The professional community theater ensemble decided to disband after 21 years of performing for residents, visitors, and thousands of children.
Pape said the plan was always to have the ensemble for a certain amount of time.
“We’ve been doing it for such a long time,” said Pape. “When we started, we knew most theater ensembles don’t survive more than five years…but we looked at it like a little baby and if you think about how long it takes to raise a child and allow it to grow up, we figured 21 years was the right time to leave.”
“We looked around and there are other companies now in Hoboken – The Mile Square Theater, The Hoboken Children’s Theater, The Garden Street School of Performing Arts, and we felt the Hoboken community would be in good hands if we took a rest,” said Pape.
Changing with the times
The two longtime Hoboken residents became friends over 30 years ago when their children went to the same nursery school.
They formed the Hudson Theater Ensemble in the late 1990s as a creative outlet for friends, actors, and parents, starting with readings at the Hudson School at Sixth Street and Park Avenue.
“At a certain point we realized we moved beyond readings and we were ready for a production,” said London.
That first staged production was “The Glass Menagerie.”
The Hudson Theater Ensemble was able to recruit talent from all over the area.
“We have been so fortunate because the level of acting we get here in Hoboken is amazing because of our proximity to the city,” said London. “So many actors flood the city every year and we provided an opportunity for them and be a part of something they love.”
London said they had actors who were part of the ensemble from as far away as Astoria Queens and Westchester to New York City, Jersey City, Weehawken, and of course Hoboken.
After multiple performances of various plays geared to an adult audience, London began to notice a change in the city’s demographics.
“We felt the Hoboken community would be in good hands if we took a rest.” –Florence Pape.
“She noticed a lot of baby carriages in town and more children in the parks, and we thought professional children’s theater productions would appeal across the board to children, caregivers, grandparents, and parents,” said Pape.
Pape said they began Silly on Sixth in 2004 with shorter plays for a younger audience.
“It was a risk, “ said London. “We didn’t know if people would come and we really didn’t know what we were embarking on.”
London said they didn’t want to just have adult actors perform children’s stories, but rather focus on important messages and values children should learn and enjoy.
“It really put us on the map because so very few companies were doing it,” said Pape.
Silly on Sixth productions included “The Three Little Pigs and The Ugly Duckling,” “The Frog Prince,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Little Engine That Could,” and many more.
“These children watched our shows and we have watched them grow up,” said Pape. “We have had children who will come up to the actors at the supermarket and we even received a letter from some boy who saw one of our early productions and is now graduating from Princeton. It’s been wonderful.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.