MILLBURN, NJ — In just a few short weeks, the Paper Mill Playhouse will take a major step forward in its downtown presence with the opening of its new rehearsal space at 20 Main St.

In a story first broken by BroadwayWorld.com, the announcement was made that the space would be opening soon. the former site of High Gear Cyclery is 2,500 square feet, something which absolutely interested Paper Mill brass. Shayne Miller, the Director of Press & Public Relations sat down with TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills to talk about the new space.

"This is part of a strategic plan for the Paper Mill, and part of that plan is becoming closer with our community," Miller said. "Our education programs are award-winning, [but] always at our max. We sell out every single class that we have here.

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"So in order to serve more people, we needed to expand, and it made the most sense for us to expand into our own town. And the location was very strategic too, because it literally bridges the gap between Paper Mill and downtown. And we are all part of that downtown community. So now we’re connected.”

As for how the location of the new space came to be chosen, Miller said that the top brass at the theater have plenty of connections in town, and were scouting the open space before they even decided to make a move.

“We have many board members and other stakeholders that are very intimately involved in Millburn," Miller said. "We knew that space was open and had been open for quite a while. It’s a storefront, which we wanted that sort of visibility.

"There’s good parking there, and it’s again, close enough to our campus where if we need to move a rehearsal over to the studio space, we have that option. So when this became available, we looked at a lot of spaces, probably 15 to 20 different space, and landed there because we felt like it was the best for both us and for the businesses in downtown Millburn.”

One of the major advantages Miller noted in his interview was the increase of space. An example he cited was the conservatory programs. During rehearsals, the group is forced to find nooks and crannies to practice in. As Miller noted, that new space will make it much easier to allocate rehearsal space.

Another advantage of the new building is that it allows the Paper Mill to expand their offerings in the theater school.

“Some of those offerings will just be a second class instead of one class, because we have long waiting lists of people that want to take a class here," Miller said. "It will be extra rehearsal space for main stage productions when say, the orchestra needs to rehearse, and we don’t have the space in the building where they can rehearse, they can be there. Because of the geographic location, it’s perfect for us to be able to expand our footprint there.”

The room has space for rehearsal, as well as a smaller room in the back for vocal lessons. As Miller noted, the rapid turnaround for this leg of the future planning is a welcome surprise, as it came together relatively quickly from start to finish.

It’s interesting, because our strategic plan was only approved a few months ago, so to already be doing a ribbon cutting on one piece of that plan is very exciting," Miller said. "And we’re definitely moving in the right direction. A lot of those other plans are much more long-term plans for the theater."

Miller added, "But it’s great for us to be in a point where, in 2007 we were almost dead in the water, and then we went through a period of stabilization. And now, we’re into that period of growth, and that’s a really good place for us to be.”

In all, Miller said the Paper Mill is looking forward with excitement towards its future with a visible space in the downtown.

“We’re really excited to just integrate ourselves more with Millburn and Short Hills," Miller said. "We are Millburn’s theater, so it’s important for us to have a presence in town.”

The ribbon cutting on the new space is scheduled for March 4.