The Sunday New Jersey Herald, August 14, 2011

DEAL WITH TROUPE [TRI-STATE ACTORS THEATER] HELPS FILL SCCC ARTS CENTER

By Lyndsay Cayetana Bouchal

Newton – despite funding cuts, Sussex County Community College’s Performing Arts Center will offer more productions and live performances than ever before. SCCC and the Tri-State Actors Theater came to an agreement last month to share the state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center built in 2008, allowing more productions to visit the stage. Bryan Zellmer, SCCC associate director of cultural affairs, said the Tri-State Actors Theater was “undergoing transition” and hoped to expand to a larger audience; this ambition led theater company founder Paul Meacham to approach SCCC with the potential agreement.

The Tri-State Actors Theater, a professional theater company founded in 1988 with a small grant from the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council� had been performing at the Crescent Theater in Sussex Borough since 2002   he Sussex Theater seats 99 people the college’s performing arts building seats 340.  Meacham could not be reached for comment Friday having 11a.m. and 7p.m. performances of “Jungle Book” at the new facility.

Additionally, because SCCC lost as much as $1 million in county funding, all aspects of the college had to make cutbacks, including the Performing Arts Center. Because of the reduced funding, said Kathleen Scott, SCCC executive director of marketing and public information, the college would have had to “dial back some of the number of shows we could bring to the stage. But we wanted the beautiful facility to be used to its max.” Scott said SCCC hosts several student performances and invites several other companies to perform on stage each season, about 15 to 20 in total.

The agreement became mutually beneficial when the college’s arts center did  not face performance cutbacks as anticipated, and the Tri-State Actors Theater saw reductions in rental space and overhead once it transferred venues, Zellmer said. Tri-State Actors Theater will put on four productions this season, and is halfway through its performance of “Jungle Book,” running Aug. 3-20.

“We have a very strong dramatic arts program in house and we wanted something to enhance our program, not take its place,” Zellmer said. Zellmer didn’t feel that the formerly Sussex-based company will overshadow the school’s offerings, and Scott said the cost can’t be beat. “You get world-class performances at $25 or less a seat,” Scott said.

County residents not only have the opportunity to stay local for “great entertainment,” they don’t have to pay $100 a seat as they would in New York City,” she said.  “Because of the economic situation we’re in, we were facing the possibility of reducing our season, Zellmer said.  “We’d havea strong season’but fewer shows.  This helps keep it at the level that people  come to expect from us.” “Overall, there are a lot more performance dates than we’ve ever had before,” Zellmer said.

More information about Tri-State’s move to the Performing Arts Center and current season are available on the webat www.tristateactorstheater.org or by calling 973 875-2950.