NJ theaters are eagerly reopening for indoor live performances. What you can expect this fall.


David Saint is possibly the artistic director of the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick.

But above all, he is a fan of living theater.

“I myself had tickets for three Broadway openings last year when the pandemic hit and all shows were canceled,” Saint said.

“This fall, like everyone else, I can’t wait to get back to plays and musicals. I’m pretty sure when we get back they’ll be a standing ovation before anything even starts. Just in case we all survive and come back to the theater, ”he said.

Saint’s sentiments were echoed by theater planners across the state.

Many stages in the Garden State have remained silent since productions were forced to stop when the pandemic struck in March 2020.

Dozens of theaters have turned to virtual shows to entertain audiences, sometimes showing pre-recorded performances or live streaming productions. Others crouched down until Gov. Phil Murphy lifts indoor restrictions – hosting outdoor shows until they can host social distancing performances indoors in the summer latest.

While COVID – along with the Delta variant of the virus – remains a threat to indoor gatherings, many theater organizers have said requirements for vaccines and other health protocols will finally make it possible to return home. interior this fall with a host of plays, musicals and other live entertainment on deck. Some venues have shows scheduled until summer 2022, but others are more conservative and are waiting to see how they play out the rest of the year.

For the first time since last year, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark will once again welcome people at full capacity in September. The center can accommodate 3,500 people on its three stages.

“We have always been cautious when it comes to health and safety… We have also found that the vast majority of audiences are less concerned with the specific policy and more concerned with communicating as to what they need to get back. at live events, ”said Dave Rodriguez, executive vice president and producer at New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

People line up for comedian Hasan Minhaj at the Two River Theater in Red Bank on August 27, 2021. Participants were required to show either their COVID vaccine card or negative test results and wear a mask. Many theaters require this type of proof to see live performances.

In April, the Newark Arts Center became the first to require proof of a COVID vaccine or a negative test result to attend shows.

Mask requirements will also remain in place for the next calendar of events, including comedian Eddie Griffin on September 18, the last in the “Jazz Meets Salsa” series on September 25 and “Parsons Dance” on October 22.

Vaccine requirements will be in place this fall in at least 30 theaters across the state, the New Jersey Theater Alliance recently announced.

The George Street Playhouse, which is part of it, is preparing to begin its season with the romantic comedy “Dear Jack, Dear Louise” on October 26th.

“During this production, these characters come together. It’s a happy holiday. In the same way that I hope that our audiences, which have been separated for so long, will come together in the theater as a community, ”said Saint, the artistic director.

Mike Stotts said summer went as planned in Millburn for the Paper Mill Playhouse, one of the state’s largest theaters.

“We were able to reopen our open-air cabaret and restaurant… and the audiences were very strong. Our only challenge this summer, frankly, was the weather. We had a rainy season this year, ”said Stotts, general manager of the theater.

That won’t be a problem when the theater reopens indoors on October 13 with “Songs for a New World,” which runs through November 7. Stotts said the theater has yet to decide whether or not it will be at full capacity.

“In May and June, everyone was feeling very optimistic about the approach of autumn and the reopening, but now with the Delta variant we are a little more worried about what might lie ahead,” a- he declared.

Nonetheless, Stotts noted that the venue is planning live performances until June 2022.

“The rollout of the vaccine along with more readily available tests and clear safety plans and practices has given everyone in Two River great confidence to plan for the future,” said Michael Hurst, General Manager of Two River Theater in Red. . Bank. “Of course, the Delta variant has forced all of us to adapt accordingly and, unfortunately, we are becoming more and more accustomed to having to adjust our plans as the pandemic continues.”

Hurst said the theater has pivoted to outdoor performances in its newly renovated plaza and online virtual offerings since last March. Still, he said Two River was delighted to welcome guests into the theater in person for comedian Hasan Minhaj last week. The theater will begin its fall season with “Radio Golf”, a drama production that closed its doors last spring.

Comedy show at the Two River Theater

People line up for comedian Hasan Minhaj at the Two River Theater in Red Bank on August 27, 2021. Participants were required to show their COVID vaccine card or negative test results and wear a mask. Many theaters require this type of proof to view live performances.

The McCarter Theater Center, based on the Princeton University campus, will go in a different direction for its highly anticipated opening – with 15-time Grammy Award Bela Fleck.

“We’re really lucky to be on campus, taking this very seriously and doing an amazing job with testing, contact tracing and other super conscientious steps,” said artistic director Sarah Rasmussen.

The theater is among those who need a COVID vaccine or negative test evidence to see shows. But that didn’t impact audience size, chief executive Michael Rosenberg said.

“We are very satisfied with the smooth running of ticket sales. We see that there is a huge pent-up demand to come together as a community to experience live performances and we are very excited about it, ”said Rosenberg.

Ticket sales were also strong at the Count Basie Center for the Arts, according to the theater’s executive vice president Izzy Sackowitz.

The popular Red Bank venue will welcome people once again with its Broadway-themed programming and a collection of student productions.

“The arts are truly such an important part of our recovery. Here in Monmouth County, New Jersey and across the country. It’s such an important part of the economy, but aside from the economy there is also the emotional and mental side. People need an outlet. They need a release. They must be able to come and share.

Other upcoming in-person shows to look forward to include:

  • “Daphne’s Dive” (drama) at the South Camden Theater Company
  • “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” (short drama) by the Mile Square Theater on Hoboken seafront
  • “Once on This Island” (musical) at the Ritz Theater Company in Haddon Township
  • “The Drowsy Chaperone” (musical) at the Music Mountain Theater in Lambertville
  • Comedian Mark Riccadonna at the Black Box Performing Arts Center in Englewood
  • Comedian Anthony DeVito at Haddonfield Plays & Players

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Steven Rodas can be reached at [email protected].

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