Two River Theater

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Two River Theater entrance, October 2009

Two River Theater is a professional, not-for-profit theater, regional theater company providing plays and educational programs for audiences of central New Jersey, USA, and beyond. It houses two theaters: a 350-seat main stage theater (The Joan and Robert Rechnitz Theater), and a 99-seat black box theater (The Marion Huber Theater). On its main stage, Two River Theater produces a six-play subscription season and a family holiday show.

The company received “Theatre of the Year” awards from the New Jersey Theatre Alliance in 2006, and from The Star-Ledger in both 2006 and 2008. At the July 2009 meeting of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Two River Theater was designated as a Major Impact Organization.

Two River Theater is supported in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Dept. of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and contributions from hundreds of local and national corporations, foundations, businesses and individuals. Two River Theater is a member of LORT (League of Resident Theatres), Theatre Communications Group and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

History[edit]

Theater entrance, December 2006

Two River Theater was founded in 1994 by Joan and Dr. Robert Rechnitz who sought to establish a professional theater in Monmouth County.

In 2005, Two River moved to its current home in Red Bank, New Jersey. Prior to the construction of this theater, Two River Theater performed at the Algonquin Theater in Manasquan, and before that at Monmouth University, where it was first established.

Under the guidance of founding artistic director and executive producer Robert M. Rechnitz, and founding managing director Jonathan Fox (later artistic director), Two River Theater became a full member of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance after just one season as an affiliate member: the first time in NJTA’s history that a theater was granted full membership so quickly. Operating under the Actors’ Equity Associationsstandard Small Professional Theatre contract and employing professional directors and designers, Two River produced a three-play first season in the spring of 1995.

Two River was the subject of lead editorials in the Asbury Park Press, in 1996 praising the work of the company and its service to Monmouth County, and in 1998 supporting the development of the new facility. In 1999, Two River Theater joined Theatre Communications Group(TCG), the national association of regional theaters.

Two River Theater celebrated the theater’s grand opening on May 5, 2005, with an inaugural performance of You Can’t Take It With You, directed by founder Robert M. Rechnitz.

The 2005/2006 season was the theater’s first full season in the new building. The season opened to rave reviews with an adaptation of the film Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a play where every word is set to music. Umbrellas of Cherbourg was directed by Jonathan Fox, Two River’s first managing director. Fox went on to serve at artistic director from 1999-2007.

Aaron Posner came on board to helm the organization as artistic director in 2007. Posner directed three plays in that eight play season, including a production of Macbeth co-directed by Teller of the Vegas illusionist duo Penn and Teller. Teller and Posner’s Macbeth went on to perform an extended run at the Folger ShakespeareTheater in Washington, DC. Aaron Posner cemented his reputation for innovative Shakespearian productions as director of Two River ’s 2009 A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Posner’s contemporary adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was met with acclaim, and was extended due to popular demand.

In July 2010, John Dias—producer, dramaturg, and a leading advocate for bold new American plays was appointed as Two River Theater new Artistic Director. At New York's Public Theater Dias worked under Artistic Directors George C. Wolfe and Oskar Eustis, as a Broadway Producer, as a Founder and Artistic Director of Playwright’s Realm, an off-Broadway theater company dedicated to producing new plays by emerging artists, and as a Founder and Principal of Affinity Collaborative Theater, a production company dedicated to bringing new works from around the world to New York. John Dias has been a Tony Award nominator, a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts and numerous other organizations, and has taught and lectured at New York University, Yale University.

The building[edit]

Stairs inside the theater

The Two River Theater new building has a futuristic lobby with 40-foot (12 m)-high glass walls with a sweeping roof evoking the wave in the Two River Theater logo.

The building was designed by New York architect Stewart Jones, of Hardy, Holzman, Pfeiffer & Associates, who also designed the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia and the Harvey Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The main Rechnitz Theater seats 350 patrons, and features a modern lighting system. Centered around a thrust stage, the theater was built so as the furthest seats would be no more than 36 feet (11 m) from the performers.

The facility includes the Marion Huber Theater - a fully convertible, 99-seat black box space, that hosts more experimental works, readings, classes, and rehearsals, and provides an intimate experience for audience members.

Two River Theater contains a costume and prop shop, as well as a production warehouse where all sets are made on location.

Current season[edit]

The 2009-2010 season featured 26 Miles by Quiara Alegría Hudes, author of the Broadway musical In The Heights, which was co-produced with Roundhouse Theatre in Bethesda, MD. Two River Theater then co-produced William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with California Shakespeare Theatre, directed by Two River Theater’s Artistic Director, Aaron Posner. You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, based on the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, came next over the holiday season. In February, co-founder and executive producer Robert M. Rechnitz directed Neil Simon comedy, Barefoot in the Park. Following Barefoot was the World Premiere production of Euripides' Orestes: A Tragic Romp adapted by Anne Washburn and directed by Posner. Orestes was Two River Theater second co-production with Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C. Concluding the 2009-2010 season was Steve Martin's comedy, Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

Two River Theater announced its 2010-11 season at a season announcement party on April 6, 2010. The video of this announcement is posted here.

Production history[edit]

2012/2013 Topdog/Underdog, No Place To Go, Henry V, A Wind in the Willows Christmas, Two Trains Running, The Electric Baby, 2.5 Minute Ride, Present Laughter

2011/2012 Much Ado About Noting, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, No Child..., HONK!, Jitney, In This House, Carry It On, My Wonderful Day

2010/2011 Intimate Apparel, Opus, Charlotte's Web, A Thousand Clowns, Candida, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Namaste Man, It Goes Without Saying,

2009/2010 26 Miles, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Charlie Brown, Barefoot in the Park, Orestes, Picasso at the Lapin Agile

2008/2009 Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Garden of Earthly Delights, Art, Heartbreak House, A Year with Frog and Toad, ReEntry, Mary’s Wedding, Melissa Arctic, Private Lives

2007/2008 Bad Dates, Our Town, The Charlatan’s Séance, Mere Mortals, The Ghost’s Bargain, Macbeth, The Glass Menagerie, A Murder, A Mystery, & A Marriage

2006/2007 Accomplice, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Tartuffe, The Pavilion, True West, The Underpants

2005/2006 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Visiting Mr. Green, All My Sons, Waiting for Godot, What the Butler Saw

2004/2005 Accidental Death of an Anarchist, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Syringa Tree, You Can’t Take It With You, Suicide in Bb

2003/2004 The Tragedy of Carmen, Abigail’s Party, Miss. Julie, A Life in the Theater

2002/2003 Old Wicked Songs, Spunk, Salome, Stinkin’ Rich

2001/2002 A Delicate Balance, Cookin’ at the Cookery, Peer Gynt, The House of Blue Leaves

2000/2001 Arms and the Man, La Bệte, American Buffalo, The Heiress

1999/2000 Blood Wedding, Uncle Vanya, The Fantasticks, Light Up the Sky

1998/1999 The Real Thing, Thieves’ Carnival, Hedda Gabler, Noises Off

1997/1998 The Dining Room, The Glass Menagerie, Machinal, The Importance of Being Earnest

1996/1997 A View from the Bridge, Reckless, Betrayal, Blithe Spirit

1995/1996 Nora, The Illusion, The Curse of the Starving Class, All in the Timing

1994/1995 The Cocktail Hour, The Heidi Chronicles, Misalliance

World premieres[edit]

ReEntry (January 2009), Orestes (March 2010), Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (October 2011), In This House (March 2012), A Wind in the Willows Christmas (December 2012)

Special guests[edit]

The theater opened in April 2005 with a live taping of VH-1's Storytellers featuring Bruce Springsteen. Bon Jovi performed a two-hour set at the theater in 2005. Jackson Browne (joined by special guest Bruce Springsteen), performed a benefit concert at the theater in summer 2007. Rusted Root performed in the fall of that same year.

Two River Theater has hosted a number of luminaries and award winners including Olympia Dukakis and Edward Albee. Two River has welcomed comedian Stephen Colbert and Academy Award winner, Philip Seymour Hoffman. In November 2009, Colbert joined his longtime friend Aaron Posner on stage to take part in a fundraiser titled "I Am Stephen Colbert (And So Can You)." Recent guests also include Alec Baldwin, Suzan-Lori Parks, David Hyde Pierce and Joel Grey.

Education programs[edit]

Two River offers theater arts programs to students from 1st through 12th grade.

Two River Theater’s Metro Scholar program is an exploration of professional theater for advanced students. The program offers an opportunity for high school juniors to play a role in the life of Two River Theater. Selected students receive two free subscriptions, take workshops in aspects of professional theater, complete assistantships with Two River artists and staff, and work with other creative students from all over New Jersey.

PlayBack is a program in which selected high school students work with Two River Teaching Artists who guide them in the creation and performance of their own original play inspired by, in response to, and in conversation with a production on the theater’s main stage. This is an intensive twelve-week program, which culminates with performances on the set of that production.

Summer Ensembles is a three-week summer program offered to students from first to twelfth grade. Teaching artists channel students’ natural energy and vitality into creative thinking, team work, and performance skills through theater games, songs and devising original material. Not only do students get the opportunity to perform for their peers, they are able to see the inner-workings backstage with the Two River production staff.

Young Voice’s 732 is an educational project to collect stories from those that work, live or play in the 732 area code, and offer those stories back to the community. In June 2010, Young Voices 732 created a play using real dialogue by middle schoolers called Life in the Middle, directed by KJ Sanchez and starring local students.

Co-productions[edit]

Macbeth (Folger Theatre), 26 Miles (Round House Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (California Shakespeare Theater), Orestes (Folger Theatre)

Transfers to New York[edit]

In January 2009, Two River Theater produced the world premiere of associate artistic director KJ Sanchez's ReEntry, co-written by Emily Ackerman, which followed with a month long run at New York’s Urban Stages. In May 2010 ReEntry was performed at the Navy-Marine Combat Operational Stress Control Conference in San Diego for Navy and Marine Corps line leaders, combat veterans, caregivers, and their families.

In September 2008, Two River mounted Martha Clarke's performance piece The Garden of Earthly Delights, which then played a very successful run at New York's Minetta Lane Theatre.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°20′58″N 74°04′29″W / 40.3495°N 74.0748°W / 40.3495; -74.0748