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'The Great Nocturnal Happening' an Extraordinary Gala for The Shakespeare Theatre

Marina P. Kennedy

Sunday, April 21, 2013 • 3:10pm

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey held its annual gala, “The Great Nocturnal Happening,” on Saturday night to unveil its new support facility which houses the theatre’s entire behind-the-scenes operation. The 50,000 square foot renovated factory is located on 3 Vreeland Road in Florham Park. 
 
The gala was the first public event to be held at the building, the acquisition of which fulfilled a long-range goal of the staff, board of trustees, and artists who have been working to develop the facility for years. More than 250 guests attended the “The Great Nocturnal Happening.” 
 
Bonnie J. Monte, the artistic director for The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, said of the event, "This year's gala is a very special unveiling of our incredible new support facility - the magical laboratory where all of our behind-the-scenes alchemy takes place.  It will be a fundraiser like no other, as we invite attendees into our 'dream factory' - our labyrinth of amazing spaces where past, present and future come together."
 
The guests of the gala shared her enthusiasm. Nancy Perricone and Jan Amento of New Haven, Conn. are long-time patrons of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. They said that they love to support the education programs and enjoyed the great food and entertainment at the event. Perricone called it “a great way to start the season.”
 
Laura Aden Packer is the Arts Program Director of the Geraldine Dodge Foundation. She said she is a huge fan of the theatre and of Monte. Packer said that the gala was a “very creative” event.
 
Brandon Pierce and Cameron Berner are members of the “Shakespeare Live” Company that performs at the theatre and for schools.  Berner said that the theatre was “fortunate” to have all facets if its operations come together in the new facility.
 
Many theatre staff assisted at the gala to insure its success.  Kristen Gongora, a development associate, said “I think it is an amazing opportunity for us to introduce this building to the community.”
 
The new location is home to the theatre’s administrative, educational, artistic, and technical operations.  It also includes areas for the construction of sets, costumes and other scenic elements, a board room, spacious rehearsal hall, Green Room, and ample space for the theatre's extensive collections of props, stock scenery, costumes, stage weapons, archives, and more. 
 
Jeanne Barrett, managing director of the theatre said, “We are finally able to let people see how theatre is made.”  She pointed out that efficiency will improve when the staff can collaborate all “under one roof.” In the past, costuming, set construction, and other divisions worked in different locations. The support facility on Vreeland Road will allow for a seamless opportunity for the Shakespeare Theatre staff to work together.
 
Heath McLendon is a former board chairman of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and a member of the Board of Trustees of Drew University.  He said, “This is an absolutely amazing facility.  We would be hard pressed to find something comparable in the United States. It is a tribute to Drew and to the theatre.”
 
Plans for the gala began last spring. It is the theatre’s largest fundraiser and was expected to raise more than $200,000 to support artistic and educational programs. The gala was also supported by many businesses and organizations including the Dodge Foundation, Bank of America, Prudential, the Hyde and Watson Foundation, the Kirby Foundation, Drew University, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, and others.
 
Saturday’s gala began at 7 p.m. and guests were treated to a champagne bar, hors d’oeuvres, and food stations. They were also able to explore the spaces of the new facility. There was a silent auction that included jewelry, clothing, getaways, artwork, and theatrical memorabilia. Also featured in the silent auction were tickets to Giulio Cesare at The Metropolitan Opera, a guided tour of The New York Times newsroom, a Baltusrol golf outing, tickets to Broadway’s hit show "Newsies," and VIP tickets to a taping of "The Colbert Report."
 
At 9 p.m., guests entered the Grand Ballroom for dessert, coffee, and the “Great Nocturnal Happening,” which consisted of inspiring theatrical presentations that illuminate the many facets of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s work. The presentations included a sword fight and a comedic interview about Shakespeare. Many who attended the gala also enjoyed dancing, informal singing around the grand piano, and socializing in the Mediterranean-Blue Green Room.
 
The acclaimed Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is an independent, professional theatre company located on the Drew University campus. One of the leading Shakespeare theatres in the nation, serving 100,000 adults and children annually, it is New Jersey's largest professional theatre company dedicated solely to Shakespeare's canon and other world classics. Through its distinguished productions and education programs, the company strives to illuminate the universal and lasting relevance of the classics for contemporary audiences.  Tickets for the upcoming season are presently on sale and can be obtained by calling (973) 408-5600, stopping by the theatre’s box office or by visiting their website at http://www.shakespearenj.org/.  
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