With that same sentiment, The Hudson Exploited Theatre Company has made it their mission to bring quality, professional, dramatic theatre to both sides of the Hudson River.
"We have always been locally based ever since we were children growing up in the area," said Arian Blanco of North Bergen, 32, who is one of the co-founders of the company. "We want to engage artists from the all over the area, and New York City is just as much a part of this area as the surrounding towns."
The non-profit, all volunteer artist collective, which has been in full operation since 1999, was first thought up by Blanco and Rogelio Martinez during the early '90s while attending Union Hill High School in Union City.
The bug that bit
"I got interested in theatre as a sophomore when Rogelio asked me to pull the curtains for the Passion play at the Park Theatre [in Union City] that year," said Blanco. "That got me interested. I got to meet different people in the artist community, and I thought, 'This is all right, this is fun.' "
Martinez, who has since achieved remarkable prestige as a playwright, wrote his first play his senior year of high school, which became the first collaboration between Blanco, himself, and their group of friends in what would become the Hudson Exploited Theatre Company.
A year later, during Blanco's senior year, he directed another play by Martinez entitled The Insider that debuted at the Union City Park Theatre's annual multi-arts festival in May of 1990 as the first official production of the company.
They participated again the following year with a play entitled The Tourist Trap, also by Martinez and directed by Blanco.
"Rogelio and I originally started it, and everyone else has come at different times," said Blanco.
That same year, while attending college, the group continued with two more performances hosted in New York City. However, they then separated to pursue their individual studies for the next few years.
Then, in December of 1999, Blanco and one of his original company members, Union City native Jim Thalman, decided to produce the classic play Of Mice And Men, and so the Hudson Exploited Theatre Company was resurrected.
Soon, old and new friends started to fold into the mix, and by June of 2000 the company presented its first annual Where Theatre Starts Reading Series.
"We get anywhere from 12 to 20 submissions annually," said Blanco.
The reading series is a nationwide call to playwrights for scripts of never-before seen one-act original dramatic or comedic works. One of the company's missions is to aid up-and-coming playwrights, and give them to opportunity to participate in their annual production season.
Currently, as part of their seasonal lineup, the company produces one original play for their New Jersey space and a New York City venue. Scripts usually taken into consideration are character-driven pieces that can be developed into full productions, and can be about 10 to 90 minutes long, with up to six characters.
As they continued to remake the company, Blanco and his posse worked in any rental space available to them around the city with no set base of operation. Finally, by October of 2000, after presenting Cuban Operator Please by company member Adrian Rodriguez, the Park Performing Arts Center in Union City, who first witnessed the birth of this company, invited them to share the venue space.
"There wasn't a place for local artists to congregate, and that's what I think started the current vision for the Hudson Exploited Theatre Company," said Blanco. "We didn't feel at the time there were venues available for us here, so we gravitated to the invitation by the Park Theatre."
Exploited on the Hudson
For the last five years, The Hudson Exploited Theatre Company has maintained an incredible track record of professional productions, has been the recipient of prestigious awards, and become a valued member of the artist community both in New York and New Jersey. They have also been annual participants in the annual New York City Fringe Festival.
"For me, I think we differ as a local theatre company because we don't perceive acting in New York as being competitive or separate; it's the same," said Blanco. "We just have a safe spot in New Jersey where we can develop a production, polish it, and if it has chops it can springboard to NYC."
There are currently 11 members in the company, which include six board members. Their official season runs from June through May, which kicks off with their annual reading series. Then they present a summer play in New York City, a modern classic in November (this year is Death of a Salesman), and an original work around January or February to exhibit in both New York and New Jersey.
"We do plays on both sides of the Hudson. We don't feel like we have to choose," said Blanco. "Hudson County is the bastard child sixth borough of New York City, so why not participate in that arena if it's there?"
Throughout the season the company also hosts quarterly Directors' Labs, which "seek to identify gifted local theatre artists by staging quarterly readings of plays selected and directed by directors at different levels of their careers."
Most of their funding comes through personal donations, and since becoming an official incorporated, non-profit organization for a little over a year, they have also received a county grant.
"The best kind of donation is people coming out, buying a ticket, and enjoying our programs," said Blanco. "We're all in it together."
As for the company's future plans, they hope to continue to be accessible for new artists and open doors of opportunity for them. At their current location in the Park Theatre, where they now have a fully operational black box theatre that seats 30 to 50 people, they hope to have a marquee for their separate entrance in the building. Their hope is also that Hudson Exploited will be seen as kin to places such as the Step and Wolf Theatre Company in Chicago, who are known as companies that champion the works of new artists.
"Its been a slow growth, but we produce a lot more than other theatre companies with larger budgets, and for us if we can't do a quality project, it's better not to do it," said Blanco.
Their next project, The Knowledge and Conversation of My Holy Guardian Angel or An Old Fashioned Love Story by Tom Sleigh, will debut at the New York City Fringe Festival from August 13 through the 29th. For more information of the Hudson Exploited Theatre Company and its programming visit www.hextc.org.