Community partner spotlight: McCarter Theatre Center

To extend our community outreach, the library partners with many of the municipal, non-profit, and business organizations that make Princeton such an extraordinary town. This month, the McCarter Theatre Center is in the spotlight and we spoke with Paula Alekson, Artistic Engagement Manager to learn more about this partnership.

When we opened the doors on our new library building in the spring of 2004, we did so with the vision that our Community Room would become a place where the library could partner with local organizations to offer innovative and informative programs of interest to those who live and work in the Princeton area. One of our very first partners was McCarter Theatre. In the fall of 2004 we launched “McCarter Live at the Library” as a series with a discussion of McCarter’s world premiere of Steven Dietz’s “Last of the Boys.” Since then, the library and McCarter have continued to collaborate in a variety of ways to offer unique experiences to our community that include everything from book discussions to film screenings as well as interactive events while continuing to offer the McCarter Live at the Library.

McCarter is launching the new theater season on Sept. 6 with Emily Mann’s play “Gloria: A Life,”  and we will be co-hosting a mini-series around this production during the last two weeks of August that includes a film screening, book discussion and a McCarter Live at the Library with Mann and actor Mary McDonnell who has the title role in “Gloria: A Life.”

How long has McCarter Theatre been in Princeton?

McCarter Theatre Center is now in its 89th year, having had its inaugural opening night in February 1930, as the new home to the enduring Princeton University Triangle Club and as a presenting house for professional touring shows and music and dance concerts. Today, McCarter operates as an independent, non-profit regional theater, recognized as one of the leading regional theaters in the nation. It presents over 200 events every year: a diverse season of plays, dance, and classical, jazz, pop, and world music featuring internationally recognized artists.

What is your primary area of focus?

McCarter’s mission is to create world-class theater and present the finest performing artists for the engagement, education, and entertainment of our community. We are committed to sharing stimulating, diverse, and provocative stories; working at the intersection of art and scholarship; and making the arts accessible to a broad range of audiences.

Why do you like partnering with the library?

The Princeton Public Library is an amazing hub of activity and people — one of Princeton, New Jersey’s great anchor institutions. It is so central to community life and is utilized by such diverse groups of folks on site to connect, meet, work, commingle, engage their curiosity, come to new understandings and insight, feed their minds, and fuel their spirits. There is so much going on and for so many interests and needs.

Beyond its business (“busyness”) and members/patrons, the Princeton Public Library has an amazing staff of kind, caring, correspondingly curious, fun, and knowledgeable professionals. Their public programming and community engagement team especially are exceptional community partners who are collegial, collaborative, and eager to co-create meaningful programs and events to contextualize and build upon McCarter’s arts offerings for the benefit — learning, enlivening, and joy — of all.  For this reason, much of our engagement in the community is with and through partnership projects with the Princeton Public Library.

What is something that you do that people might not know about?

Ooooh…I love this question!  There are so many things I want people to know about if they don’t already know!  For example:

  • 45-minutes before every performance in our Theatre Series we offer a pre-show contextual talk called The Inside Story, which tells the behind-the-scenes story about the play and its creation; offers why we are so excited to share it with our community; and provides a few things to look and listen out for in the course of the performance.
  • The McCarter Education Department has many long-standing partnerships with schools in Princeton, Princeton Junction, Trenton, East Brunswick, and New Brunswick, et al. Our Trenton-based in-school residencies serve students in grades 2 – 12 and have included playwriting and text analysis, devised theater, spoken word, poetry, Living Newspaper, and Shakespeare’s” A Midsummer Night’s Dream” classics residencies. McCarter is dedicated to making live performances accessible to students regardless of their economic circumstances and, through the generous support of funders, provided 680 fully-subsidized student matinees tickets to Title 1 schools in the 2018 -2019 season.
  • Community play-reading events—free, public opportunities where all are welcome to come to explore the work of a particular playwright, genre, or issue by reading a play aloud in a communal and collaborative format—are frequently scheduled throughout the regular theater season both at McCarter and at host community partnership sites, such as the Princeton Public Library and the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice. These include both specially scheduled reading events and the monthly Shakespeare Community Reading Group meetup.
  • McCarter is committed to nurturing new plays and artists through commissions, workshops, retreats, and production. The McCarter LAB is a year-round creative incubator that provided artistic and financial support to artists at all stages in their careers. LAB programming allows McCarter to take artistic risks and often provides audiences with an exclusive window into the creative process of new play development.

Is there any project or event that you are particularly excited about at the moment?

We are very excited about our 2019-2020 Season, as it will be Artistic Director and Resident Playwright Emily Mann’s Legacy Season — that is, her 30th and final season in artistic leadership at McCarter! From September to June we will be celebrating Emily’s own artistic contributions as a director and playwright, as well as her support and mentorship of new artists and new plays—especially works about and by women and persons of color. We kick the Theatre Series off on Friday, Sept. 6 with Emily’s “Gloria: A Life,” a play about the life of feminist activist and writer Gloria Steinem and for which we are completely reconfiguring the Berlind Theatre. Don’t miss McCarter and Emily “Live at the Library” on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 27 — this is a sneak peek Princeton Public Library and McCarter Theatre partnership event!

The library has many items that can add to your experience with McCarter. Here are some potential partners for the 2019-2020 season.

Janie Hermann, Adult Programming Manager also contributed to this post.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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