Centenary Stage Company: A Dramatic Example of Creativity and Sustainability

August 11, 2010

by Richard Simon
Executive Assistant to the President

Centenary Stage Production Photo Clandestine Marriage

“The Clandestine Marriage” performed by the Centenary Stage Company

Creativity and Sustainability, in case you haven’t noticed, are two words we deeply care about here at the Dodge Foundation.  Not just the words, of course, but the best practices and ideas from which they result.  I feel fortunate to work for a foundation that believes in those ideas, but I am also lucky because where I live in western Morris County, I am surrounded by examples of creativity and sustainability.

Within a five-mile radius of my house there are three family-owned farms, Ort, Alstede and Stony Hill, that raise and sell crops and offer a variety of activities for families, drawing locals and tourists alike.  So in addition to providing locally-grown foods to the community, they also bring in tourist dollars.  Just to the south of me, in Clinton, NJ, is the Hunterdon Art Museum. Located in a restored nineteenth century stone mill, the museum hosts rotating exhibitions of contemporary art and provides art classes and gallery tours.  Just to the west of where I live, and the place I come to work each day, is the cultural richness of Morristown, home to the Mayo Center for the Performing Arts, the Morris Museum, Frelinghuysen Arboretum and much more.

And then, across Schooley’s Mountain to the north, is a shining example of what I think of as creativity and sustainability in action.  Hackettstown, NJ, lies in a unique and beautiful location at the confluence of three counties: Morris, Warren and Sussex.  In addition to being in a prime location to serve the communities of those three counties, Hackettstown also is home to Centenary College.  And Centenary College is home to my favorite local theatre, the Centenary Stage Company.

Centenary Stage Company is a professional Equity theatre that has been around and performing at Centenary College in the Little Theatre in the Seay Building for over twenty years.  Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with a regional theatre will know that surviving for twenty years is no easy task.  Sadly, these days in a toxic economic climate so many small, great theatres and dance companies, including some that have been around for years, have to merge, temporarily suspend performances, or close altogether.

But Centenary Stage Company is not only continuing to produce and perform, they are moving into a brand new state-of-the-art facility on the Centenary College campus:  The Lackland Center for the Performing Arts. The Lackland Center boasts a 485 seat mainstage plus a 99-seat black box theatre, radio and television studios, and a 400 seat dining hall.  Wow.  I could stop right here with this story as an example of how to sustain a creative enterprise.  But, as they used to say in the old Ginsu commercials, “Wait, there’s more!”


The Lackland Center for the Performing Arts opens this fall

When they launch the new season at the Lackland Center on September 24, CSC will also be embarking on an increased season of five mainstage shows, plus other musical and dance events they host.  This will continue to provide a lot of professional New Jersey actors with work, plus, as in the past, practical opportunities for theatre students to gain experience performing with a professional theatre.  This summer they launched a Children’s Theatre Series which presents shows for children in Hackettstown, as well as touring to regional schools, expanding access to cultural experiences for students in our part of New Jersey.  They even have door-to-door transportation packages available for groups.

I think it would be hard to find a cultural institution of any sort so well integrated with the local community and so dedicated to providing access to cultural experiences and education to all ages and groups in that community and region.  Please do go to the Centenary Stage website to learn about all the things they offer, much of which I have not been able to list here.  My family is planning to renew our season subscription to Centenary Stage performances – why don’t you join us?