WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Township Council approved on first reading at its April 30 meeting a licensing agreement that will allow Pleasant Valley Productions to run the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center. The ordinance passed with a vote of 2-1; council members Susan McCartney and Cindy Matute-Brown voted yes and Councilman Joe Krakoviak voted no. Councilwoman Michelle Casalino was absent and council President Jerry Guarino abstained because he is on the Pleasant Valley Productions Board of Trustees. If approved on second reading, Pleasant Valley Productions will replace New Jersey Arts Incubator as the licensors of OSPAC.
Pleasant Valley Productions was founded in 2010 and became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2011. The community theater has held shows at Roosevelt Middle School, Luna Stage and Pleasantdale Presbyterian Church, where it held rehearsals. When the church closed and was torn down last year, PVP needed a new venue.
Camille DiLorenzo, PVP’s artistic director said at the meeting that the theater group has used space in Caldwell and Montclair during the last few years but has been hoping to return to West Orange.
“With our years of experience producing theater and programs, we are committed to bringing back summer musical theater, concerts of all musical genres, special events in collaboration with the West Orange Recreation Department, to continue family movie night, and to give an opportunity to the newly formed West Orange Community Band to perform,” DiLorenzo said at the meeting.
The township will not provide funding to PVP for programming, and DiLorenzo said the first thing the organization will do, if the ordinance is approved, is to begin a fundraising campaign. Because the cost of producing shows would likely exceed the amount of money taken in from ticket sales, fundraising is necessary.
“We are excited to share community programming with you and grateful to the township for allowing us this opportunity,” DiLorenzo said.
Downtown West Orange Alliance Executive Director Megan Brill spoke in support of DiLorenzo and PVP at the meeting, saying her experience working with DiLorenzo on several DWOA events makes her confident the organization is a good fit for OSPAC.
“I’m sure that we’re going to have regular programming in addition to the stuff we did last year and a whole host of other things,” Brill said. “I’ve worked with her for a long time, and I can confidently say we’re in good hands.”
But West Orange resident Micaela Bennett encouraged the council to table the ordinance, saying that mismanagement of OSPAC in the past should be investigated before a new licensing agreement is put in place.
Krakoviak agreed, saying the council should not move forward with the new contract.
“Regardless of how great a potential vendor Pleasant Valley Productions could be for this I think, given what we know, we need to dig very deeply into what did and did not work and make sure the new license agreement does its best to reduce the chances of that happening again,” Krakoviak said.
Township attorney Richard Trenk said that investigating the prior tenant, NJAI, would not affect agreeing to a new licensing agreement with PVP. Trenk did not respond to a request for comment when asked why NJAI will no longer be running OSPAC. In an email to the West Orange Chronicle on May 5, Joe Fagan, the township’s public information officer, said no statement would be forthcoming about NJAI at this time.
“I want to move forward with someone that has been in the business for as long as they have,” Councilwoman Susan McCartney said about PVP at the meeting. “I know the professionalism of the organization. I agree with my colleague that there can be an investigation, but I believe it’s time to move on and put it in trusted hands.”
In an email to the Chronicle on May 5, Mayor Robert Parisi expressed support for PVP.
“The township is pleased that Pleasant Valley Productions Inc., a West Orange community-based theater and arts non-profit organization, with a proven track record, is willing to begin programming at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center,” Parisi said. “Pleasant Valley’s mission is to foster the theater and related programs among young artists. They have led after-school workshops at Roosevelt Middle School, concerts at the public library and performances at the West Orange Street Fair. We are honored that Pleasant Valley is coming home to help OSPAC serve the entire community.”