Crisis at The Paper Mill Playhouse
Growing up in New Jersey, the Paper Mill Playhouse, one of the country's best regional theatres and The State Theatre of New Jersey, was the closest thing we had to Broadway on our side of the Hudson. And indeed the productions were and still are beautiful, lavish, star-studded musicals the likes of which even Broadway is hard pressed to produce these days. After being bitten by the theatre bug at around 10 or 11 years old, I hoped to someday perform on the Paper Mill stage. But then in 1980 I remember hearing the news that the theater had burned down. It was a big story in New Jersey at the time and massive fundraising efforts were made to rebuild the theater. In 1982 the theatre was able to re-open its doors and by 1985 season subscriptions were at an all time high. This was about the time I convinced my parents that we should have season tickets to Paper Mill as well. I also remember one of my high school history teachers who worked as a carpenter during the Summer months being proud to tell me he helped lay the special flooring required for an Equity stage during the rebuilding--a memory that did not escape me when I finally got to perform on the Paper Mill stage in 1999.
Now, 27 years after the fire, the Paper Mill Playhouse is in financial dire straits and in danger of closing as early as this weekend. There is a campaign to save the theatre and a rally scheduled for Monday night at 7 PM at the theatre in Millburn, NJ. The preservation of this theatre is vitally important to musical theatre history as Paper Mill draws from the rich repertoire of American classics to produce every season. Being so close to New York, they are able to attract Broadway stars for their productions, names like Betty Buckley, Kristen Chenoweth, Christine Ebersole among them in recent years. The shows are done as they were meant to be done, with a full-sized cast, orchestra and beautifully designed sets, costumes and production values. The theater serves the community with educational classes for children through senior citizens and each summer presents scholarships to their intensive Musical Theatre Conservatory program.
As both an actor and a kid from New Jersey, it's hard for me to imagine a world without the Paper Mill Playhouse in it. It has given so much to so many so I'm putting this out there. Help if you can. Thanks.