Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

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The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
Address 36 Madison Avenue
City Madison, New Jersey
Country United States
Type Regional theatre
Capacity 308
Opened 1963

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is one of the largest and most prestigious professional Shakespeare companies in North America, serving over 100,000 adults and children annually.[1] Located in Madison, New Jersey, it is the state’s largest theatre company dedicated to the works of Shakespeare and other classic masterworks, including rarely produced epics not often produced by other theatres.[2]

Under the leadership of artistic director Bonnie J. Monte since 1990, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is also the longest-running Shakespeare theatre on the east coast, and is listed as a Major Festival in the book Shakespeare Festivals Around the World by Marcus D. Gregio (Editor), 2004.

In both 2002 and 2006, The Star-Ledger named the company "Regional Theatre of the Year." In 2002, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation awarded the Theatre a $1 million Strategic Partnership Grant "in recognition of the artistry, achievements and leadership of this acclaimed Madison, New Jersey-based performing arts and education organization."[3] The company is one of the nation’s most prestigious and comprehensive teaching theatres as well, and has a two-prong mission: to produce world classics and to groom the next generation of American theatre artists and audiences.[4]

The company’s annual Main Stage season, presented at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre in Madison, New Jersey, runs May through December. An Outdoor Stage production is presented each summer at The Greek Theatre, an open-air grass-and-stone amphitheatre inspired by the Theatre of Dionysos in Athens, and one of the only theatres of its kind in the United States to host a professional company. It is located on the College of Saint Elizabeth campus in nearby Florham Park, New Jersey.

In addition to the ambitious and bold roster of classic masterworks presented each season, the company is also known for its unusual level of consistent artistic excellence,[5] its large corps of respected and prominent theatre artists, and its dedication to creating new work for the American stage that is inspired by or derivative of classic source material.[6]

The institution's staff works year-round to produce the company's performance season, educational outreach activities, fundraising and marketing campaigns, and various other programs and events. The company employs more than 250 members during the season and through its Main Stage, Outdoor Stage, and touring productions plays to approximately 100,000 audience members each year, primarily from the New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania region.

Financial support comes from more than 1,500 individuals, government agencies, corporations and foundations.[7]


The artists and trustees of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey bring the dramatic masterpieces of the past to dynamic new life in order to inspire our present lives as well as future visions for the world. We are a teaching theatre, fervently dedicated to providing transformative experiences through live performance of the classics. We integrate education and learning into all our endeavors, while promoting literacy, a culture of enlightenment, a dedication to excellence, and a keen awareness of how the arts are a necessity to the health of the collective mind and soul of any great civilization.[4]


The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey began as the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, a small summer-stock company in the resort town of Cape May, N.J. In 1963, the Cape May Playhouse hired veteran actor and director Paul Barry to the position of Artistic Director. Mr. Barry led the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival for 28 years.

The Festival relocated to a permanent home on the campus of Drew University in 1972. Productions were staged in the University’s Bowne Gymnasium, which had, several years earlier, been converted into a performance space.

In October 1990, the Board hired Bonnie J. Monte to take the helm as Artistic Director. Monte had served as the Associate Artistic Director at Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts under Nikos Psacharopoulos from 1981 to 1989 and was one of the casting associates at the Manhattan Theatre Club from 1989 to 1990.

Monte, along with former Managing Director Michael Stotts, revitalized the company and spearheaded the complete renovation of the old Bowne Gymnasium. In June 1998, The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, a state-of-the-art 308-seat performance space, officially opened. The new Kirby Theatre allowed for a significant expansion of the performance season into the fall and early winter months. The company now produces six to seven Main Stage shows each year. In 2003, the company renamed itself The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, providing a clearer identity.

For a narrative history of The Shakespeare Theatre, from its inception as The New Jersey Shakespeare Festival in 1963 to the present: click here.

Production History[edit]

The Shakespeare Theatre’s production history from 2000 to the present.

2012 Season - The 50th Anniversary
Henry IV, Part One, by William Shakespeare
The Liar by David Ives, adapted from the comedy by Pierre Corneille
Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare
Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist adapted by Neil Bartlett
Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion, music by Mitch Leigh
Trelawny of the Wells by Arthur Wing Pinero
ON THE OUTDOOR STAGE: Comedy Of Errors by William Shakespeare

2013 Season
The Playboy of the Western World by J.M. Synge
Fallen Angels by Noël Coward
Tovarich by Jacques Deval, adapted by Robert E. Sherwood
The world premiere production of A Most Dangerous Woman by Cathy Tempelsman
Our Town by Thornton Wilder
Pericles by William Shakespeare
ON THE OUTDOOR STAGE: As You Like It by William Shakespeare

2014 Season
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
The Devil’s Disciple by George Bernard Shaw
The Alchemist by Ben Jonson, adapted by Bonnie J. Monte
Wittenberg by David Davalos
Henry VIII by William Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
ON THE OUTDOOR STAGE: The Learned Ladies by Molière, translated into English verse by Richard Wilbur


The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre[edit]

In late 1990, the need to secure a viable and lasting home for the company was recognized. The 88-year-old Bowne Theatre had become a serious impediment to artistic and organizational success. Recognizing also the immense benefits of a partnership between a professional arts institution and an academic institution of higher education, The Shakespeare Theatre management and Board set out to create a lasting and solid partnership with Drew University.

After a successful $7.5 million capital campaign, in June 1998, the Theatre raised the curtain on its 36th season in the state-of-the-art F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre at Drew University, on the site of the old Bowne Theatre.

The Theatre includes three levels (approximately 22,000 square feet), all of which are fully accessible to people with disabilities—both audiences and Theatre employees alike. There are two entrances to the building, both of which are ramped for people using wheelchairs, and elevators offer access to all public spaces. A second elevator has been installed just off stage left, providing access to the green room and the dressing rooms. A total of six wheelchair positions are available in the Theatre, and Braille signage appears throughout the building wherever public signs are posted.

Features of the Theatre include:

  • An intimate auditorium with 308 seats, excellent sight-lines to the stage and no seat more than 32 feet from the stage
  • A grand lobby, featuring two dramatic walls of glass casting a glow on theatre evenings
  • Exhibition space for artwork in the James R. Gillen Petite Promenade
  • The Sir John Gielgud Green Room for actors
  • State-of-the-art technical features, up-to-date lighting and sound systems and excellent acoustic design
  • Outdoor patio space where patrons relax and socialize before and after performances
  • The intimate Prudential Treehouse, a private lounge suitable for meetings and entertaining patrons, clients and friends
  • A stage lift, two catwalks, two side box booms, and a central lighting grid
  • "The Studio," a rehearsal space
  • Full accessibility with basement-to-balcony elevators
  • Wheelchair seating in both the orchestra and balcony
  • A backstage lift from dressing rooms to the stage, for actors with physical disabilities
  • An infrared listening system for the hearing impaired

The Greek Theatre at the College of St. Elizabeth[edit]

The Theatre’s Outdoor Stage is located on the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth in nearby Florham Park (at the Convent Station train stop). The grass-and-stone amphitheatre, inspired by the Theatre of Dionysos in Athens and one of the only theatres of its kind in the United States hosting a professional theatre company, debuted as a new performance space for the company in 2002. The venue accommodates approximately 500 audience members.

3 Vreeland Road Support Facility[edit]

Early in 2012, the Theatre acquired and renovated an old valve factory in an effort to centralize all of the institution’s behind-the-scenes operations and to allow for an expansion of its myriad education programs.[8] Located only a short distance from the Theatre’s two performance venues, the Support Facility is in Florham Park, NJ. Throughout the building, an ever-evolving series of art installations inspired by and utilizing relics of the company’s fifty-year history greets all those who enter.

The facility boasts:

  • 10,000 square feet of office space to accommodate over thirty administrative and production staff members, as well as interns, adjunct teaching artists, and guest artists
  • A Board and Conference Room
  • Archives
  • The Company Library
  • A second rehearsal hall (over 2,200 square feet) ideal for larger productions and shows that include stage combat
  • On-site Stage Management offices designed to accommodate the full management teams for multiple Main Stage, Outdoor Stage, and touring productions
  • Armoury
  • Two new independent classroom spaces
  • A large, centralized Green Room for staff and artists
  • A beautiful, 2,000 square foot Costume Shop (with natural light), including a private fitting room
  • Nearly 3,000 square feet of Costume Inventory
  • Properties Artisan shop space
  • Extensive Properties and Furniture Inventory (over 2,500 square feet)
  • 20,000 square foot Scene Shop, including a paint deck, welding area, design meeting room and two loading docks
  • Large scenic inventory
  • 13 acres of land with beautiful areas for strolling or taking a break between calls
  • Convenient location, less than 10 minutes away from both of the Theatre’s primary performance spaces, with easy access to major vendors and entertainment districts

Education Programs[edit]

Shakespeare Live! Touring Company[edit]

The educational touring wing of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Shakespeare LIVE! has performed for more than half a million students in New Jersey, New York, and beyond. Since its inception in 1997, its abridged productions have been hailed as innovative, visually stunning, and accessible for students.[9] Though the texts are abridged to accommodate school schedules, LIVE! prides itself on keeping Shakespeare's language intact. The productions are dynamic and appealing, exciting and engaging, witty and imaginative—giving students of all ages the opportunity to experience Shakespeare's works as the playwright intended—in performance.

Shakespeare LIVE! is supported by Shakespeare in American Communities: Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national program of The National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest.[10] The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is one of 42 professional theater companies selected to participate in Shakespeare for a New Generation, bringing the finest productions of Shakespeare to thousands of middle- and high-school students in communities across the United States.

Summer Professional Training Program[edit]

Acting Apprentice Company[edit]

The Apprentice Company is designed for aspiring young actors in the early stages of training with little or no professional experience. A rigorous 11-week program, it provides the opportunity to focus on one's individual needs as an actor while providing necessary exposure to all aspects of professional theatre, both as an art form and as a business. While a variety of classes are offered, the primary focus of the training is on Shakespeare and other classic works.

Intern Company[edit]

The Intern Company is designed for college students and early-career theatre professionals interested in specific fields other than acting. Interns work in one department for the duration of the training program, under the direction of The Shakespeare Theatre’s professional staff. Internships offer in-depth practical training and hands-on work experience at a professional level while obtaining connections with respected artists and members of the field. Some prior experience in the field of interest is necessary for most internships.

Next Stage Ensemble[edit]

The Next Stage Ensemble fosters the work of early career actors and provides training in ensemble-based performance techniques. Participants work with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey resident directors and guest directors on fully developed productions of abridged classics and tour to over 30 locations throughout the region - including libraries, retirement homes, and community centers. The plays are rehearsed and performed in repertory.

The Shakespeare Theatre Academy[edit]

Introduced in the spring of 2013, The Shakespeare Theatre Academy offers youth and adult classes in a wide range of disciplines connected with classic theatre as well as weekend intensives on the art of auditioning. Classes meet once a week in the Theatre’s support/education facility and give participants the opportunity to work under the instruction of The Shakespeare Theatre’s renowned artistic and education staff and guest teaching artists. The weekend intensives offer insights and instruction to those eager to hone their audition skills.

Pages to Players: In-School Residencies[edit]

Focusing primarily on students in grades 5-8, the Pages to Players program utilizes the students' energy and emerging language skills to bring Shakespeare's texts to life. These residencies take place during regular English/Language Arts class periods and often involve one or more entire grade levels at the school. Students work with Shakespeare Theatre teaching artists who lead the residency activities. Because these residencies are based in the English classroom, the primary focus is on using performance and the theatrical tradition as tools for achieving greater proficiency and pleasure in the study of the English language generally, and Shakespeare in particular. Students are also introduced to many of the fundamental exercises utilized by theatre artists, such as ensemble-building techniques, vocal projection, diction, focus and memory systems, and others which can have a lifelong impact. Other education programs include: the Lend Us Your Ears play reading series, the Symposium post-performance lecture series, the Know The Show pre-performance discussion series, ShakeFest, Shakesperience, LIVE! at The Kirby, and the Student Matinee performances.


External links[edit]