NJAI has summer fun planned for the OSPAC stage

Photo by Amanda Valentovic
This beautiful outdoor stage at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center will host several New Jersey Arts Incubator events this summer.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The New Jersey Arts Incubator’s summer season is in full swing, with events being held every few days until mid-September. Located at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center on Boland Drive in West Orange, the outdoor venue hosts movie nights, music festivals and dance performances that appeal to all ages.

“Not everyone goes away in the summer,” NJAI creative director Susan Anderson said in a phone interview on July 28. “They do staycations instead. This provides entertainment and family fun for residents at home.”

For families who want to take movie night to the next level, NJAI will host three free movie nights. On Thursday, Aug. 10, at 7:30 p.m., “Monster Trucks” hits the big screen at OSPAC. For anyone who is a fan of the “Transformers” franchise, this movie with a similar concept is about a man who discovers a junkyard truck that feeds on fracking oil and he befriends it.

Marvel fans will want to head to OSPAC on Thursday, Aug. 17, at 7:30 p.m. to sit under the stars and watch “Ant-Man,” the 2015 superhero film starring Paul Rudd. Admirers of the comic book about a man who has a suit that shrinks him down to the size of an ant but increases his strength will enjoy watching an insect save the world.

To close out the summer movie nights, animal lovers will be able to see the Academy Award-winning “Zootopia” on Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 7:30 p.m. The movie, about a city of animals that live like humans, features a rabbit cop that teams up with a sneaky fox to solve a missing animal case.

“The movie nights are really popular and usually have great attendance,” Anderson said.

But movies in the great outdoors aren’t all that NJAI has to offer this summer. Music festivals are also a staple of OSPAC’s programming. Covering a variety of genres, people who are fans of everything from gospel to jazz to electronic music will find something to love.

“We try to mix up the offering so there’s something for everyone,” Anderson said. “House music has become popular in the region, especially in New Jersey and New York.”

The Househead Summerfest on Saturday, Aug. 12, is the third event of its kind by NJAI and will feature DJs and house musicians, including Lionel “DJ Burt” Burton, Stephon Johnson, Kevin O and Jazzy B, with all-day DJ Jose Burgos. The event will be hosted from noon to 9:30 p.m. by DJ Sir Charles Dixon and Tony “Tune” Herbert. Attendees who want great seats should bring their own chairs or blankets.

Continuing the theme of music festivals, NJAI is hosting the Gospel Summerfest the following day on Sunday, Aug. 13, from 2 to 6 p.m. An event that the whole family can enjoy, with reasonably priced tickets, the day of gospel fun is hosted by Kyle Abercrombie and Patrick Thorpe and will include performances by DJ Rich Williams, the band George Sykes & S3 and the Truths, and singers Dawn Tallman and Darren Deac, among others.

Covering the genres of reggae and ska, the Rude Summer concert featuring Rude Boy George will be filling the fields at OSPAC on Saturday, Aug. 19, beginning at 7 p.m. The New York City-based band takes classic songs from the 1980s and reimagines them into ska and reggae versions of their original forms. This free Rude Boy George concert will be family friendly.

As the summer winds down and school starts, families can head to the Love + Unity Festival on Saturday, Sept. 9, from 1 to 8 p.m. According to Anderson, the festival is one of the bigger summer events at OSPAC and will feature local bands and vendors. The free day of fun will have food trucks for lunch and dinner and bouncy houses for children, all while bands such as the soul and funk group Queen Bleu Nile, gospel singers APMD and rockers Arena Rock Tribute play onstage.

NJAI also has something to offer those who love to watch dance. On Thursday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m., Freespace Dance company will perform at OSPAC, showing off their athletically driven choreography. Tickets are charged.

Closing out NJAI’s summer season at OSPAC is the annual Jazz and Brew Fest on Saturday, Sept. 16. Starting at noon and closing at 8 p.m., the event is one of the longest running and most popular at the venue, according to Anderson.

“The Jazz Fest is going to be in its 14th year,” she said. “It’s one of our signature events. This has been going on since the center opened.”

Featuring jazz artists, including Oscar Perez, Alyson Williams, Jeff Bradshaw and the Citrus Youth Band, fans of all types of jazz will find something to enjoy. As for the brew, there will be a beer garden — a yearly fixture at the event — serving N.J. craft beer. Tickets can be purchased at www.njai.org/events.

“OSPAC is a township gem,” Anderson said about the facility. “The talent is phenomenal and the events at the facility are free or charge a very nominal fee. It provides entertainment and people can come and enjoy good music.”