Nonprofit theaters around the country have been adding value to their brand for years with such things as pre- and-post-performance talks. Two River Theater in Red Bank (NJ) has really thrown itself into building a community by offering lots of free audience-pleasing events other than a 6-play season.
On Monday (May 11) the regional theater, under the artistic direction of John Dias, announces its 2015-’16 season. But instead of sending out a press release to local media, the public is invited to reserve a free ticket in the 399-seat main stage space and hear what’s on the schedule from the directors, artistic staff, and actors who will be part of the season. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the event is followed by a reception.
For those who attended the next to last show of the season — “You’re Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine” (written and directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson) — the show’s program offered a sneak peek of next season with the announcement “Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum” is on the schedule for Nov. 14 to Dec. 13. It will be directed by Jessica Stone who helmed “Absurd Person Singular” earlier this season.
Two River is not known for producing musicals, but last season’s “Camelot” with a cast and band of 8 each was a knock out and nearly a sell out. “Forum” will feature a cast of 12 and musical director Gary Adler will lead the orchestra of eight to nine members.
Making it on Broadway: “How to Launch a Career in Musical Theater” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday (May 13)
Cast members from 2River’s next show, the world premiere of the musical “Be More Chill” (May 31-June 20) will discuss their training, career paths, and the shows they’ve been in so far, and answer questions from the audience. Cast members scheduled to appear include Jake Boyd, Gerard Canonico (a Hazlet native who made his Broadway debut as Gavroche in “Les Miz”), Stephanie Hsu, Katie Ladner, Eric William Morris, George Salazar and Paul Whitty.
“Be More Chill” has music and lyrics by Joe Iconis, a book by Joe Tracz, and is based on Ned Vizzini‘s 2004 novel of the same name. Stephen Brackett directs, orchestrations by Charlie Rosen, music direction by Nathan Dame, and choreography by Chase Brock.
“I knew the sensibilities of Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz would blend beautifully and they would be the right team to adapt ‘Be More Chill,’ which combines a cringingly real look at teenage life with techno-fantasy and wry humor,” says Dias. “The Joes’ create the perfect mix of emotional honesty and bad-ass cool — so key when writing about the popularity battleground that is an American high school.”
Past outreach events include local artist Lisa Marie O’Connell guiding participants through a painting- and flower-making processes to create sugar skulls, a Mexican tradition dating back to the 18thcentury. The skulls are given to the living and the dead. Attendees got a behind-the-scenes look into “Guadalupe in the Guest Room,” a one-act play 2River staged about a Spanish-speaking mother whose daughter dies young and the English-speaking husband she leaves left behind. Literary manager Anika Chapin spoke about the play’s portrayal of lasting love, and explained how art helps the characters in the play bond in unexpected ways.
Other scheduled events include:
— “Be More Chill with The Navesink,” June 10 at 5:30 p.m.: Guest Speaker David Orban will speak about technology and humanity in a TEDx-style pre-show talk, which will also feature light fare from Sickles Market.
— Book Club: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, Sunday, June 16 at 5:30: We were all teenagers once, and chances are we all remember the moments of awkwardness and pain that are almost unavoidable in that tricky age. Both “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Be More Chill” paint portraits of the awkward years that are equal parts hilarious, cringe-worthy, and heartbreaking. Literary Manager Anika Chapin will lead a discussion of the peculiar legacy of the teen years and changes in the portrayal of teens over time.
For information or reserve free tickets, call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.