NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – State Theatre New Jersey, whose stage has been graced by crooners and comics, conductors and casts for 99 years, will be adding an illuminated 31-foot tall, 7-foot wide blade sign to its iconic façade.
The Planning Board voted Thursday during a special meeting to grant various bulk variances that will clear the way for the installation of the sign, which will be hanged from the top of the building and anchored on the building’s trademark panel marquee.
The additions of the blade sign and a smaller canopy sign above a side entrance are parts of the major facelift the theater is getting in time for her 100th birthday.
Many of the proposed interior upgrades announced by CEO Sarah K. Chaplin in August are aimed at bringing the building in compliance with Adults with Disabilities Act guidelines. Others will include modernizing and upgrading the stage rigging system, dressing rooms and lobby spaces.
The State Theatre, which is operated by Middlesex County, is aiming to reopen next summer.
In the spirit of the actors’ famous refrain - the show must go on -the performances inside this chandelier-lit auditorium have rarely been interrupted even as America fought wars and struggled with economic downturns. It was built toward the end of one pandemic (the Spanish Flu) and is being rebuilt in the midst of another one.
And even though COVID-19 managed to bring the curtain down on the theater in March, it has soldiered on with a variety of virtual programming.
It launched its Next Stage Campaign earlier this year. Officials said in August that the theater was almost 90% of the way to its goal of raising $26.5 million.
The variances granted Thursday night were necessary since the proposed project does not comply with city’s standards in terms of number of signs (one is allowed, but the building will have three), sign thickness (12 inches is require, but eight inches is being proposed) and other criteria.
One city resident participating in the meeting via telephonic technology voiced his concern about brightness of the illuminated sign late at night and early in the morning.
James F. Clarkin III, the attorney presenting the application to the board, agreed to a condition that the lights would be turned off 30 minutes after each performance.
Clarkin also pointed out that the blade sign would be reminiscent of a similar sign that hung on the façade back in the theater’s early days.