MILLBURN, NJ — With a flourish and a snip of blue ribbon, the Paper Mill Playhouse took one of its most major steps to date, as theater officials and trustees were on hand alongside Millburn Township Officials for the ribbon cutting ceremony at the playhouse's new 2,500-square-foot secondary rehearsal space, Paper Mill Studios.

Located in the downtown district at the former location of High Gear Cyclery, the space is a benefit for both the playhouse, which now has the necessary space to hold a number of auditions, rehearsals and classes and the township, which fills the space and creates a showcase for its partnership with the Paper Mill Playhouse.

Several playhouse and township officials spoke at the ceremony before the ribbon-cutting. They included Paper Mill's Managing Director Mike Stotts, Producing Artistic Director Mark S. Hoebee, Paper Mill Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Fakult and Millburn Township Mayor Jackie Lieberberg. All four had nothing but praise for the new space and the downtown link between the playhouse and the town.

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The opening of the rehearsal studio marks the beginning of a major expansion project for Paper Mill Playhouse. After almost closing in 2007, the theater finds itself on stronger footing than ever, and ready to move forward.

Speaking after the ribbon-cutting with TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills, Stotts said that the Paper Mill Playhouse moving from an era of stabilization to one of expansion is major for the theater, and the new workshop space is just the first part of that expansion.

"The theater's obviously come a long way in the last ten years," Stotts said. "And it's through the efforts of so many organizations and individuals that we've been able to do that turnaround. To be able to now move past that crisis and look towards the future, towards expansion, towards increasing our footprint ... is really remarkable.

"And I think it points to the resiliency of this organization and this township to work in partnership to try to realize bigger things for this theater company. This is an important cultural asset not only for this region but for the state of New Jersey, and I think we can have an even greater impact locally in New York and worldwide."

Members of the Millburn business community and township committee were also excited to see the new space open. Roxanne Giacalone, the Executive Director of the Millburn/Short Hills Chamber of Commerce said that the new downtown venue is great for the town.

"We are thrilled for the Paper Mill Playhouse opening of Paper Mill Studios in our downtown," Giacalone said. "It's wonderful to see another storefront being filled with a business beneficial to both our town and surrounding communities."

That sentiment was shared by Millburn Mayor Jackie Lieberberg, who noted all the positive impacts on the local community and downtown businesses.

"I'm very excited that we were here today to open this facility," Lieberberg said. "I think it's a huge win for Millburn, Millburn residents, our downtown. It allows us to welcome ... students, adults a wide range [of people] that will be passing through Millburn will stay, grab a cup of coffee, a drink, a bite to eat, shop in our stores."

She also said that the studio is in proximity to the playhouse itself, which she referred to as a gem of the downtown.

"It's a win for everybody, and it's a big win for Millburn, and we're very grateful that they're expanding their footprint," Lieberberg added.

As part of the festivities surrounding the new space, Paper Mill will host an open house on Saturday, March 14. The open house will feature free classes for students age six to 15. The sign up is live at the following link: Classes are available that day on a first come-first serve basis.