Newark Symphony Hall. WOW. I really wanted to write a blog to share my adventure that was through four floors of history and a venue that has a future unknown to them but beacons of staff who shine light of possibilities of darkness.Within five minutes of discussion I had already commended their passion for driving a venue that was currently empty of productions. The venue is a shell for possibilities and yes 5 miles from where the crow flies to Manhattan – its actually for me more impressive than some Broadway theatres. I get it. I understand this venue and here’s why.
A lot of people who work in venues – they just work there. But Jos and Ebony – of whom I had organised the meetings through – displayed an enormous amount of passion and determination to bring the community back into the theate. I want to share the story.
90 years ago this hall was full. It had noise echoing around the most majestic beams and roof I have seen. Performers including Whitney Houstonhad graced the stage – so this was not only a stage and a theatre. Revitalizing this venue is the biggest challenge. It’s got wrinkles – that’s called wear and tear but I am introduced to the walls as wrinkles. Genius. Firstly, on the outside – it looks like a closed bingo hall. It looks as if the shutters have been shut for years on the building. It looks like its lost. At the front it’s not a venue that is the beating heart of the street or neighbourhood. Its not popular. It doesn’t have a lot of shows. But it does have a pulse. A pulse of ambition that beats fast for all to see. Yes it has the small conventions, events and so on…but not what a theatre could and should have.
The venue, as I said looks lost, but the staff ain’t. They in the middle of it – like clogs that just keep turning. There job ain’t painting – but they paint. They are the ones that are driving the bus along the highway they might keep hitting roadblock after roadblock but actually for me it makes the pillars of this venue stronger. Pillars are not just the structural buildings it’s the team and this venue has just that. Strength from each corner. It’s true and pure Newark residents or those just out of university and wanting to impact there own community – I saw and heard it all. I fully believe in my arts body this theatre has two hidden gems – the rooms and the people. Both are not in every city but here in Newark they have it.
But let me tell you about Newark. It’s the biggest city of New Jersey. Newark rised high, it then fell and now its beginning to born again. Yes, the streets are troubled but do I feel unsafe no I feel welcomed by the staff – where at first they call me “Mr Lamb…” and by the end of the meeting – 2 hours later – we are singing “There’s no business like show business…” The piano sat alone in a studio surrounded by mirrors were music is the heart of the education programs that happen to increase the arts in the community. By nurturing the arts they potentially could find the next Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, Beyoncé or Dionne Warwick. The middle of Newark is a community. Is it a tourist attraction – not a chance. No one comes here. I was out of place as I strolled about looking like a double glazing sales man. Even the police officer who I asked for directions from queried my intentions – for my safety.
I haven’t wanted to help a venue as much as I do with Newark Symphony Hall. They need the global arts community to see the potential. It will change this city when the doors are revolving constantly. I promise that Broadway is missing an absolute treat by not coming to the community and performing on a stage with more history than any other stage. Musicians, artists and comedians need to bash heads together and get a new audience to come and explore the majestic class of Newark…
Check it out: