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Jersey Stage Milestone
Paper Mill Anniversary

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By Alan Branigan
Originally appeared in the Newark Sunday News on May 10, 1964

A GLAMOROUS outpost of Broadway, with an unusual record of longevity, is marking the successful achievement of its third decade.

Nationally famous Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn is 30 years old and doing nicely, thank you. To mark the occasion the first stock presentation of "My Fair Lady" will open there Tuesday.

In a cultural field in which "sic transit gloria mundi" seems to be regrettably the slogan, the Paper Mill's long career remains an object of wonder to the theatrical world. Across the wide expanses of the country, only such fabled play centers as the Pasadena Playhouse on the West Coast and the Barter Theater in Virginia can offer rivalry when it comes to a record of continuous operation.

What is the chief secret of success at this theater that was once an actual paper mill on the banks of Rum Creek in Millburn?

It's excellence in production details and flexibility in planning. That's the view of managing director Frank Carrington, who took time off the other day to sit in his office and ponder the thousands of performances that have been given since he and the late Antoinette Q. Scudder formed the present theatrical unit 30 years ago.

Flexibility, to the Playhouse staff, means the ability to take on the coloration of each succeeding theatrical era, to vary the type of production to meet changing tastes.

Frank Carrington, managing director of the Paper Mill, shown with the late Miss Antoinette Q. Scudder on embankment of Rum Creek. The two renovated the mill, turning it into stage center with record of thousands of performances.
The Paper Mill venture really had its start in Newark. In 1928 the Newark Art Theater came into being, with Miss Scudder and Carrington heading a society of stage enthusiasts. The young company made itself known even along Broadway with its fine productions of classical plays, staged with expertness despite the lean technical assets of the Newark school auditoriums in which it had to appear.

A DELICATE fantasy, "The Bluebird," won the company a letter of appreciation from its famous author, Maurice Maeterlinck. The young players also flexed their muscles with such difficult plays as Shaw's "Androcles and the Lion" and "Heartbreak House," Sir James Barrie's "Quality Street," and "A Romantic Young Lady," by G. Martinez Sierra.

In a mood of expansion, as well as in vexation at the limited stage facilities being offered to them, the Art Theater directors searched the outlying towns for something more satisfactory. Miss Scudder and Carrington decided that the group's new home would hold not only a theater but also a center for all the arts. This would create a community of cultural interests that would have an importance beyond anything else in the metropolitan New York area.

During the long search, which took the committee into abandoned schools, factories, churches and mansions, the old paper mill in Millburn seemed to be most favorably located and to hold the greatest promise as an art center. It was near public transportation, it hadspace for enlargement, it had a colonial charm and it had an auditorum, which was at the time a vast room for the stretching of paper over drying rolls.

The mill, in one form or another, had been in active use since the 18th century.


08/18/2012 11:10 PM
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