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  • Writer's pictureMonmouth Arts

Holmdel Theatre Company Embraces Past and Future

By Margaret Goddard

Photo by Daniel Buckley of Jennifer Damiano at Broadway at the Barn

In 2019, Holmdel Theatre Company received an ArtHelps Local Arts Program Grant from Monmouth Arts for its accessible and high-quality performances. As part of our "Membership Month," we wanted to highlight this stellar re-grantee for the creative and moving productions it’s offering this season.


Situated in a 125-year-old barn transformed into a modern theater, Holmdel Theatre Company provides a unique setting for productions that move and inspire.

Walking through the front door into the lobby, you’re greeted with string lights above you and posters from past productions at the theater going back 30 years. You walk into the barn, and immediately notice the weight of the rafters, the tall lush curtains, and the textured historic wood. As big as the barn is, the floor where audience and actors meet feels small and intimate.

Wendell Smith and co-founder Paul Hart started the Duncan Smith Theater (the barn where HTC lives) to honor the life and spirit of Duncan Smith, an aspiring actor who passed away at a young age. Duncan and his high school friends would return from college in the summers and perform locally, forming a kind of theater troupe. HTC continues this legacy of education and community among actors.

In the documentary by Nicholas Marchese, Hart talks about his vision for HTC in the future: "Our hope is that it stays alive, and not just by existing, {but rather} like a plant that's alive, that sends out new shoots. Some of them grow; some of them don't. It gets taller; it gets wider. It explores its environment and that's what this company should do."

In addition to classic hits, HTC always has their eye on newer works that comment on the struggles of our time with joy and curiosity. In January’s "The Pink Unicorn," Tony Award winner Alice Ripley played a Texan mother who comes to face trans and gender issues when her daughter comes out as genderqueer. In March, HTC will perform The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, a play about Henry David Thoreau’s run-in with the law, bringing the still-relevant concept of civil disobedience into the spotlight.

The popular "Broadway at the Barn" series has brought Tony Award winners and Broadway stars to Holmdel. It’s a simple cabaret-style performance where audience members get up close and personal with the singer. Visiting actors and singers teach master classes and collaborate with local actors and students as much as possible, keeping true to the founders' vision: to provide a community space where students and professionals can work together.

2020 marks Holmdel Theatre Company's 30th anniversary. BroadwayWorld 2020 Regional Awards recently named HTC “Best Community Theater Company.”


Upcoming events:

First Monday of the month

New works are given their first voice and established works are performed just for fun or sampled to be included in future main stage productions. Evenings consist of a play reading performance followed by a lively audience discussion.

Saturday, February 29, 7-9 pm

Reading: Lonne Elder’s Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, in partnership with NJ Creative Arts Collaborative. A portrait of a Harlem family that dreams of a better life, but pursues it in tragic ways.

March 27 - April 11

A story of the events leading up to the night Henry David Thoreau spent in a Concord, Massachusetts, jail after refusing to pay a poll tax which he thought would pay for a war he opposed.

Friday, April 17, 8 pm

Broadway's Rock of Ages and ELF star Amy Spanger comes to HTC for her installment of Broadway at the Barn.

Friday, May 8, 8 pm

A play comprised of monologues derived from real stories of people around the world whose lives were profoundly and positively affected by their experience with the musical RENT. Written and directed by Fredi Walker-Browne.

July 10 - July 26

It is the Fourth of July in a small town in Connecticut, and high school Valedictorian Richard Miller is in the throes of his romantic woes. Facing disapproval at home and on the outs with his girl, Richard drowns his sorrows and sets out on a drunken bender, with hilarity hot on his heels.


Interested in becoming a member like Holmdel Theatre Company did? Become a member of Monmouth Arts today!

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