From the Press
 

Community House still going strong after three decades
By Caren Caterina

The Spring Lake Theatre Company [SLTC], which brings numerous productions to the local community each year, will be celebrating a special milestone. Today, July 7, marks the beginning of the 33rd season of the SLTC. The theater company is located inside the beautiful Spring Lake Memorial Community House, which will be celebrating its 88th year this July 4, said theater spokesperson Mary Jane Burke.

The facility is located at 300 Madison Avenue, in the center of Spring Lake.

“This Victorian-styled theater has 360 seats distributed between an orchestra and balcony,” said Ms. Burke. “SLTC has continuously upgraded their state of the art sound and lighting systems and is air conditioned for the audience’s comfort,” she said. According to Ms. Burke, the theater company stages six “Broadway style” productions a year, with the season beginning in the summer.

Two large musicals are scheduled during the summer months and a smaller musical or mystery in the fall. December brings the annual production of “Scrooge”— celebrating its 29th year here and always boasting a cast of 95 or mor e— and a comedy/drama in February, followed by a musical in the spring, said Ms. Burke. “This season SLTC has scheduled “Cats” in July, “The Sound of Music” in August, “Dracula” in October, “Scrooge” in December, “Dirty Work at the Crossroads” end of February and early March, and “1776” in mid April through early May, she said.

The history of the Spring Lake Community House is also special to the town. According to Ms. Burke, on July 4, 1923, Mayor Oliver H. Brown dedicated his gift to the town — the Spring Lake Memorial Community House — in memory of its World War I veterans The building was built out of Mayor Brown’s “love for the town and its residents,” she said. “He specified “the premises be used and occupied by and for the people of the borough of Spring Lake and vicinity for the moral, social, literary, religious, educational and charitable purposes and community betterment,” said Ms. Burke. “Since its dedication and continuing through the 1940’s the building became the hub of the town’s social life, featuring movies, town meetings, youth canteens and plays,” said Ms. Burke. “During those summers, the theater hosted professional touring companies and the likes of Burt Lahr, Basil Rathbone and Paul Newman graced its stage,” she said. “In the following two decades, the building was used less and less and fell into disrepair,” said Ms. Burke.

In 1976, the Spring Lake Bi-centennial Committee sponsored a “town play” as part of its celebrations, said Ms. Burke. “This event ignited efforts to gradually refurbish the building and gave birth to the present day Spring Lake Theatre Company. Since that time every room of the building has been renovated,” she said. “The building continues to be home to SLTC, the Children’s Workshop and Dance Programs and various non-profit town organizations,” said Ms. Burke. Pat Barry, who is the artistic director of SLTC, is also excited about the facility going so strong after three decades. “This is a fabulous place,” said Ms. Barry. “I have been here 35 years.” Ms. Barry explained Mr. Brown had built the community house for “amazing things.” “And, we are continuing it,” she said. “More than he probably had imagined.” “We are really concentrating on getting the support of the people,” she said, as the building receives no public funds.

Ms. Barry said she has been delighted to see, through the years, many of the theater students now teachers, and, some even bringing their children there. “It has been very rewarding for me,” said Ms. Barry. “This is a marvelous place and a great place for kids.” Ms. Barry said the quality of the productions also keeps growing. “My hope for the future is that we would keep getting better,” said Ms. Barry. Ms. Barry said she has seen a large amount of talented youth and adults come through the Spring Lake Theatre.

The theater’s performance of “Cats,” which kicks off tonight, July 7, at 8 p.m. Ticket prices for adults are $28; seniors 65+ and students $26; children under 12 $20. Many of the actors have been busy painting their costumes, said Ms. Barry. “And, they have done research on the music,” said Ms. Barry. “It is going to be real close to what they would have seen on Broadway.” Ms. Barry encouraged local residents to stop in the Spring Lake Community House to see some of the performances, which showcase local talent. “There is always something wonderful here,” she said.

For information on specific performance dates, times and costs, go on-line at www.springlaketheatre.com or call the Box Office at 732-449-4530.