this Saturday night, the Two River Theater offers Red Bank audiences not one but two rather unique takes on one of Shakespeare’s silliest comedies: one an intimately scaled three-actor adaptation that goes in search of the play’s “dark undercurrent;” the other an abridged full-cast version showcasing a talented company of high school age performers.

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