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An Evening of Honors and Improv at New Jersey Theatre Alliance Gala

The Garden State's finest theaters celebrate 35 years of collaboration at Kean University.

A moment from Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre's improv performance at the New Jersey Theatre Alliance's 2015 Curtain Call gala.
(© Jerry Dalia)

The New Jersey Theatre Alliance celebrated another successful year of creative partnership last evening at Curtain Call, the organization's annual gala, held at Kean University. Since its founding in 1981, the NJTA has grown from a membership of five to 35 professional theaters whose joint efforts have facilitated the growth of educational programs, financial support, and public access to live theater throughout the state of New Jersey.

A handful of the organization's devoted members were singled out for honors following a few hours of cocktail and conversation at last night's event. Natalie Watson, Esq. was the first honoree at the podium, accepting the Star Award for her service as board president for the past six years — a title she now hands over to longtime trustee Laurence Capo.

Artistic director Cheryl Katz later accepted an Award of Excellence on behalf of Luna Stage Company, followed by a performance of the song "Superior" from the theater's upcoming production of Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story. Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre also offered the crowd some signature entertainment with a round of "Speed Dating" by its improv troupe Multiple Personality Disorder (with one particular audience prompt leading to a resounding chorus of "Donald Trump").

The truest example of the NJTA spirit of collaboration, however, was presented by artistic director John J. Wooten of Premiere Stages, an equity theater company in residence at Kean University. As part of its Stages Festival, the company has partnered with Matheny Medical and Educational Center's Arts Access Program, which provides arts education to children and adults with developmental disabilities. Two short scenes by Arts Access playwrights Cheryl Chapin and Amanda Kochell were presented to the gala audience by Premiere Stages actors, offering the patrons and arts advocates in the room a tangible and soul-satisfying example of what happens when camaraderie replaces competition in the theatrical community.