From modest beginnings in 1988, Phoenix Productions has grown in size and stature among the community theatres of New Jersey. In fact, the label “community theatre” fits rather uncomfortably for that size and stature. While most community theatres operate in church basements or high school gymnasiums, they have the advantages and disadvantages of performing in professional theatres on professional stages.
Advantages include higher visibility which helps them attract both talented performers and sophisticated audiences with high expectations. Those high expectations demand that we mount large-scale highly polished productions. The combination of high production values, royalties and rents in those professional venues add up to an annual operating budget of nearly a half-million dollars – many times more than the typical community theatre.
What then makes them still a community theatre? Since the beginning, Phoenix has been and continues to be a volunteer organization. While they pay fees to directors, musicians and designers, most of the people who build their sets, sew their costumes and steer the organization work for the joy of bringing theatre to life. And in accordance with their by-laws, they never pay performers for appearing in their productions. They too work for the joy, the excitement and the applause.
The center of Phoenix life is the Phoenix Rehearsal Center, a building where we rehearse, build scenery, sew costumes and prepare their shows for the main stage next door. In addition to preparing mainstage productions, the Rehearsal Center houses Camp Phoenix, our summer day camp for youngsters who love to perform. A sell-out every summer, Camp Phoenix provides employment to instructors, experience to interns, and fun-filled instruction to more than 50 youngsters each year. The Rehearsal Center has also served as a venue for “black-box” productions, smaller works, sometimes originals, usually experimental, that profit from the intimate atmosphere of our Studio Theatre.
As proud as they are of their accomplishments to date, they continue to explore paths to expand their activities in pursuit of their mission. They yearn to restart their “black box” initiative and to broaden the Camp Phoenix experience into a robust year-round educational program. They see value in launching a children’s theatre and a seniors’ theatre. They see the need to bring shows out into the community to bring live theatre to those who may not be able to come to a theatre.
Their vision for the future is of a multi-faceted arts organization working on:
mainstage productions at the Count Basie Theatre
smaller works in their own black box venue
an outreach program of traveling shows
senior theatre performing group and
a comprehensive musical theatre educational curriculum.