WHATCo gets new home, some new leaders and a new season

The West Hudson Arts and Theater Company (WHATCo) is ready to raise the curtain on a new location, a new season and even some new leadership.

That’s because the West Hudson-based community theater, which has delivered over 150 productions from full-scale musicals to kid-friendly theater, will now operate from the former Holy Cross School at 15 Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard S. in Harrison.

“It has become clear that the stability of a long-term home is necessary for us to continue to deliver on our mission of providing high-quality theater and arts education opportunities to the West Hudson community,” WHATCo President Brandi-Leigh Miller said. “We are happy to have found a space that will allow us to work toward that goal. Holy Cross is an amazing and welcoming new venue for WHATCo that will put us in a high-traffic and very visible location and help make us more accessible to all audiences, thanks to its proximity to the PATH station and public transportation.”

Current plans are for the new facility to house not only the full season of WHATCo productions presented on a real stage, but also be home to a new series of day-long youth arts workshops in musical theater, a variety of art mediums and more.

Registration for the winter workshops will take place in January and be announced soon.

Miller views this move as an important moment for the future growth of the theater company.

“Our challenge was to not only find a space we could afford, but one that could also accommodate what has widely been recognized as a very exciting and ambitious plan to keep theater alive here in West Hudson,” Miller said.

She says the challenge for WHATCo now is to not only spread the word the theater has a new home, “but even more importantly, to let the West Hudson residential and business community know that we are going to need their support to keep our doors open for the arts-minded community of all ages.”

To that end, Miller says a fundraising initiative on behalf of WHATCo will also soon be announced under the leadership of newly named WHATCo Vice President Gloria Spence. Spence fills the position vacated by Miller when she was appointed president in January 2022.

“Gloria is a perfect fit for our revitalized board,” Miller said. “She brings with her years of non-profit fundraising experience and a keen understanding of the importance of forming strong relationships with donors at all levels.”

Also joining the WHATCo board as artistic adviser is award-winning North Jersey community theater veteran Beatriz Esteban-Messina.

“We have worked with Beatriz on various WHATCo productions over the years and are confident that her depth of experience and passion for community theater will be a huge benefit to our company and to our board,” Miller said.

The 2023 season

The 2023 season at WHATCo in its new home will include “Drop Dead!,” a comedy by Billy Van Zant and Jane Milmore; “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” a musical based on the beloved Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schultz with book music and lyrics by Mark Gesner and additional dialogue by Michael Mayer; and “The Great Gatsby — a Live Radio Play,” an old-time radio show reimagining F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American classic novel adapted by Joe Landry.

The season will also feature an original murder-mystery dinner theater production. “Trivia Night Murder,” penned by local award-winning playwright Allyssa Hynes, will serve as a fundraiser for WHATCo in March.

Miller invites everyone to not only come and experience live theater in West Hudson, but to also consider auditioning to be a part of the productions, or to volunteer off-stage.  Audition information, tickets and more about WHATCo, including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, may be found at www.whatconj.org. Follow WHATCo on Instagram and Facebook, too.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.