The following timeline highlights significant benchmarks in The Growing Stage’s history:

1982: Our company debuts at the Black River Playhouse in Chester, NJ; 500 patrons attend four Main Stage productions. Our touring company entertains 1200 students. Our annual budget is $30,000—the company was started with $1,500!

1984: The Growing Stage moves to the Williamson Building in Chester, beginning a ten-year association, and we become an established cultural fixture in northwestern Morris County. We receive final IRS determination as a 501-c-3 nonprofit corporation. Over the next several years, The Growing Stage opens a summer camp for the arts and establishes an intern program for theatre students.

1992: The Growing Stage becomes an associate member of the New Jersey Theatre Group – an association of professional theatres.

1994: The Growing Stage purchases the Palace Theatre in Netcong. Average season attendance grows to 6,000, and our touring company travels throughout the state. Our annual budget is $75,000.

1995: The Growing Stage opens the Palace with The Wizard of Oz, attracting 1,200 patrons in six performances.

1996: The Growing Stage becomes a professional member theatre of the Association of Actor’s Equity. Our annual attendance approaches 10,000.

Our most recent accomplishments include:

2008 – The Growing Stage received its first national recognition when it was awarded the Sara Spencer Award by the American Alliance for Theatre & Education for having made significant contributions to the field of theatre for young audiences.

2008 – Executive Director Stephen L. Fredericks received the 2008 Exemplary Performance in Nonprofit Management Award from the Community Foundation of New Jersey. This award is presented annually to recognize an outstanding and dedicated chief executive who has demonstrated exemplary nonprofit leadership and whose efforts have made a significantly impact upon the state of New Jersey.

2009 – Phase I of the Palace Theatre’s front façade was completed. The Morris County Historic Preservation Trust awarded a $126,914 grant to facilitate this work. In addition, the newly restored lobby of the Palace Theatre was unveiled, and a season-long project to complete the facility’s interior design work commenced. Underwritten by a $75,000 grant from the R&R Family Foundation, the work included installation of energy-efficient doors throughout; exterior improvements to the grounds; and a complete re-finishing of the theatre-wall murals. The project was completed under the direction of resident artist Perry Arthur Kroeger.

2009 – Director of Educational Programming Lori B. Lawrence was named Arts Educator of the Year by the Arts Council of the Morris Area.

2010 – The Growing Stage was awarded $215,296 by the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust to complete Phase II of the Palace Theatre’s front façade restoration. This marked the fifth consecutive fully-funded grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust, for a total of $375,618.

2010 – Assemblyman Gary Chiusano introduced Bill AJR63 which would officially designate The Growing Stage as the Children’s Theatre of New Jersey. Since that time Assemblymen Bucco and Di Maio joined the bill as primary sponsors. State Senators Bucco and Oroho presented a similar Bill SJR68 that was passed first through the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee and then received unanimous support on the Senate floor with a 37-0 vote in favor in June 2011. Bill AJR63 now awaits review from the Tourism & the Arts committee before going to the Assembly floor.

2011 – Air conditioning was installed throughout the entire facility.

2012 – The completion of the Palace Theatre’s front façade restoration was celebrated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony prior to the 31st season opening night presentation of Peter Pan. This was the final major capital project in a 17-year, $2 million restoration effort.

2013 – The Growing Stage restored film to the historic Palace Theatre after 31 year hiatus.

Accomplishments of Note in 2014

  • Our grant request of $19,360 to the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund was fully funded. This will provide the cost estimates and contracts for the roofs and three remaining parts of our façade, including the fly building to be completely restored.
  • The Growing Stage was named the host site for the Creative Skylands Conference to be held in June, 2015. The forum started as and continues to be an initiative of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and invites a select cross-section of leaders in the arts, government, corporate community, education, philanthropic and non-profit service communities to look at unique challenges of our region and how we can collaborate to address them.
  • A backstage bathroom was fully funded by the Hyde & Watson Foundation and will be completed by March, 2015.
  • Funding and installation of a new sound system was begun and has made a significant improvement in our production quality. Richard Claffey, a TGS Board of Advisors member and Senior VP of Operations and general Manager at Radio City Music Hall arranged for their sound engineer to work with their vendor to provide us with a high quality system that was both appropriate and affordable to our organization.  The addition of which has been incredible.
  • We received our first grant from The Horizon Foundation of New Jersey which was $10,000 for general operating support.
  • Two winners from our New Play Reading Festival have gone on to achieve additional accolades. Anne Negri’s play WITH TWO WINGS that debuted at our theatre received the 2014 Distinguished Play Award and Emily Freeman, whose piece AND THEN CAME TANGO which will make its World Premiere on our stage in 2015 received the Distinguished Thesis Award by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.
  • The Growing Stage was chosen as a $100,000 finalist for the Arts and Culture category by the Impact 100 Garden State program. While we did not receive the grant, it did provide us with the opportunity to share our story with an engaged community of leading women from our state.
  • Our New Play Reading program received 162 submissions from playwrights in 30 states across our country, Australia, England, France, Canada, New Zealand and Nova Scotia. This is up from the 101 we received last year.
  • Our Annual Appeal piece was distributed to 9,500 patrons of our company. What makes this an activity of note is that it was created by a team that included Lindsay Hahnes our first recipient of our high school scholarship award in 1995 that has gone on to a career in development for Ithaca College, and David O’Neill, a past camp counselor and performer that has become both a graphic artist and published children’s illustrator.  We appreciate their continued commitment to our mission.
  • The Growing Stage Board of Trustees adopted the resolution to establish an endowment to meet the future needs of our home, The Palace Theatre. The goal to be raised the first year is $100,000.00.