‘The play’s the thing,’ in West Hudson


Photo by Ron Leir/ Gerald Ficeto (l.) and Mark Morchel anticipate the upcoming curtain-raiser for West Hudson Arts & Theater Company at the Arlington Players Club.


By Ron Leir

Citizens of West Hudson: Give me your ears! List’ and you shall hear of great plans to revive the state of public revels in the Town of Kearny.
And so, look to the West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T., for short) for inspiration.
This group of volunteers is taking the lead in a public-spirited effort to return the performing – and allied – arts to a prominent place in the region.
Gerald Ficeto, a member of the W.H.A.T. founding committee who is a veteran area music educator (he’s directed Kearny High School spring musicals for the past decade) and professional percussionist with 45 years’ experience in the performing arts, says he and his colleagues “had a mutual goal of bringing live theater back to our towns (East Newark, Harrison and Kearny, in particular).”
Kearny has enjoyed a tradition of adult theater – dating from the old Half Penny Playhouse on Midland Ave. and the Arlington Players Club on Washington Place – and, in more recent years, the annual Kearny High School shows and Teen Drama summer theater program for younger participants.
The Half Penny has helped launch several noted thespians on their careers: Ken Jennings, who originated the role of Tobias in the Broadway production of Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” and Nathan Lane, featured in “The Producers” and “The Addams Family,” among other Broadway shows; are examples.
Arlington Players Club was converted to a private tennis club and Half Penny Playhouse expired around the mid-1980s.
W.H.A.T. has filed incorporation papers for nonprofit status with the state Treasury Department’s Division of Taxation and is awaiting certification from the IRS as a 501(C) (3) tax-exempt organization, according to committee member and attorney Mark Morchel.
Morchel, who performed at the Half Penny, will be directing the group’s inaugural venture, “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” on Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Arlington Players Club, 12 Washington Place, Kearny.
The production is based on Frank Capra’s beloved holiday movie classic, with script adapted by Liz Zazz and original music by Jason Neri.
“The show will be presented as a 1940s-style live (simulated) radio broadcast in front of the audience, complete with live sound effects, microphones and a dozen actors playing a variety of different roles,” Morchel said.
There will be only one performance and tickets are very limited.
“This is quite a special event and we are hoping it turns into an annual tradition for W.H.A.T.,” Morchel said.
W.H.A.T. is currently in the process of planning its 2012 season.
The group is hoping to incorporate both adult and teen theatrical components, and eventually one for children, as well, possibly including a theater camp and/or theater workshops for kids. Additionally, the group plans to display works by West Hudson-based visual artists wherever it has its future performances. Poetry readings and musical recitals are also being contemplated.
Other W.H.A.T. founding committee members are: Margaret Berko, Kearny school nurse; Leo daSilva, Harrison High School music teacher and musical director; Linda Kraus D’Isa, public relations and marketing specialist; Joseph Ferriero, Teen Drama co-director; attorney Cecilia Lindenfelser, W.H.A.T. treasurer; Michele Sarnoski, Teen Drama co-director; Mary Pat Shields, Harrison High School fine arts teacher, and Kearny Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle.
Also helping as volunteers are Maureen Morchel, as registered agent, and attorney Thomas McKeon.
Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos called the group “an incredibly talented” array and said that the town would assist in helping find a permanent home. Reintroducing Community Theater in Kearny will be a welcome plus, the mayor said.
Doors open for “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” at 7 p.m. for a pre-theater Wine and Sweets reception. Showtime is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. To purchase tickets or to make a donation to the group, call (201) 467-8624 or email info@whatco.org.
“In the fast paced world of today, there really is no better time than now to lend a hand and help the rapidly shrinking and under-funded world of the arts – it’s an investment in the community,” Ficeto said.


W.H.A.T. Factsheet Mission Statement:

To be a cultural resource that will enrich and invigorate the West Hudson community as a whole, while embracing, educating and entertaining people of all ages, cultures and abilities.
To stimulate, celebrate and enhance the understanding of theater, while fostering and inspiring growth and creativity in our members through a range of quality theatrical productions.
To act as a resource for the residents and businesses of the greater West Hudson area, and to enrich the cultural depth, education and vitality of the community at large.
To enliven and enhance the cultural life of the community and its visitors.
To contribute to the economic vitality of the East Newark, Harrison and Kearny downtown regions.
To secure a local facility/building to better facilitate W.H.A.T.’s performance and educational goals, and to provide fiscal and housing security for the future.
To develop an educational program to help potential performers and crew to increase self-confidence; to enrich their understanding and appreciation of the arts, and to prepare them for future opportunities at W.H.A.T. and elsewhere.
W.H.A.T. hopes to emerge as a significant arts facility known best for quality productions that seek to enhance the community as a whole, and foster a caring approach to theater and theatrical education within the West Hudson community.

Learn more about the writer ...