Maplewood Strollers gear up for new season with fundraisers

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Returning for its 87th season, Maplewood Strollers are back with a full season of shows and two new fundraisers to kick off the festivities.

Founded in 1932, the community theater troupe’s name refers to the minstrels of medieval England, traveling entertainers. The Maplewood Strollers group was formed by two Columbia High School drama teachers to advance theater arts and provide an opportunity for education and entertainment. In 1989, the Burgdorff family donated the Burgdorff Center, which had formerly been utilized as a church, to the township of Maplewood with the stipulation that it would be the home base for the Strollers.

Each season, the troupe produces two plays and a musical, in addition to a show specifically for children in midwinter. This, combined with fundraisers to ensure the company is able to continue its shows, makes for a busy season.

This season will consist of Ken Ludwig’s comic mystery “The Game’s Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays” in November; Casey Bell’s children’s play “The Day the Rainbow Broke Up” in February; Arthur Miller’s adaptation of the Ibsen classic “An Enemy of the People” in March; and the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein, in May.

“We always start with a September fundraiser, and this year we are trying something new with Bingo,” Carol Cornicelli, the Strollers’ marketing chairperson, said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “We are also bringing back our line-dancing fundraiser, which we have done in the past with great success.”

The Bingo fundraiser takes place Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Burgdorff Center, 10 Durand Road in Maplewood, from 7 to 9 p.m. The line-dancing fundraiser will be just one week later on Saturday, Sept. 22, from 7 to 9 p.m., also at the Burgdorff. Both events are cash only with an admission fee, and refreshments will be available. A portion of the proceeds raised at Bingo night will be donated to Montclair Studio Players to help with that theater group’s flood-recovery efforts.

Past fundraisers have included performances by members of the company and community members, dining and dancing events, and various new productions.

Cornicelli said the fundraising efforts are also a way for the Strollers to include interested community members in their activities.

“The Maplewood Strollers allow you to try anything that you feel interested in: directing, designing, acting, fundraising —there are no limits on how many hats you can choose to wear,” she said. “For one of our fundraisers, we had a variety of stories, which were each directed by a different person. We are a nonprofit that has membership dues that serve as the start-up funding for each season, and we receive some grants and donations. If we break even on a show we feel fortunate; if we make money we are ecstatic.”

Cornicelli is a Maplewood resident who has taken part in community theater with other groups and was attracted to Maplewood Strollers initially because of its close proximity to her home, but she stayed because of the warm reception she received.

“I started with their production of ‘Follies’ and I just sort of fell into it. They are a very friendly group and very open and supportive,” she said. “You don’t need acting ability, and we encourage people who have no experience to come out and try something new. We use new people as much as we can and as often as we can. I have done designing, writing, public relations and fundraising, and it’s fun because I get to exercise all of my creative muscles in different ways.”

The Maplewood Strollers meet monthly and run a workshop program for aspiring directors, playwrights and directors. For more information, contact the organization at 973-761-8453 or [email protected]

Photos Courtesy of Carol Cornicelli