Behind the scenes: Growing Stage Childrens Theater
The Growing Stage has lots of wizards…
Growing Stage, Netcong – December 2019
Spoiler alert: the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz DID NOT melt, she escaped through the 3’x 3’ hidden trap door in the center of the stage.
I went for a behind the scenes look at the Tourism Bureau’s newest member – The Growing Stage, a children’s theater in Netcong, who, by the way, is celebrating their 25th year in the 100-year-old building in downtown Netcong, and their 38th year as Main Stage Productions. Main Stage productions performed at the Black River Playhouse and the Williamson School in Chester before they moved to Netcong to renovate and inhabit the old Palace Theatre.
I found out that The Growing Stage has lots of wizards! I met the “cardboard wizard” Artist in Residence Perry Arthur Kroeger and the “costume queen wizard” Lori B. Lawrence, who is also the Director of Education – and does a little directing on the side, The Grand Wizard who shall not be disturbed, Stephen Fredericks – Founder and Executive Director, and a wizard named Danny. Together they accomplish the impossible – magic for children of all ages and their families.
When I first walked into the theater, there was a large empty room – no chairs, no rug – only columns and a low to the ground stage. Leaning neatly up against the wall were two hundred and twenty folding chairs. I learned that the chairs are set up every weekend there is a show, allowing for their small space to have multi-purposes – especially in the summer with their always packed summer camps – and it conveniently allows easy clean-up for juice spills.
This small but dynamic, world-renown theater has more programs than I can count on two hands with a staff I can count on only one hand, which is pretty remarkable. Let’s see:
Main Stage Productions – 5 productions per year – that means new sets, costumes, props and people.
Educational programming – Creative Arts Academy – 200 kids, Summer Arts –300 kids.
Scouts & Home Schooling programs –15 towns spanning 3 counties – Morris, Sussex and Warren.
Studio Presentation Series – summer musicals and master classes for high school and college students, 3 productions per year, 75 students.
New Play Reading Festival – resulting in one new and world-renown production per year, but they read 130 scripts from all over the world and select 4 finalists, then 1 winner.
Arts in Education for schools –25 schools visit per year.
And sensory-friendly performances – 5 per year, one for each main stage production.
The wizard named Danny, a.k.a. the Marketing Director who also directs some of the plays introduced me to the “cardboard wizard” Perry who has been with the theater for 25 years and has since painted murals on every wall. Not just small murals – but elaborate and inspiring murals about stories often told to children. He’s the one who designs and constructs all of the sets using cardboard instead of the more traditional wood to do so. This not only keeps their costs down but also makes the sets easier to build, move, repair and reuse.
I was shown every nook and cranny of the building – a real behind the set, curtain, and walls look at everything, which was lots of fun since I’m basically a nosey kind of person. I saw where the costume wizard did her magic and even got to meet her. Lori is a passionate theater person who loves her many roles at the theater. And I had a peek at the many props shelves – which were peeking back at me.
Behind the stage were dressing rooms, trap doors, ballasts, and scenery, then there was the balcony which had the lighting on the banister in front of a meeting room and a few storage closets. The third floor housed the props, sewing room, costumes, stagecraft area and a large dance/rehearsal space.
The Elf Production at The Growing Stage Theater in Netcong, NJ – (just ending) Costumes lined up – Buddy the Elf, the Fake Mall Santa’s Costumes – you’ll have to see the performance to understand that one.
The amazing staff at the theater hard at work.
Costumes, Props – oh my!
A lot to see: