WEST ORANGE, NJ — The staff members of Pleasant Valley Productions, a nonprofit theater company, were at the Township Council meeting on Feb. 4 to present the year-end report of the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center. PVP took over operations of OSPAC in May; Artistic Director Camille DiLorenzo and Executive Director Laura Naranjo gave the report.
“Almost immediately following our agreement with the township last May, we plowed into work at OSPAC,” DiLorenzo said. “Our initial goal was to prepare the facility for a summer of community events. We reached out for help, utilizing many of our resources and relationships we have established over our years of experience in the performing arts to create a season of entertainment.”
Events at the amphitheater on Boland Drive included “Latin Night,” “Summer Fest,” “Broadway Under the Stars” and a Tom Petty tribute band. PVP also put on a production of the musical “Hair,” in addition to holding the annual “West Orange Idol” talent competition and the Love+Unity Fest.
“Programming and operating expenses are very high, and while we worked some magic in 2019 by tapping into our well of resources through our performing arts relationships, we now must count on financial support from local businesses, corporate donors and potential grant opportunities in order to move forward with our plans for this summer at OSPAC,” DiLorenzo said.
PVP did make a small profit in 2019, and Councilman Joe Krakoviak asked how the company was able to do so.
“There are many things we did to keep costs down this summer that we’ll never be able to do again,” DiLorenzo said, mentioning that the staff and board members donated their own in-kind supplies and relied on performers they knew for “Broadway Under the Stars.” “The orchestra that would cost $8,000 and will cost $8,000 this year is an old colleague of mine. She’s a professional conductor and the 30 musicians were musicians I know or she knows. To get us up and running for our first season at OSPAC we pulled out a lot of favors from a lot of people we’ve known over the years.”
According to DiLorenzo, a musical like “Hair” would normally cost approximately $18,000 to produce, but the director, choreographer, musical director and musicians donated their time. That’s not something PVP can do again.
“That’s unheard of,” DiLorenzo said. “So they’re our people, but we can’t dip into that well again.”
Naranjo said that even though they won’t be able to find a free musical production team again, PVP is ready to tap into the arts community in West Orange for support.
“It’s not something that we can count on moving forward, but it kind of goes to show the excitement the community has in what we brought,” she said at the meeting. “The performing arts community was very excited about what we were doing and wanted to achieve, and wanted to help us succeed. We need to tap into those resources now that we have more time to prepare our season and more time to expand our budget.”
DiLorenzo said that this year PVP is going to stress the importance of donations from the business community and residents in town. Two performances are already scheduled — one a production of “Driving Miss Daisy” in April and the other a youth theater workshop in May. The OSPAC board will also be operating through this year’s season; the board comprises a member of PVP, council liaison Councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown, a representative from the Recreation Department, a representative from the Department of Public Works and a representative from the West Orange Arts Council.
Councilman Jerry Guarino asked Naranjo and DiLorenzo to let the council know what they need to make OSPAC successful throughout 2020.
“I need you to tell us what more we can do, what more the Downtown Alliance can do and what the community needs to do to spark more interest and get more support,” he said at the meeting. “Like you said, ticket sales alone don’t cover the cost of great artwork.”