A New Home (TBA) to Set the Stage for Popular Arts Center
By Sally Deering
Stepping inside Art House Productions’ performance space behind One PATH Plaza in Jersey City, Meredith Burns tiptoes through rows of stage lights, piles of discarded scenery and the ghosts of plays, musicals, art exhibits and dress-up fundraisers that took place within its walls all these years. But the past is the past and Art House Productions is about to take up residence in a new space with Burns as its new executive director. There’s still lots to be done and some big shoes to fill.
Those shoes belong to Christine Goodman, who served as Executive Director of Art House since the non-profit first opened its doors 15 years ago on McWilliams place near Hamilton Park, then moved to bigger digs on Magnolia Street near Journal Square. As Art House’s executive director, Goodman – who is leaving to spend more time with family – directed most of Art House’s plays, oversaw the INKubator writers’ workshop and STAGES! program for kids ‘bitten by the acting bug.’
Changing of the guard:
Christine Goodman, Meredith Burns,
and a young fan.
“Meredith is exactly the kind of visionary we need to bring us into this next phase of growth,” Goodman says. “Our Board of Trustees did a thoughtful, in-depth search to find the best fit for our organization, and I believe they found the right person. I have always believed in succession planning as a hallmark of an organization’s long-term success. It is truly an exciting new day at Art House.”
As the new Executive Director, Burns brings to the table her experience as both an actress and arts administrator. She holds a BFA in Acting from SUNY Purchase, and performs regularly in New York. She’s done several seasons of Shakespeare in Washington D.C. and belongs to a sketch comedy troupe in Manhattan.
Although plans are underway for Art House to move into its new space, Burns says the landlords of the new space are busy ironing out the details before making the formal announcement, so for now, Art House’s new residence is under wraps. Besides, there’s still so much to do before the show goes on, so to speak.
During her busy first week on the job, Burns took a break to share her plans for Art House Productions future as a venue for theater, visual arts, music, spoken word, comedy, arts classes and, of course, those costumed-fundraisers that support the non-profit’s arts programming.
RVO: Meredith, you just came on board last week; where were you before Art House?
MB: Since 2013, I ran an after-school arts program at the New Voices Middle School in New York.
RVO: Where did you grow up?
MB: I was born and raised in Essex Fells, New Jersey a little town next to Montclair. My dad and mom grew up in The Heights in Jersey City. My grandmother went to Dickinson High School. I was coming here all the time as a kid. When my parents divorced, my dad moved back. He was a Jersey City firefighter.
RVO: You’re an actress as well as an arts administrator?
MB: I’m on a sketch comedy team called The Executives out of the Magnet Theater on 29th & 8th Avenue in New York. I guess you would say I’m a sketch comedienne. It’s a great little team. We were on Monday nights and now we’re the weekend team. I only started doing comedy the past 2-3 years. Before this, I worked at Pregones Theater in The Bronx and the PR Traveling Theater Company in Manhattan. I was managing director and founding member of the Glass Bandits Theater Company in Brooklyn where we did living room readings and, out of that, produced new work. I also worked at the Shakespeare Theater of D.C. It was a great experience, I learned a lot.
RVO: As Art House Productions’ new executive director, what are your long-term goals?
MB: My goal for Art House is to keep the lights on seven days a week. I love the theater. I love there’s an art gallery. I’d like to do more mixed-media, maybe a web-series, pilots, more comedy, more dance, spoken-word and poetry. The written-word is super important.
RVO: Will you continue programs that Christine Goodman put in place?
Yes. We have the Inkubator series, a monthly writers’ workshop where playwrights and screenwriters get together and read their work. I want to produce work that comes out of there. JC Fridays will continue and so will the annual Snow Ball fundraiser. In the spring we’re having a wine-tasting at Harborside, and an Octo-beer-fest. Our Stages! program for kids will also continue. It’s on hold until we move into the new space.
RVO: Can you share when you think Art House will be in its new home?
MB: We’re hoping by April. The people running the space want to make the announcement.
RVO: Has Christine been showing you the ropes for the transition of leadership?
MB: Christine is one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met. She is excited for this organization. She understands it needs fresh eyes, new energies. Everything she built is sound. The programs she created are sound. She’s given me a blank canvas. This is the dream I’ve always had.
RVO: You dreamed of being an arts administrator?
MB: This is such a dream! When I was acting, I loved performing, but I needed to produce something. I like producing.
RVO: How will you let your audience know when the curtain goes up at the new space?
MB: We’ll keep everyone updated on the website (arthouseproductions.org). We’ll probably have a “Welcome to the Neighborhood!” performance, show people what we can do.
RVO: There’s seems to be a threat to end funding for the National Endowment looming like a storm cloud over the arts. As an artist and arts administrator, can you share why you think the arts are important?
MB: Now more than ever, the arts connect us to humanity, and help us explore what it means to be a human being.