New Jersey Stage

Sunday, November 3, 2013

RECHNITZ BIDS HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TWO RIVER, STEPHEN CRANE

(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- In the cold and unforgiving winter of 1995, a faculty member at what was then Monmouth College greeted a roomful of adventurous attendees, and invited them to share in the first baby-step moments of an ambitious experiment; an endeavor that would deliver quality professional theater, to a Jersey Shore community that was accustomed to a diet of earnestly rendered but amateur stagings of tried-and-true chestnuts.


A little more than ten years from that evening, Robert M. Rechnitz stood before a capacity opening night crowd, inside a state of the art auditorium named for his wife Joan and himself, and welcomed one and all to the realization of a dream a gleaming new performing arts center in Red Bank, NJ called Two River Theater. 

Now entering its third decade of "developing and producing great American theater," Two River Theater Company has presented exciting re-imaginings of classic plays, debuted world premiere musicals and dramas, collaborated with top-shelf artists (Alec Baldwin, Sam Buntrock, Michael Cumpsty, Joel Grey, Maureen McGovern, Suzan Lori Parks, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Teller) and emerged as an important player on the regional stage landscape, in a place that has served as everything from a venue for high-profile concerts and fundraisers, to an oasis of light and community in the darkest days and nights following Superstorm Sandy.

Before he was the founding father of TRTC; before he and Joan became noted among New Jersey's leading philanthropists and tireless advocates for environmental, arts, health and educational causes even before he was a professor of English, with a specialty in American literature Bob Rechnitz was a natural storyteller; an engaging speaker who's captivated classrooms and playhouses with his avuncular style and illuminating observations on the power of words, the fascinating people he's known, and a life in the theater. On the evening of Tuesday, November 19, The Stephen Crane House in Asbury Park welcomes Dr. Rechnitz for a conversation that touches upon two significant anniversaries the 20th season of Two River Theater Company, and the 142nd birthday of Stephen Crane.

Presented in the house's intimate 30-seat Lecture Room space, the 7:30 p.m. presentation "An Evening with Robert Rechnitz" is the latest in a new series of "Sketches From Life" events, designed to spotlight a range of voices and perspectives in poetry, prose and performance. The series is programmed by Tom Chesek, director at the Crane House and arts correspondent for the Asbury Park Press/ Gannett Newspapers. 

For the event on November 19, the retired academic who wrote and taught extensively on the topic of Crane's masterpiece "The Red Badge of Courage" will share some of his thoughts and writings on the seminal author who was born November 1, 1871 and who resided in the house at 508 Fourth Avenue between 1883 and 1892. He'll also engage in a Q&A session with the audience, and share the sort of anecdotes, recollections and perspectives that make this a conversation not to be missed. 

Admission to "An Evening with Robert Rechnitz" is by a suggested donation of $10 and/or non-perishable food items, with all collections going to a locally based community food drive. Seating is extremely limited, with attendees encouraged to reserve in advance via The Stephen Crane House Facebook page, through cranehousereservations@gmail.com , or by calling (732)361-0189. Doors open at 7 p.m., and complimentary refreshments will be served prior to the presentation.

The young aspiring writer Stephen Crane regarded his first attempts at fiction as "sketches from life"and it's in the spirit of his journalist's eye, his poet's passion, and his rebellious sense of social justice that we offer this series of theater and spoken word events, inside the actual 19th century cottage where the author of "The Red Badge of Courage" and other American classics first set his storyteller's pen to paper. Contact The Stephen Crane House on Facebook, or at (732)361-0189 for directions or additional information, and check the Facebook page or the official website (thestephencranehouse.org) for updates on additional events.

Originally constructed in 1878 under the name of Arbutus Cottage, The Stephen Crane House has been rechristened here in the 21st century in honor of the American novelist, journalist and short story author Stephen Crane (1871-1900), who resided in the Fourth Avenue home at the beginning of his career as a writer. Having been rescued from the brink of demolition, the historic house is in the process of being renovated as a museum dedicated to the life and times of the man who wrote "The Red Badge of Courage" and other literary classics. Frequently in use as a host venue for theater, film, music and spoken word events, as well as a meeting place for arts groups and other nonprofit organizations, The Stephen Crane House is committed to serving the greater Asbury Park community as a resource for the support and celebration of our city's rich cultural life and heritage.