The following timeline highlights significant benchmarks in The Growing Stage’s history:

1982: Our company debuts at the Black River Playhouse in Chester, NJ; 500 patrons attend four Main Stage productions. Our touring company entertains 1200 students. Our annual budget is $30,000—the company was started with $1,500!

1984: The Growing Stage moves to the Williamson Building in Chester, beginning a ten-year association, and we become an established cultural fixture in northwestern Morris County. We receive final IRS determination as a 501-c-3 nonprofit corporation. Over the next several years, The Growing Stage opens a summer camp for the arts and establishes an intern program for theatre students.

1992: The Growing Stage becomes an associate member of the New Jersey Theatre Group – an association of professional theatres.

1994: The Growing Stage purchases the Palace Theatre in Netcong. Average season attendance grows to 6,000, and our touring company travels throughout the state. Our annual budget is $75,000.

1995: The Growing Stage opens the Palace with The Wizard of Oz, attracting 1,200 patrons in six performances.

1996: The Growing Stage becomes a professional member theatre of the Association of Actor’s Equity. Our annual attendance approaches 10,000.

Our most recent accomplishments include:

2008 – The Growing Stage received its first national recognition when it was awarded the Sara Spencer Award by the American Alliance for Theatre & Education for having made significant contributions to the field of theatre for young audiences.

2008 – Executive Director Stephen L. Fredericks received the 2008 Exemplary Performance in Nonprofit Management Award from the Community Foundation of New Jersey. This award is presented annually to recognize an outstanding and dedicated chief executive who has demonstrated exemplary nonprofit leadership and whose efforts have made a significantly impact upon the state of New Jersey.

2009 – Director of Educational Programming Lori B. Lawrence was named Arts Educator of the Year by the Arts Council of the Morris Area.

2010 – The Growing Stage was awarded $215,296 by the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust to complete Phase II of the Palace Theatre’s front façade restoration. This marked the fifth consecutive fully-funded grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust, for a total of $375,618.

2010 – State Senators Bucco and Oroho presented a Bill SJR68 that was passed first through the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee and then received unanimous support on the Senate floor with a 37-0 vote in favor in June 2011 officially designating The Growing Stage as the Children’s Theatre of New Jersey. 

2012 – The completion of the Palace Theatre’s front façade restoration was celebrated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony prior to the 31st season opening night presentation of Peter Pan.

The following highlights the significant accomplishments in The Growing Stage’s past three seasons 2013 – 2016:

  • In 2013 The Growing Stage received our 1st $10,000 grant from The Shubert Foundation in support of general operations. The Shubert Foundation is the nation’s largest private foundation dedicated to unrestricted funding of not-for-profit, professional performing arts. This was our 1st national award and have continued to be funded by them each season since.
  • On October 10, 2013 received the Building Construction Award from Preservation New Jersey for the completion of Phase II of the front facade of The Growing Stage’s home – the Palace Theatre.
  • The first pad of engraved bricks in our Palace Theatre “Walk of Fame” was installed in August, 2014. The new sidewalk will complement the building’s front façade and encourage additional paver sales.
  • During the 2014/15 season we installed a backstage bathroom, new carpeting in the lobby, and completed the installation of a new sound system.
  • In June, 2015 our grant request of $261,480 to the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund was fully funded. This will provide replacement of the roofs, new energy-efficient windows, and restoration of the three remaining parts of our façade.
  • The Growing Stage was the host site for the Creative Skylands Conference held in June, 2015. The forum invited a select cross-section of leaders in the arts, government, corporate community, education, philanthropic and non-profit service communities to look at unique challenges of our region and how we can collaborate to address them.
  • Two winners from our New Play Reading Festival have gone on to achieve additional accolades. Anne Negri’s play WITH TWO WINGS that debuted at our theatre received the 2014 Distinguished Play Award and Emily Freeman, whose piece AND THEN CAME TANGO which will make its World Premiere on our stage in 2015 received the Distinguished Thesis Award by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.
  • Our New Play Reading program received 162 submissions in 2014 from playwrights in 30 states across our country, Australia, England, France, Canada, New Zealand and Nova Scotia. This is up from the 101 we received in 2013. This season had a similar response of over 150 new works submitted once again!
  • The Growing Stage Board of Trustees adopted the resolution to establish an endowment to meet the future needs of our home, The Palace Theatre. The goal to be raised the first year was $100,000.00 was met in March, 2015 by a three year pledge made by the Brueckner Family Foundation. The new goal is $250,000 to ensure that our facility continues to be honored for its history, while being improved for our audiences tomorrow!