In the expanding world of arts in Hudson County, a new organization started by a group of local residents is ready to make a splash.
Hudson Theatre Works, based in Union City, is under the artistic direction of Weehawken resident Frank Licato, a former Hoboken resident who has over 30 years experience in the theatre.
Licato has many friends in the industry, including a few stars from The Sopranos who took part in a playwright reading series earlier this year at the Park Performing Arts Center in Union City. The playwright series became a huge hit in Hudson County.
“We were getting 40 people to the reading of a play,” Licato said. “We started to realize that most people have never even been to a play reading before, and they didn’t understand this was part of the process.”
The group is preparing to put on “Of Mice and Men” in the spring of 2012. The play will feature Sean Reilly playing George. Reilly is in Blue Bloods, a television show on CBS.
Licato, who was previously nominated for an Obie award for his performance on stage in “Deathwatch,” has worked at the American Repertory Theatre, the Delaware Theatre Company and the Boston Shakespeare Company. The Obie Awards recognize work in the theatre for off-Broadway productions. Licato has appeared on “Third Watch,” in Sidney Lumet’s “100 Centre Street,” and with Frank Sinatra in “First Deadly Sin.”
Licato said he hopes the theatre can portray plays that focus on “the human condition.”
“Of Mice and Men” is scheduled to be performed in early 2012.
“People are hungry for these kinds of stories, stories that reflect their life and what they need,” Licato said. “It’s an interesting time because theatre is much more relevant than film. Film is getting much more technical and less about stories of people. But theater really thrives on that kind of presentation.”
“We hire the same actors that people see on Broadway in regional theatres, movies, and television shows,” Licato said.
The theatre company came to form in Union City approximately six months ago, Licato said.
“We decided to take it slowly,” he said. “We wanted to build a strong foundation for this company. It’s not like ‘Hey we want to put on a show.’ We want it to thrive financially and aesthetically. So, we put together a board of Hudson County residents.”
Also on the board is Gregory Erbach. Erbach lives in Hudson County and has been working on and off the stage in professional theatre for over 25 years, according to a bio. He is currently the assistant electrical construction boss at the Metropolitan Opera House. He has been an actor, stage manager, producer, carpenter, electrician and technical director for hundreds of productions at venues such as the American Place Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Weston Playhouse, The American Jewish Theatre, The John Houseman, and The Equity Library Theatre.
Karen Brady also helped found the organization.
Brady has worked in a variety of capacities for non-profit organizations for over 20 years. She is currently a development professional who raises funds for healthcare and human services community-based programs.
New Jersey vs. New York City
Licato said he hopes the theatre company can work with local schools to help high school students become involved in the theatre development.
Instead of a theatre company that focuses on Hudson County and derives its crowd from the surrounding areas, Licato said he hopes the local theatre has much wider reach.
“The big question that we get asked a lot is, where do you get an audience from,” he said. “But if you do good work, other people will start to come. The idea of being at the Park Performing Arts Center is not easy from a transportation point of view, but if the work is good, people will come.”
Secondly, Licato said he believes “Hudson County is ripe for an artistic explosion.”
“People don’t want to run to New York, park their cars, and spend $300 on an evening if they feel they can get quality work in Hudson County,” Licato said. “There are a lot of artists around here, and I think what was the pull of Manhattan is not as strong anymore. People are dying to have something close to home where they can enjoy some sort of intellectual conversation in the arts.”
For more information, visit HudsonTheatreWorks.org.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com