Irvington warehouse. Monte needed
her staff centralized. Eighty sites were
scouted and funds were raised before
the company bought and renovated the
Florham Park support facility, a former
The building itself has been transformed into a work of art, down to the
painted pipes. Donors can add flair to the
space by sponsoring a playwright’s name
on a girder or a character’s name on
the Greats Wall. When a large donation
comes in, the staff celebrates by ringing
a ship’s bell. For the annual spring gala,
guests are treated to hors d’oeuvres, a
cabaret show and a facility tour.
Touring the building is like stepping
into Monte’s imagination.
A blue hallway with shelves of lanterns
on the left and ornate mirrors on the right
leads to the props inventory. The room
resembles an antiques store crammed
with neatly arrayed chairs, globes, clocks,
books, bookshelves and couches. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling, but it’s the
realistic-looking elephant head, used for
the 2009 production of Around the World
in Eighty Days, that really catches your
eye. Nearby, the costume and shoe collections are displayed in two large closets.
Organizing the clothing by size, color, production and period is an ongoing project.
The eye-popping sights continue on
the Boulevard of Dreams, an 85-foot-long
hallway partially decorated with elabo-
rate murals painted by the company’s
scenic artists. At the end of the corridor,
the Apothicaire de Romeo window—de-
signed by a technical staffer—glows with
backlit glass bottles.
Even the boardroom, or Think Tank, is
a fantasyland. Adjacent to a large conference table is the armouretum, an unusual
display of weapons, decapitated heads
and other props juxtaposed with fake
shrubs and bouquets.
“What you’re seeing when you walk
through is actually only about 50 percent
of [my] vision,” says Monte. “We still
have a punch list of about 500 things.”
the building also hosts the company’s
educational endeavors. This summer,
28 acting apprentices and 25 interns
participated in the 10-week professional
training program offered in all theatrical
disciplines for ages 18 and up.
Some acting apprentices audition for
Shakespeare Live!, a program supported
by the National Endowment for the Arts
that’s held during the dark season (
Jan-uary-May). The touring company of 10
non-Equity actors (not yet in the professional actors’ union) performs abridged
versions of a drama and a comedy in
schools throughout the tristate area.
Director of education Brian B. Crowe
began his theater journey as an intern
more than 20 years ago. On this day in
the rehearsal room, he’s directing Titus
Andronicus. Crowe confers in a circle with
Rick Sordelet, a Broadway fight director,
“What are the rules
to your relationship?”
he asks two actors
who play brothers.
In this scene, they’re
quarreling. Then the
younger brother pulls
out a knife. “Use the
blade as punctuation,”
says Sordelet as he
demonstrates how to
maximize the weap-
on’s dramatic effect.
Crowe steps in to
explain the scene and
the characters’ per-
sonalities to Sordelet.
They need to amplify
the tension but stay true to the text. “We
will watch before we listen,” Sordelet
reminds the actors about the audience.
“Stay in the frame.”
Annually, the company employs 300
theater people. About 30 are full-time
employees, 30 are seasonal, and the rest
are Equity and non-Equity actors.
While Monte compares the facility
to the Willy Wonka factory, she at times
is more like the wizard of Oz—revealing
what’s behind the curtain.
For the past three years, Monte and development associate Sara Hedgepeth have
led a handful of public tours of the facility,
including a demonstration, lecture or a
glimpse of a rehearsal. To keep up with
the demand for a behind-the-scenes look,
Monte plans to train staff and volunteers
as docents for the tours, which cost $10
for kids and $12 for adults.
“When I said, ‘We’re going to turn this
building into basically an interactive
museum where people can walk through
and watch us work and we explain things
to them,’ we were all a bit fearful about
that,” she admits. For centuries, there’s
been a fear among theater people that
showing the process will detract from a
“What we’ve discovered is that it
doesn’t diminish [the public’s] awe of
what we do at all,” Monte says. “In fact, it
massively increases their awe, and they
walk away with a whole new sense of
wonder and delight.”
Prop master Shannon White
is responsible for organizing
the inventory. Items are donated, purchased from thrift
stores, or built in-house.