Rockaway Theatre Company Named Best Theater Arts Venue in Queens

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 It’s official. Fort Tilden’s very own, the Rockaway Theatre Company (RTC) is the best in the borough. The local theater company has won the Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s award for the Best Theater Arts Venue in all of Queens. Founded in 1997, the RTC set out to establish a theater company with one mission in mind: “Bringing Broadway to Rockaway.” Winning this award goes to show that the RTC is fulfilling its mission.

Each year since 2016, the Bethpage Federal Credit Union receives nominations for hundreds of businesses to be recognized within the borough and winners are chosen in several categories. As far as theatre arts venues go, the RTC was named the best of the borough for its reputation of producing high-quality productions, as well as for their first-rate educational theater program, which provides numerous workshops in various areas of theater and performing arts. This is the second time the RTC has been recognized with a Best of the Boro award. In 2017, they were named the Best Local Live Theatre Company.

Having participated in many previous shows produced at the RTC, I can certainly attest to its reputation. The process of choosing which shows to produce on the main stage is certainly long and well thought out. The producers and directors are keen on picking shows that not only highlight the actors’ talents, but also showcase many different genres of plays, such as musicals, dramas, and comedies. The different genres chosen each year demonstrate the RTC’s efforts to put on performances catered to all tastes in Rockaway. If musicals aren’t your thing, don’t worry—the next show will be completely different. Part of what makes the RTC such a high-valued theater company, is its ability to transform the stage into something completely new each time, while putting on a high-quality production and making it look effortless.

It isn’t just the fabulous shows produced at the RTC that helped them earn this recognition. The theatre also offers various workshops for children and adults to learn the different aspects of theatre and the performing arts. All of these workshops are taught by licensed teaching professionals, who have a great deal of experience in their craft. One of their most popular workshops is the Young People’s Theatre Workshop, which runs for five months out of the year, ending with a “Broadway-quality” musical production performed on the main stage, entirely by workshop students. The workshop is open to students between the ages of eight and 18, giving children the opportunity to discover their artistic talents, while learning the ins and outs of what it takes to produce a musical production. This workshop has benefitted many children throughout the years, including myself, for preparing them to fulfill a future in the performing arts. One of their very own, a former member of the Young People’s Theatre Workshop, Andrew Feldman, was able to take his talents learned from the RTC and bring it to Broadway, where he can be seen starring in the lead role of Evan Hansen, in “Dear Evan Hansen,” until January 26.

What makes the RTC even more impressive is that these productions would not be possible without a dedicated staff of volunteers. As a community-based organization, the directors, producers, and actors volunteer their free time to produce shows for the Rockaway community to enjoy. Because all the RTC members work on a volunteer basis, the theater company is able to reinvest money earned from ticket sales into improving the theater, keeping each production refreshing and up to date with the newest lighting techniques, sound, and computer systems.

After 20 years of her involvement with the RTC, producer Susan Jasper, says, “Seeing the idea for a show being proposed, how a director can get a cast together and rehearse it, organize the sets, and make their vision come out to an excellent production is what makes all of my time and dedication to the theater worthwhile.” The RTC utilizes all of their resources into producing productions that Jasper feels are, “just as good as Broadway.”

Want to see what makes the RTC the “Best of the Boro?” See one of their many upcoming shows. The RTC will start the new year off with Bye Bye Birdie Jr., and James & The Giant Peach Jr., which will be performed by the children of the Young People’s Theatre Workshop. Bye Bye Birdie Jr. opens this weekend, January 17 at 7 p.m., and will run through January 26. As for their first main stage production of the season, the RTC will be showcasing Jesus Christ Superstar in March, which will be directed and choreographed by Gabrielle Mangano, with musical director, Jeffery Arzberger. If you want to see a “Broadway-quality” production without having to leave the peninsula, head to www.RockawayTheatreCompany.org  for tickets.

 By Marina Cregan

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