NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The State Theatre New Jersey – whose stage has been graced by the likes of Diana Ross, Ringo Starr and Denzel Washington, and whose doors have been open to the likes of Gary Cooper, Harry Houdini and Walter Cronkite – will be getting a facelift just in time for its 100th birthday.

The State Theatre on Livingston Avenue announced Monday extensive renovation plans that include several capital upgrades to make it compliant with Adults with Disabilities Act guidelines.

Several others will be made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Officials say they are looking to upgrade accessibility, safety and the audience and artist experience.

Preparations have begun and the plan is to be finished and reopen summer 2021.

“State Theatre is committed to improving our accessibility and operations to ensure the finest experience for live performance and arts education programs in our beautiful historic venue,” said Scott Fergang, State Theatre New Jersey Board Chair. “Since State Theatre’s last major renovation in 1988, we have welcomed over 5.9 million people through our doors. These upgrades will allow us to continue to serve our community and build audiences for the next 100 years and beyond.” 

To become ADA accessible, the State Theatre will add an elevator, accessible seating throughout the venue and new restroom facilities.

Renovations will also include modernizing the stage rigging system, dressing rooms and lobby spaces.

In the last few months, the COVID-19 crisis has brought into sharp focus the need for many of the upgrades planned.

“We are using this time to accelerate the construction timeline and immediately address projects that focus on safety and security for all,” said Sarah K. Chaplin, President & CEO. “State Theatre will be at the forefront in providing a safe and clean environment for the community to experience live performing arts and entertainment in a post-COVID-19 world.”

The improvements made critical by the COVID-19 crisis include the replacement of the HVAC system to improve air flow control and filtration, installation of magnetometers with thermal scanning at all entrances, the installation of protective barriers at service areas, the installation of new modular seating to facilitate social distancing if required in the future and the addition of touchless technology in all restroom facilities.

“These improvements would not be possible without the support of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and all of the generous donors who have supported us during the early stages of this Next Stage Campaign,” said Chaplin. “We have reached 86% of our $26,500,000 project goal, and our fundraising efforts continue in order to meet our overall goal and complete the project.” 

“The State Theatre has entertained audiences for almost 100 years. This effort will ensure State Theatre continues to offer world class programming for generations to come,” Mayor and Next Stage Campaign Co-Chair Jim Cahill said. “The enhancements funded by this campaign will elevate the overall experience for patrons and artists alike to new heights.”

Funds raised to date for the renovation represent a strong public and private partnership between State Theatre New Jersey, Middlesex County and many corporate, foundation and individual donors who support and recognize the impact the theater has on the arts, the economy of the region and the well-being of its citizens. 

During the leadership phase of the campaign, State Theatre received major support from Middlesex County and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Other major donors include the late philanthropist Betty Wold Johnson, Johnson & Johnson, Joan and Robert Campbell, the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Andrew J. Markey, the Presser Foundation, the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, the John and Susan Heldrich Family Fund, the Hyde and Watson Foundation and Investors Bank.  Longtime and recent State Theatre New Jersey members have stepped forward to provide exceptional leadership gifts to the campaign, bringing the goal within reach and making this vision a reality.

“I would like to thank everyone who has already contributed to this campaign,” said Chaplin. “The outpouring of support and generosity by so many is tremendously appreciated by the State Theatre Board and staff and will ensure a long future for the arts in our region.” 

In preparation for this project, State Theatre conducted an extensive planning study with the help of the Princeton-based architecture and historic preservation firm of Mills + Schnoering. The theatre is now in a design/build phase with DLR Group, and the Somerset office of Turner Construction.

As one of the world’s preeminent designers of performing and visual arts spaces, DLR Group is dedicated to delivering projects that set the stage for cultural and economic vitality. DLR Group’s experience in design for the Cultural and Performing Arts spans nearly five decades and encompasses work on more than 300 cultural facilities around the world. They have worked on four of the six largest performing arts centers in the U.S. as well as on arts facilities serving college campuses and smaller communities.

Some example of their arts work are: Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, D.C.; Neil Simon Theater, NY; New York City Center, NY; Straz Center for the Performing Arts, FL; Broward Center for the Performing Arts, FL; Cleveland Public Auditorium, OH; Playhouse Square - Multiple Projects, OH; Los Angeles Theatre, CA; Caramoor Pavilion, NY; Project Niagara, National Arts Centre and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, Ontario, Canada.

Turner is an internationally renowned construction management company with offices across the United States and a local office in the Somerset section of Franklin Township.

The company has earned a strong reputation for undertaking large, complex projects, focusing on safety, fostering innovation, embracing emerging technologies, and making a difference in the lives of its clients, employees and the communities in which its people build. Turner has worked on any arts facility projects including: the 65th Street Development Project at Lincoln Center, NY; Jazz at Lincoln Center, NY; August Wilson Center for African American Culture, PA; Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, OH; and Princeton University, Lewis Arts complex, NJ.

Visit the State Theatre's website to learn more about the renovations and how you can support this campaign.