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NJ Theaters Go Live Before NYC; East Lynn Theater & Surflight Theatre

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Photo Credit: Studio 63 Photography

The show must go on -- at least in New Jersey. While New York City Broadway, off-Broadway and non-profit theaters remain closed and some are going out of business, two New Jersey theater companies have forged ahead, producing shows outdoors with social distancing.

Surflight Theatre on Beach Haven, Long Beach Island has literally moved outside the box of its indoor space to create an outdoor venue in a large tent that holds several hundred theatergoers. The venue harks back to the theater's origins in a tent 71 years ago as a summer stock theater in vacation destination Beach Haven, half way between NYC and Philadelphia. Groups buy together and sit six-feet from the next group. Depending on group purchases, the tent can hold from 170 to 220 theatergoers.

Surflight is staging a season of full-cast musicals starting with "Cabaret" through August 2. Beach Haven local and Surflight regular Christa Steiner plays the lead role of Sally and Keaton Eckoff plays Clifford. Tickets are $41 for adults, $31 for children 12 and under.

Unlike previous years when Surflight used New York actors that are members of the principal actors union, Actors Equity Association (AEA), Surflight had to rely on non-AEA actors. Steve Steiner, producing artistic director, said, "We have spoken with more than a dozen theaters who tried to get reopening plans approved by AEA. Actors Equity was simply not able or interested in trying to investigate reopening plans or approve theaters where there were real jobs for their members. Their only answer was to stay closed, and that is basically what they have been telling every theatre no matter what kind of plan was presented."

Following "Cabaret" is "Mamma Mia" from Aug 4-30 and a full season of fall plays, musicals and one-night shows up to and including New Years Eve. As of now, it's the only theater offering full productions in the tri-state area. There's no shows on or off Broadway and no theater or music at the casinos main stages.

Farther south in Cape May, East Lynne Theater Company continues a 30-year tradition presenting "Tales of the Victorians" in a variety of backyards with actors reading classic American stories. Shows are every Thursday at 4pm and last about an hour. Audiences of 20 or less are socially distanced, and performers are using microphones. To find out the Cape May location for "Tales of the Victorians," call 609-884-5898 or e-mail The cost is a minimum donation of $5 paid with cash at the door. Ages 12 and under are free.

East Lynne is also offering weekly readings. For more information and a complete calendar, check their website at East Lynne Theater

Photo by Gayle Stahlhuth

Get more tips and info about Jersey Shore attractions, historic sites, entertainment, sports and shopping when you buy my book, 100 Things to Do at the Jersey Shore. Also available at, Barnes and Nobles, Target and Costco.

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