NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the first production of The No Drama Theater Company, opened Friday night to a packed crowd inside the New Providence Recreation Center. The family-friendly play brought out all of the old familiar characters from the Peanuts gang.  

This year’s Mainstage production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” was originally conceived as a fundraiser to benefit NP Public Art in their desire to create a Seward Johnson sculpture installation in front of the New Providence Memorial Library.  The production was dedicated to Marjan Nirou-Saniee , the founder of NP Public Art, who lost her long battle with cancer this past spring.

Watching this play is a little like bumping into your old gang of friends after 40 years, and they haven’t changed a bit. The play centers around everyone’s favorite angst-ridden character, Charlie Brown. His dread and insecurities, played perfectly by Jack Nissen, propel the musical along, as well as the 16 musical numbers, which show off each cast member.  The whole Peanuts gang is represented here, Will Nissen plays Linus, the famous ink-drawn philosopher, Katherine Ertman, his bossy and tyrannical sister Lucy and rounding out the cast is Sally Brown (Grace Petersen), Schroeder (Dexter Kennedy), Frieda (Olivia Haas) and a special mention should go to Henrik Harman and Elizabeth Bigham as Snoopy and Woodstock. This duo lit up every scene they were a part of.

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John Ertman, who directed the play and worked on this production for a month and a half, is a recent graduate of NPHS.  He has been working as an actor in theater for eight years, an experience that has helped him step into the role of director, “I learned what it really took to get into a role. What questions did I need to ask and to answer? What do I need to do to make the scene believable to me, my scene partner and the audience? I learned how to answer all of those questions and more. Doing so has allowed for an easy transition into the role of director because I knew what each actor had to do to make a scene click.”  Ertman also worked as an intern for NPHS drama teacher Craig Duke this spring, “It was there I saw for the first time a scene from a director’s point of view and I learned how to properly stage a scene, and prompt the actors to get a scene where it needs to be.”

Getting this play on it’s feet must have seemed like old times as the production was produced and performed by many NPHS recent graduates and current students, as well as students from nearby towns.  John Ertman (Director/Lighting Designer) and Lara Gavagan (Choregrapher) graced the stage this spring at NPHS as the lead actors in “The Sound of Music.” They teamed up again for this inaugural production, along with a cast that spanned many age groups from a fifth grader to high school graduates and from nearby school districts.

The production team consisted of many recent NPHS graduates, Jeffery Blitt, Kelly Sherman, Joanna Messineo, Maggie Kruger, Natalie Pereira, Ashima Agarwal and Sasha Kandybin. Ertman commented on collaborating with his old schoolmates “I have a wonderful cast that make my job easy and fun. I have worked with all of the cast on numerous shows as an actor which made the job that much easier.”

Theresa Turner, a long time fundraising collaborator with Nirou-Saniee, spoke before the play began, “This show you’re about to see continues that collaboration. I’m incredibly grateful to Sam Nissen and Elizabeth Ertman for producing this show, and to the creative team of John, Joe and Lara for directing and choreographing. Marjan was in her glory during those plays we put on, and she would be so proud again to see the community come together to raise money for this cause that meant so much to her.”

No Drama Theater is a non-profit theater company located in New Providence, NJ. Their main mission is to promote young performers and theater artists with ages ranging from middle school through college. Their season currently consists of one main stage show during the summer months. Future plans include providing performance space and opportunities for other high school and college repertory companies to perform in conjunction with their fundraising activities. 

Remaining performance is Saturday, July 29 at 7:30 pm and will be held at the New Providence Recreation Center, 360 Elkwood Avenue, New Providence, NJ (entrance is on Academy St.) Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets or at the door before each performance. Tickets purchased at the door will be cash only. All proceeds will be donated to NP Public Art to fund a new sculpture installation.