Professor Joseph Gallo Builds a Dream Theater for Students
Hudson County Community College Opens New Black Box Theater
By Sally Deering
Hoboken playwright and Theatre Arts Professor Joseph Gallo knows first-hand the trials and tribulations of putting on plays. He does it as resident playwright for Hoboken’s Mile Square Theater, and as Theatre Arts Coordinator for Hudson County Community College’s (HCCC) Theatre Arts program, where Gallo teaches acting, playwriting and film courses to hundreds of students who have passed through its doors. Gallo has directed all the student productions in HCCCs academic classrooms — until now.
On Fri, Jan. 25, HCCC debuted its newest addition to the college: a beautiful and intimate, 40-seat ‘black box’ theater like those found Off Broadway and on other college campuses. The newly-transformed space, which used to be a classroom with Formica tables and white plastic chairs, now has 28 new theater lights, a raised ceiling with a grid for the lights, a state-of-the-art lighting and sound booth that’s mobile, a prop closet, a tech closet, a film screen/SMART Board, newly-painted black walls, black curtains and gray chairs that can seat 40 theater-goers at every performance.
Ask any drama teacher, putting on plays in classrooms and makeshift venues has its drawbacks. That’s all changed at HCCC. Theatre Arts students can now rehearse plays, perform improvs, and recite monologues in a real theater space. This makes Gallo’s accomplishment – a beautiful theater classroom in HCCCs library building on Sip Avenue in Jersey City – an incredible feat of perseverance and dedication. Gallo never gave up on his dream, and with his persistence, and funding from HCCCs Foundation, Gallo gained support from HCCCs newly-installed President Dr. Christopher Reber, as well as Vice President Dr. Eric Friedman – and they helped Gallo’s dream become a reality.
Gerard Carbone of Mast Construction in Jersey City, and theater designers Herb Alicandri and Matthew Fick of Hoboken are the ones responsible for turning the 5th floor classroom into a theater.
“I’m proud to say we came in on time and under budget,” Gallo says, leading a tour of the theater. “We started construction Dec. 20 and opened Jan. 25.”
Twice a year, at the end of each semester, Gallo and the theater students hold a play festival in the Scott Ring Room on the 2nd floor of the Culinary Arts Building. From now on, Gallo and the students will present their end-of-semester play festival in the new theater, and instead of one performance, the students will put on two shows.
“This theater takes the Theatre Arts program and elevates it to another level,” Gallo says. “I see this as a jumping off point for the next plateau of the program.”
The Theatre Arts program currently has 40 students who declared Theatre Arts as their major, Gallo says. The new theater enhances the educational component of the program.
“We can be a first-stop training option for any potential theater student,” Gallo says. “The tech will make our performances different. It’s our own space, so we can create here and don’t have to pick up and go somewhere else.”
The school’s new black box theater was well worth the years of hard work to make it happen, Gallo says, and it’s one of his greatest accomplishments.
“I did it for the students,” Gallo says.
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