Two River Theater

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Two River Theater entrance, October 2009

Two River Theater is a professional, not-for-profit, regional theater company producing plays and educational programs for audiences of central New Jersey, United States, 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 multi-play subscription season and family shows.

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

Currently under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, Two River Theater develops and produces great American theater created by today’s most gifted, adventurous artists. Each year, more than 55,000 patrons and guests come through the doors to see exceptional productions in two intimate performance spaces, the Joan and Robert Rechnitz Theater and the Marion Huber Theater. Audiences come knowing that whether Two River Theater is producing a beloved classic, something brand new, or a rediscovered masterpiece, they are invited on an adventure: to experience great stories on stage, engage in conversation, and encounter the life of the human spirit in all its shifting modes.

Two River Theater is recognized in the national theater community for their new-play commissioning program, launched in 2010 to create a pipeline for developing work that contributes to the vitality and future of the American theater. Commissions currently in development include plays by Madeleine George (author of Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England), Lisa Kron (writer and performer of 2.5 Minute Ride), Tony Meneses (author of Guadalupe in the Guest Room), Martin Moran (writer and performer of The Tricky Part and All the Rage), and Tanya Saracho, and new musicals by the teams of Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz (Be More Chill), and Daniel Maté and Marshall Pailet. Each season, the theater hosts numerous artist residencies, workshops, and readings to support the development of new work for the American theater, including separate week-long retreats with Clubbed Thumb and NYU’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing program. Annual programs include a Cabaret of New Songs for the Musical Theater; Crossing Borders, a five-day festival of new plays by Latino writers and free community events; and Nosotros, a program that fosters a closer relationship between theater and Latino artists and audiences.

The theater seeks to cultivate a new generation of theatergoers through innovative arts education programs that introduce young people to the theater and create opportunities for them to engage with renowned theater artists. The “A Little Shakespeare” series, launched during Two River's 20th Anniversary Season, showcases an annual production of a Shakespeare play performed by high-school students and includes both public performances and student matinees. Each year, Two River's education programs and student matinees serve students in 50 schools throughout the state of New Jersey. Classroom residencies support academic achievement and, in partnership with schools and community organizations across the central New Jersey region, the theater offers multiple programs that introduce at-risk adolescents to theater.

Two River Theater was founded by Joan and Robert Rechnitz in 1994. The theater is easily accessible by car, train, or bus, with great restaurants, shopping and hotels within walking distance of the theater. For more information, visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.

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 waves of a river.

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]

Two River Theater has announced its 2016–17 season, featuring seven productions.

“These plays dive deep into essential elements of our contemporary lives—love, honor, racism, family conflict, climate change, war, and more,” said artistic director John Dias in a statement. “And yet they do so in a joyously human way, painting indelible, moving, hilariously funny, and most of all, deeply honest portraits of people at their best, worst, and everything in between.”

The season will kick off with August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Sept. 10–Oct. 9), about singer Ma Rainey and the music scene in 1920s Chicago. The production will feature Branden Dirden, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson will direct.

Next up will be James Goldman’s The Lion In Winter (Nov. 12–Dec. 4), about Henry II of England, and his royal family’s dysfunctional Christmas in 1183.

Following, the company will present Lightwire Theater’s A Very Electric Christmas (Dec. 27–30), about a young bird trying to head South for the winter, featuring the neon lights, puppets, and the music of Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey, Tchaikovsky, and more.

The season will continue with Madeleine George’s Hurricane Diane (Jan. 14–Feb. 12, 2017), a comedy about a gardener who wreaks havoc on a group of New Jersey housewives and their landscapes. Leigh Silverman will direct.

Next will be Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (Feb. 25–March 26, 2017), a comedy about the raucous Sir John Falstaff and his attempts to seduce two wives of the wealthiest men in Windsor. Eric Tucker will direct. A group of high school students will perform a 70-minute version of the play as part of Two River’s education program (March 7–12, 2017).

Following will be The Women of Padilla (April 8–30, 2017), by Tony Meneses, about eight women who learn to carry on with life with food, faith, and laughter while their husbands are away at war.

The season will close with the musical The Ballad of Little Jo (June 3–25, 2017), with book by Sarah Schlesinger, Mike Reid, and John Dias, music by Reid, and lyrics by Schlesinger, based on the film by Maggie Greenwald. The show is based on the true story of Josephine Monaghan, a young woman from Boston who made a new life in a tough 1860s mining town disguised as a man named Jo.

Production history[edit]

2015/2016 Seven Guitars, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Little Shakespeare: Pericles, Lives of Reason, Ropes, Pericles, I Remember Mama, Where the Wild Things Are

2014/2015 The School for Wives, Camelot, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Absurd Person Singular, Guadalupe in the Guest Room, Your Blues Ain't Sweet Like Mine, A Little Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Be More Chill

2013/2014 On Borrowed Time, A Map of the Soul: The Tricky Part and All The Rage, A Wind in the Willows Christmas, As You Like It, A Little Shakespeare: As You Like It, Pinkolandia, Meredith Willson's 'The Music Man' - In Concert, Trouble In Mind, Third

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 Nothing, 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, You're a Good Man 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

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), Guadalupe in the Guest Room (February 2015), Your Blues Ain't Sweet Like Mine (April 2015), Be More Chill (May 2015), Lives of Reason (January 2016), Hurricane Diane (January 2017), The Women of Padilla (April 2017).

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.

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.

Recent guests also include Alec Baldwin, Kevin Kline, Suzan-Lori Parks, David Hyde Pierce, Seth Rudetsky, 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, teamwork, 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), Meredith Willson's The Music Man - In Concert (New Jersey Performing Arts Center)

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.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

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