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:
July 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.
September 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.
September 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.
May 2009 – Director of Educational Programming Lori B. Lawrence was named Arts Educator of the Year by the Arts Council of the Morris Area.
June 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.
October 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.
July 2011 – Air conditioning was installed throughout the entire facility.
September 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.