September 26, 2018 | ° F

NJ State Theatre provides entertainment to New Brunswick

Photo by Yesha Chokshi |

The State Theatre began in 1921 as a vaudville and silent film palace. After the theater deterioated, it went through a revival in 1988 and reopened.

The State Theatre ranked number 21 in Year-End Worldwide Ticket Sales for Top 100 Theater Venues, and also ranked first in New Jersey, according to Pollstar, a concert industry trade publication.

The State Theatre, located on Livingston Avenue, opened in 1921 and has since provided performing arts, concerts, drama and other events to the New Brunswick community.

Daniel Grossman, vice president of marketing for the State Theatre, said the theater has been recognized for its historical value.

“Many elderly people have come up to me and told me they remember coming here as a child,” he said. “It’s an honor for us to keep its doors open.”

The theater originally opened as a vaudeville and silent film palace, according to the State Theatre web site. Over the years, its role in the community and its operation has shifted. Although the theater had been successful in its early years, it began deteriorating in its appearance and dropping in ticket sales overtime.

It was not until the New Brunswick Cultural Center acquired the theater in 1986 that it could be renovated and reopened in 1988, according the website. The State Theatre considers the 1988 reopening as the State Theatre we know today, marking April 2013 as the theater’s 25th anniversary.

Kelly Blithe, the State Theatre’s director of public relations, said the theater hosted a number of events in celebration of the anniversary, such as two free movie screenings beginning in July.

They plan to screen three different movies this Saturday starting at 10 a.m., a special occasion coordinated in response to customer requests.

“We try to provide something for everyone,” she said. “We present a variety of music from country, jazz, pop rock [and] Broadway productions, to children’s programming, like ‘Yo Gabba Gabba.’”

Out of the various productions the theater hosts, Blithe said comedians are her favorite performers, such as Lewis Black, Louis C.K. and Joe Rogan. Along with past comedians who have performed, Amy Schumer on Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer” is scheduled to come to the theater this March.

Grossman said all the different performers contribute to the overall goal of the theater.

“We bring the world’s best artists for the community to appreciate,” he said. “Whether it be an orchestra or a dance company, we try to program the best attractions we possibly can.”

Performers from outside the New Brunswick area come from many different locations to perform at the State Theatre, as do students from the area.

The Rutgers Symphony Orchestra put on a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” this past year with the American Repertory Ballet, and the Rutgers Latin Knights plans to perform at the theater this March, Grossman said.

Worldwide, Grossman said people have recognized the State Theatre’s goal to create a local space to showcase diverse talent.

With 1,800 seats and a large balcony, the theater has been renovated multiple times to adjust to the needs of the modern performers it welcomes in its stage and the large audience it holds.

“We’re looking to do more renovations, especially because [of] the increase in audiences and the demand for more performances,” Blithe said. “We’re a historic building, we don’t even have an elevator.”

Though renovations are a possibility for the State Theatre’s future, there is only one upcoming repair that is set in stone, Grossman said. This renovation would consist of installing new steel beams that would be able to hand much bigger sound than the current system.

“Right now, we’re doing a major upgrade to our sound system,” Grossman said. “We want to make sure the artists are housed properly, and they have the right amplification to express their art effectively."

By Erin Walsh

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