Monday, July 26, 2010

Postcard from Tampa

Who’d believe that June in Tampa, Florida would be about 20 degrees cooler than in New Jersey? It was still plenty hot and humid at the International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) meetings I attended there last month. I serve on both the Board and Selection Committee of IPAY, which is quite an honor for me and for the State Theatre. Well shielded from the Florida sunshine, I spent most of my four-day junket holed up in a conference room with about a dozen of my colleagues and associates.

IPAY is made up of education directors of performing arts centers, along with performers and artist managers dedicated to programs for young audiences. Our big event is an annual juried Showcase, where about 20 companies from around the world are chosen to perform for an audience of about 250 presenters who book shows for young people and families. I can’t reveal yet which shows earned a performance slot at the 2011 Showcase; the official selections will be posted on the IPAY website in the coming months.

The IPAY Showcase takes place every January, in a different North American location each year. The 2011 Showcase in Tampa is being hosted by the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. So I’ll be back in Florida this winter—when I expect I’ll be better able to appreciate the climate!

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s extremely risky to make programming decisions based on word-of-mouth or even video. Therefore, I almost never book a company I’ve never seen perform live. Showcase gives me the opportunity to attend full-length performances of phenomenal shows from all over North America, Europe, and Australia—shows I’d otherwise never get to see on my tiny travel budget! One of my all-time favorite Showcase discoveries is coming to the State Theatre in November: Jason and the Argonauts, a brilliant production from a truly amazing Scottish theater company called Visible Fictions. Who’d have thought Greek mythology could be so hilarious—while staying completely true to the story? If you’re a theater fan and can get an hour off from work (the performances are during the school day), don’t miss this one!

Lian Farrer, Vice President for Education
State Theatre

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


We recently announced a new Executive Committee, two new Trustees, as well as the appointment of an Interim Chief Operating Officer.

The new Executive Committee elected at the June annual meeting of the Board of Trustees includes Warren R. Zimmerman, Chairman; Efrem B. Dlugacz, Vice Chairman; Douglas M. Garback, Secretary; and Frederick P. Pierce, Treasurer.

We are also happy to announce the addition of two new Trustees, Susan Podlogar, Worldwide VP Compensation Resources & Productivity at Johnson & Johnson, and a resident of New Brunswick; and Raj Singh, Managing Director and Head of the Recapitalization & Restructuring Investment Banking Group for Raymond James and Associates from New York City.

“It is truly my pleasure to serve as the new Chairman of this great historic State Theatre,” recently stated Zimmerman. “I am committed to the patrons, staff, and the Board of Trustees in providing the leadership and support to continue to build the best theatre we can. With our strong capable staff and committed Board of Trustees, I have no doubt we will continue to maintain and improve the level of quality and service our patrons deserve. I am excited about the future of the State Theatre and I look forward to seeing everyone there!”

As our search for a new State Theatre President & CEO continues, following the June retirement of former President & CEO Wes Brustad, we have announced that Marion Combs, Senior Vice President for Development, will assume responsibility as Interim Chief Operating Officer. Combs will act as Interim COO until a successor for Brustad is hired later in the fall.

“The State Theatre staff is really excited about our upcoming 2010-2011 lineup of performances and festivals! We’ve got something for everybody, including great performing arts experiences for school children. Working with the Board of Trustees and its dynamic leadership team, we will continue to focus on artistic excellence and financial stability,” commented Marion Combs.

Chairman Warren R. Zimmerman, a resident of Piscataway, is an AVP in Information Technology at Chubb & Son. Vice Chairman Efrem B. Dlugacz of Princeton is Vice President of Worldwide Benefits for Johnson & Johnson; Secretary Douglas M. Garback, a resident of North Brunswick, is the owner/premiere agent of The Garback Agency; and Treasurer Frederick P. Pierce, a resident of Basking Ridge, is a Senior Vice President of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

The continuing Board members are Ann H. Asbaty of Randolph; Sam Boraie of New Brunswick; Elizabeth Hance of New Brunswick; Bill Herman of Clifton; Patricia Howard of Manalapan; Joe Light of Somerset; Andrew J. Markey of Basking Ridge; Sherard Murphy of Piscataway; and Robin Suydam of Somerset.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Q & A with Runt of the Litter star Bo Eason

Bo Eason, a former NFL player turned actor/writer performs his one-man play Runt of the Litter at the State Theatre March 2011. Recently, Bo took some time to talk to us about his upcoming show, how he made the move from the NFL to theater, and his big plans for bringing Runt of the Litter to the silver screen.

Q: How were you received by your fans, as well as your peers, when you made the transition from the NFL to acting/writing?
A: What’s funny about this, is that I’ve always kept one eye on drama. When I was in high school, I was taking acting classes and none of my football teammates ever knew. Then, in college I minored in drama, and still none of my teammates knew. So, in 1989 when I retired from the NFL, I moved to New York City and I did play after play. I was afraid they would make fun. I remember my first play was a children’s play in which I was the mayor of this elf town and my brother (Tony Eason) who was the quarterback of the New England Patriots at the time and my friend Kenny O’Brien who was the quarterback of the Jets, came to see me. After the play, they came up to me and said “six months ago, you were playing football and signing autographs for fans and now you’re in a top hat and performing in front of a bunch of kids who aren’t paying attention.” From that point on I knew I had to start from the bottom. So, when Runt premiered in Houston, where I used to play, it was great to hear my former teammates say “that’s so cool Bo,” or “Bo, I didn’t know you liked that, man, I wish I would have done that.” So, acting was a secret all my life but now everyone was rallying around it and it was a great feeling.

Q: How much of the show is autobiographical?
A: Most of it is based on the truth, and the story of my brother and I. However, there is a segment in the play that is not true but I thought it would be an interesting concept to explore and it has to do with two brothers meeting face to face.

Q: What would you say is more challenging, football or acting? Do you find they have similar challenges or are they complete opposites?
A: A lot, a lot of training for both. Twenty years of training for football and 20 years of training for acting. And in stage acting, the preparation is the same as football, you have to learn all the elements to do it well and it takes years and years. The training for being a safety in football is so specific, running forward and sideways and backwards, and the same goes for acting but they both involve body, movement, and structure.

Q: In terms of preparation, rehearsing, practicing, etc, what goes into preparing for a game versus preparing for a show?
A: There was this one sensation that happened to me before a game, where I would be in tunnel, in the dark and I would hear the music and the announcer start introducing the players and I would just think, ‘what if I just turned around and ran out of the stadium and drove off in my car.’ And the same happens before a show, I am sitting backstage, in the dark, and I think ‘what if I just turned around and ran out the back door.’ But there is something that always makes me take that step. And I love overcoming it, I love overcoming my fears, whether it is playing an NFL game or performing on Broadway.

Q: We hear that you have written a screen play based on the show and that it will soon be a major motion picture. Can you tell us a little about that and how far along that is? Is there a director or have any actors been cast yet?
A: A couple of years ago, Frank Darabont (the director of the Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile) came to see Runt in Santa Monica in a little theater with about 30 people. And after the show, he came up to me and said ‘Bo, I think this would be a great movie, and I think you should be the one to write the screenplay.’ And I thought, I don’t know the first thing about writing a screenplay. So, together Frank and I pitched Castlerock and they bought the rights and I went on to write the screenplay with Frank kind of looking over my shoulder. Frank is a multi-Academy Award nominated writer, so it was like I was in Grad school and Frank was the teacher. And after a few years, I ended up taking the movie rights back and I just finished rewriting the screenplay. We are hoping to start filming next year, late spring or early summer. There have been a few directors who have show interest including Rob Reiner, DJ Caruso (Eagle Eye), and John Lee Hancock (The Blindside). The actors interested have ranged from Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and James Franco to Nicholas Cage, Ryan Phillipe, and Orlando Bloom. All of whom have either asked to be in the movie or if I could write them a movie with roles like that. So, a lot of people have circled around the movie because of the play.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ringo Starr in New Brunswick

By Larry Dember - Director of Production

I was lucky to grow up a drummer in the late 60s and early 70s with such great music. Even luckier to have great drum teachers like Pete Bross (Gary U.S. Bonds, Hermans Hermits), Mickey Sheen , John Macaluso (Yngwie Malmsteen, James Labrie of Dream Theater, TNT, Riot, Starbreaker, and ARK) and Bobby Rondinelli (Black Sabbath, Rainbow), but there was always one drummer that stood out to me…Ringo Starr of The Beatles.

March 17th, 3:00pm: I spoke with my old friend Tommy O, Bass player from Candy and Fortress, and asked him who he would like to see at the State Theatre. Tommy said Ringo. Ironically, the next day we booked Ringo. I was a hero.

Day of Show…
6:30am: My five year old son wakes me up with “good morning Daddy, Ringo needs you,” which I am sure was a prompting from my wife. (Since I produce concerts my work schedule can be erratic and have extremely long days. Some people would not comprehend that for an 8pm show time a Production Directors day starts at 7am.)

7:30am: Meet my Live Nation co-promoter at venue and let caterer in to set up hot breakfast. (No Ringo is not here yet, this is a crew breakfast, about 25 people.)

9:00am: Meet Ringo’s production manager to tour the venue and assign dressing rooms, introduce the heads of each department (sound, lights, deck, fly and steward), plus the runner and the caterer for the day. Once settled in I ask if I could get a drum head signed for the theater and perhaps a picture. The response was “zero chance, I guess you didn’t see Larry King live where Ringo declared he loved the fans but would not be signing anything for anyone anymore. Apparently, someone had Ringo sign a Make a Wish Foundation Beatle Memorabilia and it ended up on EBAY soon afterward and that was the final straw”. I am still staying hopeful I can catch him in the wings and grab a photo.

12:00pm: Crew is still setting up risers, sound, lights, and hanging backdrops. No Ringo yet but I am told he will be arriving from NY via private car around 6pm to sound check and have a bite. Just maybe we will bump into each other in the green room.

1:00pm: Lunch for the crew and most loaders go home till load out, just heard Bon Jovi, Sean Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and McCartney are coming tonight!

2:00pm: Ringo is turning 70 on Wednesday and after his show at Radio City his sister-in-law and her husband (Joe Cocker) are throwing him a birthday party for 400 of his closest friends. Stage is dark till 6pm sound check. A lot of waiting.

3:00pm: 1500th email from long lost friends, “Hey any chance of meeting Ringo tonight?”

4:00pm: State Theatre Vice President of Development, “Can I bring some donors backstage tonight?” I told him “Ringo is old but I don’t think it looks that serious”.

6:00pm: Ringo enters the building and slips on stage for a sound check with the band. There is truly a magical feeling in the building.

7:00pm: Ringo slips off stage and into his dressing room.

7:15pm: Dave Hartkern, Director of Operations and I meet and talk with Gregg Bissonette, great drummer and guy.

7:30pm: I bring back Warren Zimmerman, Chairman of the State Theatre Board of Trustees to meet Ringo. Instead, get a humble meet and greet with his tour manager.

7:45pm: I return backstage and find……RINGO! in the hallway and I say, “Hey Man” to which he replies something inaudible and walks into his dressing room.

7:50pm: Greg comes out of his dressing room and says “hey Larry I can’t go on, you drum tonight” and hands me his sticks. That was a cool moment for me. I handed back his sticks and asked him if he could teach me to close up my paradiddles.

8:05pm: Ringo and the all stars, Rick Derringer, Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Wally Palmar (The Romantics), Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, and drummer Gregg Bissonette, take the stage with “It Don’t Come Easy”. Two hours of good old rock and roll tunes from all of the band mate’s solo projects and bands.

10:00pm: (on the dot) Ringo comes off stage and is escorted to his car. Dave and I greet him as he leaves, enters his car, and I say “Thanks for coming” and Ringo responds, “No, thank you, good night”. It was over and done. A long awaited brush with greatness is now one for the record. A full capacity house and very satisfied audience, and another great show for the State Theatre and Live Nation.

2:00am: Last truck is loaded and the crew busses roll out to Radio City Music Hall.

3:30am: Bed.

I am still trying to comprehend the no signing and no photograph policy Ringo has. I was forced to actually live the moment so much that you can taste the adrenalin, and you know I really loved it. The most satisfying feeling being in the entertainment industry for me is to see and hear the glow of the audience as they walk out of exhilarating live performance, especially of such iconic proportions. Next up, Melissa Etheridge July 16th and Cheap Trick/Squeeze July 18th.

Come out and see a show.

Larry Dember - Director of Production

Here's the set list for the State Theatre show:
1. It Don't Come Easy
2. Honey Don't
3. Choose Love
4. Hang on Sloopy (Rick Derringer)
5. Free Ride (Edgar Winter)
6. Talking in your sleep (Wally Palmer)
7. I Wanna be your man
8. Dream Weaver (Gary Wright)
9. Kyrie (Richard Page)
10. The Other Side of Liverpool
11. Yellow Submarine
12. Frankenstein (Edgar Winter)
13. Peace Dream
14. Back off Boogaloo
15. What I Like About You (Wally Palmer)
16. Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo (Rick Derringer)
17. Boys
18. Love is Alive (Gary Wright)
19. Broken Wings (Richard Page)
20. Photograph
21. Act Naturally
22. With a Little Help From My Friends/ Give Peace a Chance (reprise)