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State Theatre New Jersey

State Theatre Next Stage Details

The Details

State Theatre New Jersey’s Next Stage Campaign is focused on three fundamental initiatives:

All of the projects planned touch on one or more of these major principles.

Accessibility & Safety

State Theatre’s mission centers on access to first-class arts and arts education programs, yet our building is not fully accessible. Our first and most important priority in planning upgrades is to ensure accessibility throughout the theater. Additionally, the safety of our patrons, staff, and artists is paramount, and several projects will improve or replace current systems to modern standards and will provide a safe environment to enjoy world-class performing arts.

Balcony rendering

Rendering of balcony with accessible seating

Planned ImprovementS

  • Installation of an elevator offering full accessibility to all public areas of the building. The elevator will also accommodate a piano and equipment to allow for technical support to the new second-floor Studio space.
  • Addition of accessible seating and companion seating throughout the theater.
  • Modular theater seating in the main auditorium to allow for social distancing configurations.
  • Accessible restrooms throughout the theater.
  • Touchless Technology in all restrooms.
  • Protective barriers for concessions and guest services areas.
  • Sanitation stations at all entrances and throughout the facility.
  • New HVAC system for improved air filtration and quality.
  • New interior sprinkler system.

Audience & artist experience

The experience of a live event includes not only the performance on stage, but also the audience’s overall comfort and enjoyment from the moment they step through the front doors. As State Theatre New Jersey’s audience continues to grow, and the theatre continues to expand its outreach, it must address the expectations of today’s theater-going audiences by upgrading our lobby, bathrooms, and auditorium amenities.

The world-class artists presented at State Theatre New Jersey return time and again because of the professional environment they experience at our beautiful facility. While respecting the historic nature of our building, we must also ensure that our backstage areas are kept up to date to continue to attract the highest level of talent.

Audience Experience

Rendering of the Studio space


  • New seating throughout the main auditorium.
  • Redesigned first floor lobby spaces that will greatly improve crowd flow and access to amenities.
  • Fully renovated and expanded restrooms.
  • A renovated Studio space (opened in 2018) allowing for smaller and more intimate performances, talks, workshops, and community events.
  • Addition of a new restroom for the Studio space.
  • New HVAC system allowing for precise zone control to ensure comfort throughout the theater and improved air filtration.
  • Refurbished and modernized dressing rooms.
  • New carpeting throughout the lobby areas and auditorium, in keeping with the grandeur and history of the theater.
  • Blade sign that captures the magic of the historic original, enhances the theater’s visibility as an important historic landmark in Middlesex County, and brings a sense of excitement to the downtown streetscape.


Operationally, a theater is expensive to run, with building and stage systems that are critical to our ultimate purpose of live performance. Many of State Theatre’s systems are at the end of their useful lives at best and antiquated at worst. These systems must be updated to improve the operational efficiency of the productions and the overall efficiency of the building in time, labor, and energy, thereby reducing the operational costs and, ultimately, improving our ability to fulfill our important mission of presenting extraordinary live performances.

Audience Experience

Rendering of STAGE with motorized rigging system

Planned ImprovementS

  • Replacement of the manual rope and sandbag rigging system with a motorized stage rigging system to reduce show setup and breakdown time and expenses, and to potentially open days within the calendar for more programs. Read more about “hemp houses” like State Theatre »
  • Replacement of the HVAC system with a modern system appropriately sized for the space, with zonal control to be more energy efficient and to increase the air filtration throughout the facility.
  • Replacement of antiquated lightbulb marquee with a full-color, energy efficient LED marquee—completed in 2020.
  • Highly flexible state of the art LED theatrical lighting—completed in 2019.
  • A new state of the art sound board—completed in 2019.
  • A new backstage communications system—completed in 2019.

The Team

DLR Group

DLR Group

As one of the world’s preeminent designers of performing and visual arts spaces, DLR Group is dedicated to delivering projects that set the stage for cultural and economic vitality. DLR Group’s experience in design for the Cultural and Performing Arts spans nearly five decades and encompasses work on more than 300 cultural facilities around the world. They have worked on four of the six largest performing arts centers in the U.S. as well as on arts facilities serving college campuses and smaller communities. Some example of the their Arts work are: Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, D.C.; Neil Simon Theater, NY; New York City Center, NY; Straz Center for the Performing Arts, FL; Broward Center for the Performing Arts, FL; Cleveland Public Auditorium, OH; Playhouse Square - Multiple Projects, OH; Los Angeles Theatre, CA; Caramoor Pavilion, NY; Project Niagara, National Arts Centre and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, Ontario, Canada. 

Turner Construction


Turner is an internationally renowned construction management company with offices across the United States and a local office in Somerset, NJ. The company has earned a strong reputation for undertaking large, complex projects, focusing on safety, fostering innovation, embracing emerging technologies, and making a difference in the lives of its clients, employees and the communities in which its people build. Turner has worked on many arts facility projects including: the 65th Street Development Project at Lincoln Center, NY; Jazz at Lincoln Center, NY; August Wilson Center for African American Culture, PA; Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, OH; and Princeton University, Lewis Arts complex, NJ.

Sarah K. Chaplin
Photo © Alexandra Pais

Sarah K. Chaplin

Sarah K. Chaplin is a 24-year veteran of arts administration and leadership, and has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of State Theatre New Jersey since 2018. The State Theatre renovation is Chaplin's third historic venue renovation (following Peery’s Egyptian Theatre in Ogden, UT, and The National Theatre in Washington D.C. and her fifth theater renovation in total (including Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts also in Ogden, UT and Times Union Center for the Performing Arts in Jacksonville, FL.)

Before joining the State Theatre, Chaplin was the Executive Director of The National Theatre Corporation in Washington, D.C. In her role at The National Theatre, Chaplin worked on the revitalization of the historic venue through strategic planning, brand identity, and capital improvements. Chaplin led capital improvement projects which included a $1.5M replacement of the theater’s rope-and-sandbag rigging system during the summer of 2017 (the replacement of the rope-and-sandbag rigging system is also a major part of STNJ's renovation).  

Prior to her time at The National Theatre Corporation, Chaplin worked for SMG, a national venue management company. At SMG, she served as General Manager for The National Theatre in Washington, D.C.; Facility Director for the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Jacksonville, FL; and Theater Director for Peery’s Egyptian Theater in Ogden, UT.


architectural renderings courtesy of DLR Group
and Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC & Design Distill


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