Count Basie Theatre plans to transform itself into ‘creative campus’

An artist's rendering of what the new Count Basie Theatre will look like.

An artist’s rendering of what the new Count Basie Theatre will look like.

The Count Basie Theatre today unveiled its plans to transform itself into a “creative campus” — a regional performing arts center encompassing the entire downtown Red Bank block where it currently exists.

The $20 million project will create a second, 550-capacity venue for up-and-coming artists; a glass-walled lobby with new restrooms and concession areas; and a space for arts nonprofits, partner programs and the theater’s Performing Arts Academy. Also, there will be improvements in the theater’s backstage area and plumbing, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

An expansion in the theater’s load-in area will allow for larger productions to be booked, and an elevator will help patrons access the theater’s balcony area without having to climb steps.

A capital campaign is now underway. Basie president and CEO Adam Philipson said in a statement “we’re optimistic that we can raise the money and have shovels in the ground within three to four years.”

Steven Van Zandt and his wife Maureen, who are members of the theater’s board of trustees as well as honorary chairs of the capital campaign, attended the press conference today, and said in a statement that they are “dedicated to doing everything possible to support it.”

Here is the complete text of their statement:

We are the only country in the world that considers art a luxury. Everybody else (being around a lot longer) understands art to be an essential part of the quality of life.

A community’s art is a big part of its identity, and the degree by which it supports its arts is part of how it is measured.

The Count Basie Theater, called the Carlton Theater back in the day, has a special place in our lives.

Maureen spent most of her childhood summers at the Jersey shore, where she frequented the theater seeing countless shows, and later went on to dance in The Nutcracker on the Basie stage.

It was my local theater growing up. It’s where I saw A Hard Day’s Night and watched the young girls run down the aisles compelled by their uncontrollable passion to attempt to kiss the Beatles! I can still remember the amazingly rich colors flowing off the screen in Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor, being quite a revelation compared to our black and white TVs.

Looking back now it wasn’t very local — having to come all the way from Wilson Avenue in New Monmouth — but Red Bank was our closest “big town.” Just up the street at Jack’s Music is where I bought my first guitar.

We hope to see the Count Basie Theatre expand into a regional center for the performing arts, which every community needs. The arts remain the first and best opportunity for communication between the races, genders, religions, and age groups. As the chaos and strife increases in the world, it is the one consistent inspirational and motivational sanctuary.

The Count Basie Theatre’s expansion into a true, regional center for the performing arts will be an example for other communities to follow, nationwide, and worldwide. Maureen and I are dedicated to doing everything possible to support it.

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