We are kicking off our yearlong celebration by collecting and sharing personal stories related to the State Theatre from patrons, donors, staff, community leaders, and more.
You can share your own story by submitting it using the form below. You can also upload photos—and you might see your story featured on our social media channels, in commemoration of State Theatre's anniversary in 2021! You can also share your story on social media directly using #STNJ100
I have enjoyed working in security for State Theatre since 2014, and was stunned to discover that my great grandfather, a vaudevillian named George Cunningham, performed here in December 1922 with his troupe, The Come Backs. My personal favorite story took place on May 13, 2015, at the Crosby, Stills and Nash concert. I was posted in front of the stage, at the end of the aisle, facing the audience. The instructions were for me to stay there until the last three songs, at which time the audience would be invited to dance in front of the stage, and I could move aside. After the second or third song, though, a co-worker rushed down to me and instructed me to quickly move to the side. “Move, Move, Move!” he said urgently. Apparently, stage lights, reflecting off my bald head (a family trait that I share with my great grandfather), was distracting Stephen Stills. He requested that I be moved immediately. After the show, when our head (no pun intended) of security spoke to Mr. Stills, it was determined my dome “was shining like a beacon.”
After seeing it many times as a child, I got to perform in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the State Theatre for the last four years (2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019). Those years were filled with so many joyful memories. Performing at STNJ was an amazing experience I will never forget. I made this video in 2019 to celebrate Joseph’s 25th Anniversary »
Pictured above: Kaitlin (center) with Emma McGahan (left) and Neha Patel (right).
March 17, 2019—"My introduction to the State Theatre was in the late 1990's, when longtime supporters Ralph and Barbara Voorhees graciously invited my husband and me to join them at the Benefit Gala. Learning the history of the theatre through their eyes gave me an understanding of the need for and importance of philanthropy, no matter how big or small the gifts. I will be eternally grateful for their guidance and friendship. Through the years, we have been financially able to increase our support, not only through direct donations, but also by introducing our children, and now grandson, to the wonders of the live performing arts. (The Theatre was even a part of our daughter's wedding celebration in 2011.) State Theatre's performances are wonderfully diverse and exciting. We have enjoyed so many entertainers and shows, from Tony Bennett, to celebrating Veteran's Day 2018 with the USAF Heritage Band, to the Monkees, to St. Patrick's Day 2019 with Sir James Galway, to Itzhak Perlman, to my favorite: Diana Ross in 2016. We look forward to enjoying the 'New' State Theatre in 2021!"
My daughter and I love to go to the ballet, just us. We try to catch as many ballets as we can at STNJ—it’s our tradition. I will never forget the first time we saw the Nutcracker together when she was in kindergarten, her first live ballet—she was obviously enthralled but, about 15 minutes in, she asked “Mama, when are they going to start talking?”! Ever since, she has delighted in the volumes spoken by the dance itself.
My daughter Audrey and I love State Theatre New Jersey’s Broadway series and also the classical music presentations. We love visiting NJSO musicians during intermissions! After the Broadway musicals, Audrey insists on meeting the performers in front of the theater. She is non-verbal, but she can say, “Where are the actors?” She is not very patient while we are waiting. During the pandemic, she is desperate to see shows again. Pictured here with cast members from Jersey Boys in 2019.
My motivation to become a Silver Circle member, back in in 2010, was to secure “good” seats to take my then 9-year-old nephew to his first rock concert: Ringo Starr. My nephew was obsessed with The Beatles and had just gotten his first guitar. Imagine the expression on his face when I was able to lead him to our seats in the THIRD ROW!!! We had a great time and it is a special memory I will never forget, thanks to you! I have remained a donor all these years and still love to bring family and friends to the wonderful shows at State Theatre New Jersey.
When I moved to New Jersey 10 years ago I immediately started looking for local theaters. I love plays but not of fan of traveling to Manhattan. I was thrilled to find the State Theatre and have been to many shows. I am also a season ticket holder. When I thought my granddaughter was old enough I bought tickets to take her to her first play. Cinderella, one of my favorites. She was so very excited. We planned it all out. We wore fancy flowing dresses, tiaras, and my husband dropped us off right in front of the theater. He came around and took us out of the car as if he was one of Cinderella's coachman. People weren't sure if we were part of the show. They were curiously watching us. It was a blast and you can see the excitement in her eyes in this picture. And I am happy to say that she's become a lover of the theater like her Nana. We go to plays regularly and cannot wait for this pandemic to be over so we can come back again.
I grew up in New Brunswick, and during the 1960’s, I went to the State Theatre almost every Saturday with friends to see the 12:00 matinees for 50 cents. Seeing a movie on a big screen with so many kids around was so much fun, and of course, the popcorn made the movies so much better. Watching a theatrical production of The Wizard of Oz almost 50 years later, definitely brought me back to my happy place from my childhood which is the State Theatre. (Eileen pictured above second from left at The Wizard of Oz Pride Night Party in 2018)
Over the years, I’ve met such wonderful people from STNJ, not only staff, but audience members as well. Many people have the same interests in shows, so the chances you will see the same people at future performances are pretty good. Once a show has ended, (after the applause and standing ovation), the audience is filled with sheer and utter delight. Because the shows exhibit Broadway caliber, there is a Cloud 9 feeling as the audience exits the theater. This adds to the overall enjoyment of the whole evening’s experience, and it simply means: Another job well done by the State Theatre.
I am a firm believer of history repeating itself. And I would be willing to bet whether it’s next year or in another 50 years, people will look back at today’s performances here and will agree “There’s no place like the State Theatre.” And whether it’s The Wizard of Oz or the State Theatre, you know there will always be a happy ending. I am so grateful and thankful to be able to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of this legendary and iconic venue.
For me, the State Theatre means so many things. It started in 2008, when my employer Magyar Bank purchased tickets for families from a local Mexican organization to attend a performance by the State Symphony Orchestra of Mexico. Since then, I have enjoyed many events at the State Theatre including concerts like Thalia and the Mambo Kings, receptions, networking events, community events for a good cause, as well as our annual Magyar shareholder meeting. In 2013, my boss gifted the bank branch managers tickets so that we could accompany him to the The Price is Right live event. That was such a great Christmas gift, we had so much fun. Now, I am on the State Theatre’s Latino Community Engagement Committee and the theater has become like a second home to me.
I was 11-years-old in 1968 when the original Planet of the Apes film with Charlton Heston played at the State Theatre. I went with a few of my friends and knew nothing about the film except for the previews I had seen on TV. The ending caught me completely off guard. Being a big fan of The Twilight Zone, the Planet of the Apes ending felt eerily familiar as we exited the darkened theater with eyes squinting against the bright afternoon sun. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame wrote the screenplay for this Planet of the Apes film. Years later I now enjoy going to the State Theatre to see popular rock bands. Every time I go there for an event I still reminisce about that Saturday afternoon seeing Planet of the Apes, one of my all time favorite movies.
In December of 2011 when The Beach Boys performed at the State Theatre, I was lucky enough to receive front row tickets to this especially exciting performance because John Stamos joined The Beach Boys for the show! As part of my front row ticket experience, I was invited to attend a pre-show Meet & Greet. While all the band members were very gracious and nice, I particularly had a wonderful conversation with Mike Love. During the performance while singing "Barbara Ann," a few audience members were invited on-stage to sing backup, and when Mike Love saw me sitting in the front row, he pointed at me and gestured for me to come onstage too. I was hoisted onto the stage by one of the security guards, and the guitarist then proceeded to place his guitar over my shoulders and play while I danced in front of him. It was completely unexpected, but a memory that I will forever cherish. I love that STNJ is able to make so many unforgettable experiences possible for so many people!
Since as early as I can remember, I always loved live theater. I am thankful that my parents have always taken me to see shows. Since I live in Monmouth County, the State Theatre is where I have gone to see shows like Sesame Street Live and Joseph the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. As a professional child actor, I was lucky to be cast in the Broadway national tour of The King and I, playing Louis. I was so happy to learn that the tour would stop so close to my home at the State Theatre! In December of 2018, I had my “homecoming” after being on the road. It was great to know the audience was filled with my friends and family! It was so special to be performing on a stage so close to my house that I have visited to see other shows since I was a little kid.
—Bob and Joan Campbell
For many families, State Theatre New Jersey is a beloved venue and the location of traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Longtime State Theatre patrons Bob and Joan Campbell are a testament to that. Joan grew up in the area, and in 1952, the Campbells had their first unchaperoned date at a Friday Night Movie at State Theatre, where they sat in the balcony. More dates followed, and they always returned to the balcony. They married in 1956. As they built their family, they brought their children to State Theatre New Jersey to the enjoy live performances through the years. Their youngest, Kathleen, even performed on the State Theatre stage, playing the role of the Narrator in the beloved annual production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat from 1999-2004. Bob and Joan’s devotion to the State Theatre New Jersey has never waned, and upon the Theatre’s 100th anniversary in 2021, the balcony of the newly renovated State Theatre will be named The Joan and Robert Campbell Balcony in their honor.
As a child, I actually performed at the State Theatre! I remember: it was 1972 and I was 12 years old. I was in the baton twirling club and we performed in an arts festival on the State Theatre stage. I wore a full white leotard. Years later, when I worked for Johnson & Johnson, I found myself organizing the annual J&J stockholders meeting. I was backstage, near the dressing rooms, and I had a flashback to 1972 and my baton twirling instructor telling me where to stand and what to do. It was a déjà vu moment. I'll always remember that day. (Linda Piscadlo and Bob Tami pictured backstage with Kool & The Gang at the State Theatre New Jersey 2018 Benefit Gala. ©Jeffrey Auger)
I’ve been bringing my daughter, Liz, to State Theatre New Jersey ever since she was three-years-old, and now she’s 27. I remember distinctly the first show we saw together. It was an adaptation of Winnie the Pooh on January 12, 1997 performed by a theater for the Deaf, and it was mesmerizing. Every character signed his or her lines, and also had a counterpart on stage who spoke the lines for those of us who did not understand American Sign Language. The only character who did not have any spoken lines was Pooh. Seeing the characters sign never even phased little Liz. She, my husband, and I were sitting in the balcony, house left, just behind the balcony rail. Liz sat transfixed, almost leaning over the rail. We had to hold on to her, to make sure she didn’t fall. When the show was over, all Liz could do was say, “Again!” I had to explain to her that this was not a video that I could just play over again! It was an inspiring introduction to the performing arts that neither of us will ever forget. We return to the State Theatre every chance we get.
—Evelyn Rosa, Director of the Middlesex County College New Brunswick Center and member of State Theatre’s Latino Community Engagement Program
The first time that I brought the Middlesex County College E.M.P.O.W.E.R. students to the State Theatre was for the Scientists Exploring the Arts program. It was the first year we started the college mentoring program and it was great to bring both college and high school students—who were science majors or considering a science—to an arts experience with dinner and a show. After that, our students began volunteering each year for STNJ’s big Family Day, which was a lot of fun for them. One of the most heartfelt experiences for me because of the collective work, was working in partnership with State Theatre, the city of New Brunswick and PRAB, the lead agency organizing the Juntos Together initiative. It was a documentary screening at the State Theatre and a community fundraiser to support the rebuilding of homes of first responders in Puerto Rico after the damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
For years, I have been attending the Broadway tours that play at State Theatre New Jersey. I've noticed that members of the creative teams of the musicals that come to New Brunswick will often take a trip out to State Theatre to see the show in action; in some cases, this is the first time they may be seeing the tour's cast that we are seeing. One day in March 2017, when the national tour of the Broadway revival of Pippin was playing at State Theatre, I was sitting on the bench in front of the theater, as I often do, and I noticed someone with a familiar face walk past, but I couldn't place him. It was only later, while we were both seated in the orchestra waiting for the show to start, that I realized that face belonged to Stephen Schwartz, who in 1972 wrote the music and lyrics to Pippin, along with a host of Disney films and numerous other Broadway musicals during his long career, including the 2003 hit Wicked. He seemed to be really enjoying the show, and I couldn't help but ask him for a photo at intermission. He seemed genuinely surprised that he was recognized on a night out at the theater in New Jersey, but he gladly posed for a photo.
I met my husband Joshua in October 1999 at an historic theater in Columbus, Georgia, where I was the Marketing Assistant. He was an actor from New York performing at the theater. After dating for several months, I found myself job hunting in New Jersey and soon moved north to be closer to him. In 2001, I was hired as a Marketing Communications Specialist by the State Theatre and fell in love with the beautiful building. It reminded me so much of the theater where Josh and I had met, that when he proposed, we knew exactly where we would be married. The ceremony was held in the second-floor Heldrich Room on November 3, 2002. Since then, I have been lucky enough to work at this wonderful theater that I consider my home. Our two sons were born in New Brunswick and have been raised here, from enjoying Milk & Cookies events and seeing Thomas the Tank Engine Live to programming such as RENT and Chicago. I've loved watching the theater change through the years and can't wait to see what it has in store for my family in the future.
Immediately following his first performance at State Theatre New Jersey in 2013, Peter Noone from the popular '60s band Herman’s Hermits was scheduled to sign autographs in the lobby, where I was a volunteer usher. However, once he was in position, he realized that he had no pen, and a crowd was gathering. His manager asked me if I had a pen. I got so excited that I put my arms straight out with my palms facing him and yelled, “Stay there!” I then ran like a maniac upstairs to the ushers’ room, dumped out the contents of my purse, grabbed a pen and ran downstairs. (From left: Toni Unger and Diane Palmer at Boyz II Men in February, 2020)
Donna Walcott's most memorable symphony experience was a concert at the State Theatre on April 25, 2001. It was the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yuri Teminkanov. The soloist was an unknown 17 year old Chinese pianist named Lang Lang playing Grieg's Piano Concert. When he finished, the entire audience leapt to their feet as if there were springs in their seats. Lang Lang was very shy and spoke little English. He took curtain calls but kept trying to leave the stage. The conductor stayed in the background but kept pushing Lang Lang back for additional curtain calls. (From left: Midge Golin, Donna Walcott, and Joan Campbell at the 2018 President's Council Dinner ©Mary Brown)
State Theatre was built in 1921 as a silent film and vaudeville palace. Recognizing the historic significance of the theater, PBS honored State Theatre New Jersey by featuring it in its documentary series, Treasures of New Jersey, in the fall of 2018. Treasures of New Jersey: State Theatre New Jersey can be streamed here. Today, State Theatre is the largest performing arts center in Central New Jersey and has welcomed over 5.9 million people through its doors since reopening as a non-profit performing arts center in 1988. The State Theatre is a cornerstone of the cultural vitality of Middlesex County, and averages a total economic impact on New Brunswick and the surrounding area of more than $18 million a year. The mainstage programs have featured high-caliber artists such as Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Kevin Hart, Ringo Starr, Melissa Etheridge, John Leguizamo, Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Program offerings include Broadway, orchestra, family, dance, comedy, rock/pop, jazz, Performances for Schools, and Sensory-Friendly Performances.
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At State Theatre New Jersey