Grunin Center Welcomes Shannon Mayers, Executive and Artistic Director

The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts and the Robert J. Novins Planetarium at Ocean County College are pleased to announce that Shannon Mayers has been hired as Executive and Artistic Director after a national executive search guided by Arts Consulting Group. 

Mayers began her new position at OCC on July 12 and will be responsible for all activities of the two centers. She has more than 25 years’ experience in the arts, with extensive management and curatorial experience in professional and academic settings, including at the Arts Brookfield in New York City, the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, and, most recently, the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College in New Hampshire. Throughout her career, Shannon Mayers has produced and presented more than 1,000 performances, working with artists from 100 nations, ranging from celebrities like Bruce Springsteen to South African artists Ladysmith Black Mambazo. 

She earned her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and her BS in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and has been a guest lecturer at Theatre for a New Audience, Actors Theater of Louisville, Connecticut College, Queens College, College of Staten Island and Georgia Southern University. 

Mayers is originally from New York City and was raised in an artistic family with a mother who was an actress. “I grew up within the arts and was lucky to have it all around me,” she says. “I loved to go to shows and museums and was always hanging out at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center.” 

Over time, Mayers discovered that she loved the big picture — the totality of an event — and went into arts administration, after many years working in directing, teaching and event production. She sees her long career in the arts as a series of building blocks of areas that were of interest to her. 

She loves working in higher education, “where the arts can become an incubator for new ideas and research, and where experiences are expanded. It’s a great place to take risks and work with a variety of students and faculty on different projects that are connected to their learning and teaching,” she says. “Making the arts happen, is one of my passions. I want people to know — and it’s important for everyone to know — that the arts can happen anywhere.” 

“One of my strategic priorities is to increase our visibility and our audience to new groups that may not have considered participating or supporting the arts here in the past,” she says. “My passion is to entertain and engage audiences, inspire and enlighten the next generation of art enthusiasts, and to champion the arts as vital to the soul of every community.” 

Another one of Mayers’ goals is to institute what she calls “Creative Connections,” a new arts series that will offer a variety of free public programming for the campus as well as the wider community. 

Mayer also is excited to oversee the Novins Planetarium and plans to continue to integrate the sciences into the arts, which have a scientific component that people may not realize. To this end, the two centers (Grunin and Novins) may offer more integrated events in the future. 

“An arts center within a college or university setting exposes a wide variety of people to what the whole college has to offer. The arts should be as accessible as possible. It’s clear how OCC values the arts — giving students the chance to learn by doing, and sharing what they learn. Sharing the arts is a holistic, integrated experience. The arts allow a safe place for dialog about challenging topics and it’s wonderful to see the College embracing that. I’m very committed to this,” she adds. 

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Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Grant to support “Mobilizing Our Community” program

TOMS RIVER, NJ — The National Endowment for the Arts is awarding the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College a grant of $10,000 to support a collaboration with mobile artist Kevin Reese called “Mobilizing Our Community.”

“All Americans should have access to the arts,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Grants such as this one the Grunin Center are an important part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ work to ensure people in communities both large and small across the nation have the opportunity to experience the arts.” 

“Mr. Reese is an actor, designer, and visual artist with 40 years of experience working with young people as a performer and artist-in-residence,” said Mark Wilson, Director of Cultural Affairs for the Grunin Center. He is also a teacher of math, history, geometry, and physics, which he merges with his knowledge of art and art history. “Mr. Reese works with communities to create large permanent moving sculptures – at schools, community centers, and art centers – inspired by participants’ designs,” Wilson added. “This program connects both geographically and economically disadvantaged people, who may not have had the opportunity to participate in such a large-scale art project.”

During this collaboration, Reese conduct community-based workshops at OCC as well as school-based residencies to facilitate more intensive learning opportunities. During these school visits, he will work with students to create miniature “maquette” mobiles, installed as part of the larger public display. As they create individual pieces, students must learn to balance together to create a whole piece of art that will be a legacy and will open a dialogue about the importance of art and art’s place in a community. Students will work on life skills that include teamwork, critical thinking, community building, confidence building, and communication skills.

“We will use this educational tool to connect diverse communities together through arts education,” Wilson noted. 

About the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts 

The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College, is a performing arts center dedicated to providing art and entertainment to Ocean County and the Jersey Shore. Featuring premiere acts from across the globe, the Grunin Center’s intimate venue allows patrons to experience once-in-a-lifetime from venerated artists, hometown musicians, and unique entertainers. Music performances of all genres, theatre, film, and dance make their way to the Grunin Center stage each season. The Grunin Center is also the home to young performers from various educational performing arts organizations, including Ocean County College students from the performing arts and fine arts programs, and the Ocean County and NJ State Teen Arts Festivals. Our Art Gallery highlights local artists by displaying several collections throughout the year. Additionally, the Garden State Philharmonic is the Orchestra-in-Residence. For more information, visit grunincenter.org.

About the National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more.

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Rufus Wainwright Comes to Grunin Center Main Stage August 23

TOMS RIVER, NJ — Rufus Wainwright, one of the great male vocalists, composers, and songwriters of his generation, will present “Oh Solo Wainwright: An Evening with Rufus,” with special guest The Rails, at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at 8:00 pm on Friday, August 23

The Grunin Center is located on the OCC Main Campus, on College Drive in Toms River.

Wainwright – who has collaborated with artists such as Elton John, David Byrne, Robbie Williams, Mark Ronson, Joni Mitchell, and Burt Bacharach – has released eight studio albums, three DVDs, and three live albums. His album “Rufus Does Judy,” recorded at Carnegie Hall in 2006, was nominated for a Grammy.

His acclaimed first opera, “Prima Donna,” premiered at the Manchester International Festival in July 2009 and has since been presented in London, Toronto, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. This summer it will be performed at the Armel Opera Festival in Hungary and Augsburg Theatre in Germany.  In 2015, Deutsche Grammaphon released a studio recording of the opera recorded with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Wainwright celebrated the 400thanniversary of Shakespeare’s death with his most recent album, “Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets,” released by on Deutsche Grammophon in spring 2016.

The Canadian Opera Company commissioned Wainwright’s second opera – “Hadrian,” about Roman Emperor Hadrian – which premiered in Toronto in the fall of 2018.

Main Stage Tickets: $39-$59

VIP Meet & Greet Package: $209

Includes:

1 Premium Seat

1 Meet & Greet and Photo with Rufus Wainwright

1 Exclusive Merch Gift 1 Commemorative VIP Laminate

92.7 WOBM is the official media sponsor of the 2018-2019 Grunin Center Season. 

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ALEXIS MORRAST PERFORMS JAZZ ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Alexis Morrast

TOMS RIVER, NJ — Seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter Alexis Morrast has proved her chops by twice taking the title at Amateur Night at the Apollo, and also winning “Showtime at the Apollo,” a Fox TV program hosted by Steve Harvey. This month, Morrast will grace the main stage of the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts. “Introducing Alexis Morrast” is set for 3:00 pm on Sunday, March 31, part of the arts center’s Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon Series.

The Grunin Center is located on the Ocean County College Main Campus, on College Drive in Toms River.

The youngest of six children, Morrast began singing at the age of three. The 17-year-old phenom and native of Newark, New Jersey, now resides in Plainfield, New Jersey. In addition to her success at the Apollo, Morrast was the recipient of the 2017 Hot House Magazine “Best Up and Coming Young Artist Award.”

Tickets: Adults $24, Seniors $20

New Jersey Jazz Society is a proud media sponsor of the Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon Series.

To purchase tickets, contact the Grunin Center at 732-255-0500 or visit grunincenter.org.

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AUTHOR TIM O’BRIEN VISITS THE GRUNIN CENTER ON MARCH 28

Tim O'Brien

TOMS RIVER, NJ — Last year the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Arts Midwest awarded Toms River Regional Schools a $15,000 grant to host NEA Big Read, the aim of which is to broaden understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. On Thursday, March 28, at 6:30 pm, Tim O’Brien – author of “The Things They Carried” – will visit the Jay and Linda Grunin Center of the Arts as the culmination of Toms River’s 2018-2019 NEA Big Read. 

This event, which will feature a book discussion followed by a Q&A and a book signing, is free and open to the public. The Grunin Center is located on the Ocean County College Main Campus, on College Drive in Toms River.

O’Brien received the National Book Award in Fiction in 1979 for his novel “Going After Cacciato,” and his work “In the Lake of the Woods,” published in 1994, was chosen by Time Magazineas the best novel of that year. The book also received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was selected as one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times

In 2005, “The Things They Carried” was named by The New York Timesas one of the 22 best books of the last quarter century. It received the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award in fiction and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The French edition of “The Things They Carried” received one of France’s most prestigious literary awards, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. The title story from “The Things They Carried” received the National Magazine Award and was selected by John Updike for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century.  

In 2010, O’Brien received the Katherine Anne Porter Award, presented by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for a distinguished lifetime body of work. Two years later, he received the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. In 2013, O’Brien received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Literature from the Pritzker Military Library, and in 2018 he received the Mark Twain Award in literature. 

O’Brien’s short fiction has appeared in The New YorkerThe AtlanticEsquirePlayboyHarper’s Magazine, and numerous editions of The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Best American Short Stories. His novels have sold more than six million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages.

This event is presented by: the Toms River Regional School District, NEA Big Read, Ocean County College, and the Ocean County College Foundation. For more information, contact the Grunin Center at 732-255-0500 or visit grunincenter.org.

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HAIRSPRAY SING-ALONG WITH HOST JEREMY GRUNIN!

Hairspray

TOMS RIVER, NJ — Join host Jeremy Grunin – aka Edna Turnblad – for a hilarious “Hairspray” Sing-Along on the main stage of the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College, at 8:00 pm on Friday, March 22. 

The film “Hairspray” is set in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1962, and follows teenager Tracy Turnblad as she follows her dream to appear on The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance program. When Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight, meets a colorful array of characters, and launches a campaign to integrate the show.

Get your hair done and your vocal chords warmed up and join us for this upbeat, fun-loving, can’t-stop-the-beat sing-along at the Grunin Center. Don’t know all the words? No problem! We’ll have them onscreen to make sure you keep up. You can’t help but feel good watching this film remake’s star-studded cast, including Zac Efron, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, and John Travolta.

Dressing up is encouraged! And show us your best 1960s hairdo!

Tickets to the “Hairspray” Sing-Along are $10.

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92.7 WOBM is the official media sponsor of the 2018-2019 Grunin Center Season. 

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A LOVE LETTER TO BROADWAY PRESENTED BY THE OCC REPERTORY THEATRE COMPANY

A Love Letter to Broadway

TOMS RIVER, NJ — The Ocean County College Repertory Theatre Company will bring their production of A Love Letter to Broadway to the Black Box Theater at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts from March 8 through March 17

Join the theatre company as they present a rousing collection of musical favorites spanning decades and styles. You’ll enjoy a delightful show featuring well-known hits (and some misses), the up-tempo, the ballad, and the rock n’ roll jukebox. If you’re a fan of Broadway musicals, this is a show you don’t want to miss!

Seating in the Black Box Theater is General Admission, and at an intimate 90 seats, shows often sell out fast. So don’t delay- get your tickets today!

Get Tickets!

Performances:

Friday, March 8 at 7:30 pm

Saturday, March 9 at 8:00 pm

Sunday, March 10 at 2:00 pm – Sold Out

Thursday, March 14 at 7:30 pm

Friday, March 15 at 7:30 pm

Saturday, March 16 at 8:00 pm

Sunday, March 17 at 2:00 pm – Sold Out

A Love Letter to Broadway Creative Team:

Paul Chalakani, Director

Beth Brierley, Choreographer

Kara Leigh, Musical Director

Lauren Schwartz, Lighting Designer/Stage Manager

Stephan Caldwell, Set Designer/Technical Director

A Love Letter to Broadway Cast: Taylor Bongarzone, Brandon Burns, Connor Dosch, Javier Fuentes, Samantha Gertner, Becky Hobba, Cassie Jones, Thomas Krey, Donovan Lee, Becky Malinowski, Amanda Mason, Kelly Morrissey, Marley Pullen, Megan Rafferty, Derek Rizzo, Arianna Scarano, Cameron Schlussler, Rubin Smyers, John Thompson, Mike Thullner, Katie Whalen

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors, and can be purchased online at grunincenter.org; by phone at 732-255-0500; or in person at the Grunin Center Box Office, Monday to Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Ask about group and student rates.

92.7 WOBM is the official media sponsor of the 2018-2019 Grunin Center Season.  The Grunin Center is located on the OCC Main Campus, College Drive, Toms River, NJ.

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Just Announced: An Evening with Todd Frazier – January 19, 2018 at 8:00pm.

Hometown baseball hero Todd Frazier will join fans from his native Toms River for an evening of baseball talk on Friday, January 19, 2018. Along with moderator Russ Salzberg, Todd will discuss his experiences playing baseball and growing up in Toms River, all the way through his current Major League Baseball success.

Known just as much for his down-to-earth personality and perpetually sunny disposition as his All-Star play, Todd Frazier is no stranger to the public eye.

Frazier was a star on the Toms River East American Little League All-Star team that won the 1998 Little League World Series. He is a Rutgers Baseball alum, and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007. Frazier was the winner of the 2015 MLB Home Run Derby on his home field in Cincinnati. In 2015 Frazier was traded to the Chicago White Sox and in 2017 he was traded to and currently plays for the New York Yankees.

Starting Friday, October 20, 2017 at 10:00am, tickets will go on sale to Grunin Center Subscribers ONLY, by phone or walk-up. Tickets for Grunin Center Subscribers will also be discounted for a limited time to $25 each, a savings of $10 off the face value (ticket processing fees and optional shipping fees apply). All patrons are eligible to purchase a Grunin Center Subscription between now and Monday, November 13, 2017 to be eligible for the Subscriber price!

Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 10:00am for $35 each.

The Grunin Center Box Office is open Monday – Friday, from 10am to 5pm. You can call us at 732-255-0500 to purchase your Grunin Center Subscription and Early Access tickets!

A pre-show Meet & Greet will take place for event sponsors. If you are interested in becoming an event sponsor, please email grunincenter@ocean.edu

Play Ball!

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COUNT BASIE THEATRE, GRUNIN CENTER FOR THE ARTS ANNOUNCE AREA TEENS TAPPED FOR PERFORMANCES OF BRUNDIBÀR AND FRIEDL

Performances set for the weekend of August 19th in Red Bank and Toms River; cast culled from Basie Performing Arts Academy camp with famed Los Angeles Opera director Eli Villanueva and musical director Jason Tramm.

(RED BANK, NJ | JULY 12, 2017) The Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy has revealed the names of cast members studying under Los Angeles Opera director Eli Villanueva for a pair of performances in collaboration with the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College.

The students, part of a two-week intensive headed by Villanueva, will perform Brundibár and Friedl, a pair of dramatic presentations set in Germany’s Theredienstadt concentration camp during World War II. Villanueva will be joined by musical director Jason Tramm, an assistant professor and director of choral activities at Seton Hall University.

Tickets for the Count Basie Theatre performance at 8PM on Saturday, Aug. 19 and the Grunin Center performance at 2PM on Sunday, Aug. 20 are on sale now by clicking through or visiting the venue box offices. All tickets are priced at $20.

Brundibár and Friedl tell important stories of a part our history that we cannot forget or allow to happen again,” said Adam Philipson, President and CEO, Count Basie Theatre. “The stories demonstrate how even under the direst of circumstances, the arts can be transformative.”

“I believe that our performances, made up of some of the most talented young vocalists in Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean counties, will convey the important messages of the need to overcome injustice and forge a path of tolerance and mutual understanding.”

The following young vocalists have been named to the Brundibár and Friedl casts:

Brundibár: Lauryn Boyle (Wall, chorus); Lev Brewer (Tinton Falls, chorus); Catherine Creed (Highlands, chorus); Cakie Dym (Rumson, chorus); Frances Forte (Rumson, ‘Little Joe’); Amir Kamal (East Brunswick, chorus); Jack Kelly (Toms River, chorus); Olivia Lee (Manahawkin, chorus); Isabella Lee (Manahawkin, chorus); Lydia Lu (Red Bank, chorus); Olivia Marino (Toms River, chorus); Regina Messenger (Toms River, chorus); Isabella Moitoso (Holmdel, chorus); Alejandra Morales (Bayville, ‘Milkman’); Amanda Philipson (Little Silver, ‘Bird’); Andreas Psillos (Toms River, ‘Policeman’) Camille Pugliese (Red Bank, ‘Ice Cream Vendor’); Abigail Pukin (Holmdel, ‘Annette’); Sofia Ranucci (Interlaken, ‘Baker’); Francesca Ranucci (Interlaken, chorus); Nevaeh Sickles (Ocean, chorus); Mia Spallina (Manahawkin, chorus); Grace Sweeney (West Long Branch, chorus); Claire Taylor (Ocean, ‘Dog’); Ria Kiafoulis (Middletown, chorus); Alexandra Pennington (Middletown, chorus); Skylar Yannello (Holmdel, ‘Cat’); Nick DiBlasi (Holmdel, chorus); Trinitee Smith (Red Bank, chorus); Eli Fisch (Elberon, chorus); Alicia Henderson (Manalapan, chorus); Amaya Love (Lakewood, chorus); Nevaeh Love (Lakewood; chorus)

Friedl: Lauryn Boyle (Wall, chorus); Lev Brewer (Tinton Falls, ‘Jerry Rind’); Catherine Creed (Highlands, ‘Tella’); Frances Forte (Rumson, chorus); Amir Kamal (East Brunswick, ‘Josef Novak’); Jack Kelly (Toms River, ‘Ivo Keo Kaytz’); Olivia Lee (Manahawkin, chorus); Isabella Lee (Manahawkin, chorus); Lydia Lu (Red Bank, ‘Ruth’); Olivia Marino (Toms River, ‘Ela’) Isabella Moitoso (Holmdel, chorus); Amanda Philipson (Little Silver, ‘Anita’); Andreas Psillos (Toms River, ‘Peter Ginz’); Camille Pugliese (Red Bank, chorus) Abigail Pukin (Holmdel, ‘Helga’); Sofia Ranucci (Interlaken, ‘Eva’); Nevaeh Sickles (Ocean, ‘Maria’); Mia Spallina (Manahawkin, ‘Flaska’); Claire Taylor (Ocean, ‘Friedl’); Ria Kiafoulis (Middletown, ‘Lilly’); Alexandra Pennington (Middletown, chorus); Skylar Yannello (Holmdel, chorus); Nick DiBlasi (Holmdel, chorus); Trinitee Smith (Red Bank, chorus); Eli Fisch (Elberon, chorus); Alicia Henderson (Manalapan, chorus); Amaya Love (Lakewood; chorus).

Brundibár, by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása, tells the story of a brother and sister who join forces with a sparrow, a cat and a dog to outwit an evil organ grinder named Brundibár. Brundibár was performed by the children of Theresienstadt concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia, and has since been staged around the world to symbolize the plight of people joining forces to fight intolerable situations. “It was performed at the camp 55 times, providing distraction and perhaps a small respite from the misery,” according to the New York Times. “But it was also exploited by the Nazis for propaganda purposes in their attempts to present Theresienstadt as a comfortable environment.”

Friedl tells the story of Theresienstadt prisoner Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a teacher from Prague who, like all prisoners, were permitted to carry just 50 kilos of personal belongings. While most prisoners understandably chose to pack valuables and personal belongings, Dicker-Brandeis used her allowance to carry art supplies. “Upon arrival in Theresienstadt, children were forcefully separated from their parents and family and sent to live alone in overcrowded children’s houses,” according to the World Holocaust Remembrance Center (www.yadvashem.org), “The starvation, illness and brutality of Theresienstadt, along with lack of stability and structure, put an enormous strain on the coping mechanisms of these children. They desperately needed direction and purpose, and Friedl was there to give them that.”

The Basie’s inaugural opera camp season is sponsored by OceanFirst, and Brundibár is presented by arrangement with Bote & Block Berlin and Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

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