Surflight Theatre

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Entrance to Surflight Theatre.jpg

The Surflight Theatre, sometimes called ‘Broadway at the Beach since 1950’, was founded by Joseph P. Hayes and is Ocean County's Oldest Live Professional Equity Theatre. The theatre is located in the attractive leisure community of Beach Haven, New Jersey on Long Beach Island (LBI) on the Jersey Shore. Surflight Theatre is currently under the leadership of Ken Myers. Surflight produces up to nine mainstage theatrical productions per season, children's theatre, an acclaimed comedy and concert series, Surflight-To-Go Touring Educational Theatre and The Show Place Ice Cream Parlour.

History[edit]

In 1950, Surflight Theatre was founded by Joseph P. Hayes in Beach Haven Crest, on Long Beach Island. Beginning in a 2,200-seat tent with a cast of 60 and a season that lasted only 3 weeks, Surflight theatre transitioned through many locations. By the end of the 1960s Surflight Theatre held permanent residence into its own facility on Engleside Avenue in Beach Haven, New Jersey.

The Show Place Ice Cream Parlour opened in 1975 (in a partnership with friend and banker Scott Henderson) next to the theatre which featured ice cream and a cabaret show. A year later, founder Joseph P. Hayes died and was succeeded by Eleanor Miller. In 1985, the current theatre was constructed with 450 seats at the cost of $1.9 million. That same year the theatre reached an agreement with Actors Equity Association. Eleanor Miller retired in 1990 succeeded by Guil Fisher who became the artistic director with Scott Henderson as producer. Both were later replaced by Eddie Todd who was followed by Steve Steiner (a former intern and Broadway performer) from 1998 to 2010. Early in the millennium, Surflight transitioned into a not-for-profit corporation as the Joseph P. Hayes Theatre, Inc. who in turn purchased the theatre, Show Place Ice Cream Parlour and all associated buildings.

Surflight Theatre went on to become a full member of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance as well as a member of the South Jersey Cultural Alliance. Then in 2003, the theatre was presented with the prestigious Governor’s Tourism Arts Award.

In 2010, Roy Miller (a former intern and Broadway producer) and colleague Tim Laczynski were contracted to run the theatre. The board of directors chose to file for bankruptcy protection in order to reorganize the financial foundation of the institution.

In 2011, a partnership with the legendary Catch a Rising Star Comedy Club was formed to book the Comedy and Concert Series. In December, the theatre successfully emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In mid-summer of 2012 Miller and his business partner withdrew from the operation to pursue their producing efforts on Broadway.

Theatre veteran, Ken Myers was invited back to the theatre as Executive Director to revitalize the operation and to set the future course of the theatre.

Education[edit]

Surflight-to-Go (STG) is a touring professional theatre troupe dedicated to bringing fully realized productions to schools and organizations. STG provides workshops and theatrical clinics that can be tailored to student’s interests and needs. Schools receive a comprehensive educational packet that includes a study guide, classroom activities and discussion topics.

Classes and workshops are held during the summer season with a program entitled S.T.A.R.S. (Surflight Theatre Arts Resource Schools). Apprenticeships are also available giving individuals the opportunity to work alongside theatre professionals.

Show Place Ice Cream Parlour[edit]

Joseph P. Hayes, founder of the Surflight Theatre, created the original Show Place scheme in 1975 as a way of providing additional summertime revenue and collaborated with his friend, and prominent New Jersey banker, T. Scott Henderson, to make the idea a reality. Coincidentally, the bakery on the corner of Centre Street and Beach Avenue had already been converted into an ice cream establishment and had most of the necessary equipment. He imagined a family-oriented and musical restaurant, reminiscent of a turn of the century parlour, complete with handsome soda jerks in red and white striped vests that would match the overall lively and attractive decor. When Hayes died suddenly in 1976 Michael Curry, now a successful Pennsylvania attorney but then just a college student, took over day to day management in close collaboration with Henderson. Curry created the still existing role of "Singing Manager," to work alongside his staff of singing waiters and waitresses ( a.k.a. "Singing Waitri"). The group created a series of unique songs and comedy skits, added to by generations of singing staff in the time since. The entertainment consisted primarily of popular Broadway songs performed live, interspersed with often spontaneous comedy, and often included not just the singing staff, but also the ice cream scoopers, the dishwashers, and the customers. Show Place has garnered significant recognition over the years, including from Parent Magazine and The New York Times. Perhaps most importantly, the lines of customers that formed around the Parlour in its earliest days continue to fill the sidewalks at Centre and Beach Street, Beach Haven each summer night for great ice cream, great song and lots of family fun. The Show Place tradition carries on.

Affiliations[edit]

  • Actors Equity Association
  • Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers: American Federation of Musicians
  • International Ticketing Association
  • Association of Performing Arts Presenters
  • New Jersey Theatre Alliance
  • Young Audiences NJ and Eastern PA

References[edit]