The New Jersey Theatre Alliance‘s Stages Festival began 19 years ago as a one-week children’s program, but is now a comparatively massive undertaking. This year’s edition of the festival, co-sponsored by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, lasts throughout the month of March, with more than 85 free or discounted performances and programs for children and adults, in locations throughout the state.
You can get the full lineup at stagesfestival.org, but here are some highlights (many events require advance registration):
• The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will offer two free workshops, “Build Your Own Fairy Kingdom” and “Swashbuckling 101,” March 12 at its administrative offices in Florham Park, as well as family-friendly versions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” March 10 at the Morris Plains Borough School and March 19 at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison; and “Romeo and Juliet,” March 18-19 at The Shakespeare Theatre.
• Premiere Stages and Writers Theatre of New Jersey will partner with Atlantic Health to bring together professional actors to perform an original creative work by professional and family caregivers, March 31 at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum in Morris Township.
• March 24 at the Madison Public Library, professor Bob Sandberg of Princeton University’s theater department will moderate a panel discussion on how new plays come to life. Participants will include three playwrights who have been commissioned as part of the 2016 NJPAC Stage Exchange program: Nikkole Salter, David Lee White and Chisa Hutchinson.
• The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn will offer $20 student rush tickets to several performances of the musical “A Bronx Tale,” and will also host a March 14 “breakfast conversation club” event focusing on its upcoming production of “Pump Boys & Dinettes.”
• Theater workshops will include “Creative Dramatics for Grown-Ups” at Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre in Summit on March 5, and classes for various age groups at the Eagle Theatre in Hammonton on March 19.
• Professional actors will read new plays, and audience feedback will be sought, at events March 10 at Kean University in Union; March 5, 11, 18 and 20 at the Jersey City Theater Center; and March 1-4 and 6 at the Bickford Theatre in Morris Township.
• On March 13, the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton will feature a post-performance talkback with the director of its new production of the Agatha Christie-written “The Mousetrap.”
• The George Street Playhouse will also bring its play “Austin the Unstoppable,” about an 11-year-old Xbox and junk-food junkie, to Atlantic City on March 11 and Vineland on March 19. It will also present “New Kid,” which is about racism and peer pressure, in New Egypt on March 12.
• The Centenary Stage Company will present the children’s play “Miss Nelson is Missing” March 4 in Burlington, March 5 in Jackson, March 8 in Brick Township, March 10 in Paterson, March 11 in Pennington, March 15 in Little Egg Harbor and March 29 in Barnegat.
• Kean University will present a production based on writing by developmentally disabled residents of the Matheny Medical and Educational Center, March 19 at Matheny’s Peapack campus.
• The East Lynne Theater in Cape May will present a modern adaptation of “Aesop’s Fables” on March 16, the radio play “Detectives Holmes & Carter” on March 19, and “Celebrating Provincetown Players” on March 20.
• On March 5, the Two River Theater in Red Bank will present a Spanish-language performance of its current play, “Ropes.”