NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - David Saint has directed Keith Carradine and Amy Irving. He collaborated with Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, but a couple of construction workers seemed to leave him, at least for a moment, flustered on Tuesday.
Saint, the Artistic Director of George Street Playhouse, was in the middle of welcoming media members to a walking tour of the new and still-under-construction digs when the workers wandered across the concrete slab that will soon be the stage inside the Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater.
There was pipping dangling here, stacks of drywall there and workers just about everywhere you turned.
Although George Street Playhouse has a ways to go before the Sept. 5 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Saint can see his vision taking shape - even if a few workers temporarily disrupted his announcement.
"I've been coming over and checking it out periodically, but now seeing all these walls go in, you can really start to feel the sense of the theater," Saint said. "George Street started 45 years ago in a supermarket. We converted it into a theater, and then about 12 years later on this site, we moved into the old YMCA. We converted a YMCA into a theater. The last two years, we've been operating out of Rutgers campus in the old Agricultural Museum, which is another converted space. This is the first time in 45 years that we are actually going to be performing in a center that was designed from the beginning to be a theater."
The 450,000-square-foot, 23-story redevelopment project has been made possible by a public and private partnership. It took a cast of thousands - including those at the City of New Brunswick, the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the state and DEVCO - to bring it to life.
The 463-foot Johnson Theater seeks to retain its trademark intimacy while adding design and technological enhancements. The stage will be so big, it will be able to accommodate any pre-Boardway show. The theater has an automated orchestra pit that can be hidden away to accommodate more seats. It has an enormous fly system and, as Saint put it, "The whole stage floor is trapped."
A short walk over some dusty, unfinished concrete floors and you're inside the 259-seat Arthur Laurents Theater, named for the man who wrote the books for the Tony-winning musicals “West Side Story” and “Gypsy." The Laurents Theater is built to stage dramas, not spectacles.
Then it's up some steps, past what will be the dressing rooms and then you find yourself facing the hustle and bustle of George Street. This space will house three rehearsal studios.
Then its back downstairs to the area that will be the lobby. There will be a bar over here, a concession stand there and granite-like tile all around.
George Street will open its 2019-20 season in the Johnson Theater on Oct. 15 with "Last Days of Summer," a show based on the book by Stev Kluger with music by Jason Howland and directed by Jeff Calhoun.
"My Life on a Diet" starring Emmy winner Renee Taylor will debut at the Arthur Laurents Theater on Nov. 19.
"Midwives,”based on ae book-turned-film by Chris Bohjalian, will run from Jan. 21-Feb. 16 in the Laurents Theater.
Joe DiPietro’s “Conscience,” the tale of when Sen. Margaret Chase Smith took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy will run from March 3-29.
The season will close with "A Walk on the Moon" in the Johnson Theater from April 21-May 17.