New Theatre Company to Teach Kids the Ropes

Just Off Broadway premieres in New Windsor

(Nicodemus, one of the youngest of the troupe, at rehearsal)

It's one thing to announce a new theatre troupe, it's another to get it up and running, and PLAYING in a local school.  But that's what Joyce Presutti, and a host of helpers, angels, and supporters has done.  Last night, Just Off Broadway and the New Windsor Playhouse presented their outstanding production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the auditorium of St. Joseph's School on Route 32.  What a pleasure it was to travel less than 30 minutes from my house to see a professional and exuberant presentation of this Broadway favorite.

But asides from the performances, which I'll get to later, theatre veteran Presutti is orchestrating a new theatre option for the Hudson Valley, and one that parents will want to take notice of.  The Just Off Broadway Theatre Ensemble "will provide a training ground for emerging artists who wish to pursue their artistic talents in the professional arena."  And no one is happier than Gillian Knips of Newburgh.  Her two daughters, Amy, 12, and Hayley, 11, are part of this production of "Joseph," and are eager to learn the business, and eventually get to Broadway.  

(Hayley and Amy at a rehearsal)

"The girls have alreays been interested in music and drama," says Knips, "and both girls love everything about Broadway shows.  It was a big commitment to do Joseph this summer, but they really wanted to do it.  They have enjoyed working with Just off Broadway because it is a real theatre company and they see what is involved.  It has been a great education because they get to see what goes into a large scale stage production with adults and children."

And that is exactly Presutti's mission: to create a theatre ensemble where kids who want to learn the theatre business get to see and experience all sides of it, from the early stages of pre-production. to costuming, to promotion, and to props, bookkeeping and ticket-taking.  The organization is working to find a permanent home and performance space, somewhere in the Newburgh-New Windsor area and have been looking at a few options.  The scope of the not for profit is to provide live productions; extend field trip invitations to school districts; encourage the participation of the community, children who are home-schooled; and provide low income families the opportunity to experience the "magic and wonder of a live theatrical event."

Presutti is clearly the one who can  make it all happen.  She comes with quite the resume having spent the last twenty-plus years performing, directing or producting musicals and dramatic works in New York City as well as across the country. But she never forgot her Hudson Valley fact, the first line of her playbook bio reads, "Joyce began her theatrical career in the Hudson Valley when Grace Bowles gave her a solo in her 8th grade chorus concert at North Junior High in Newburgh. NY."  

As I stepped into the auditorium for the preview of Joseph, I was met with the traditional well-used auditorium chairs, and an elementary school surrounding, but once the conductor raised the baton and the show began, I forgot I was on Route 32 in New Windsor.  An enthusiastic and talented troupe of adults and children provided a top notch show, and although a slight sound malfunction occurred, they proceeded without any disruption. To think that rehearsals had only begun one month prior is not only a tribute to the talent, but to the director and musicians. 

The show runs from August 5 to 7, and next weekend, August 11 to 14.  Tickets are $15 for adults, $12.50 for seniors and students, and $10 for groups of 10 or more.  St. Joseph's School is located at 148 Windsor Highway (at Union Avenue).   It's a terrific night out to see a Broadway-quality production, and you don't have city traffic to contend with.  Plus, you will be supporting quality entertainment, and perhaps we'll see the Knips girls on Broadway.  I don't doubt it!

For more information on Just Off Broadway visit, or call Joyce Presutti at 1-917-974-8328.