Basie’s Center For The Arts An Inspired Evolution

May 22, 2018
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Tom Widener, chairman of the Count Basie Center Board of Trustees, and Adam Philipson,
president and CEO of Count Basie Theatre, revealed the new name and plans for the theater. Photo by Lynne Ward

By Chris Rotolo |

RED BANK – A veil of secrecy shrouded Red Bank’s revered Count Basie Theatre Monday evening, May 13, as supporters flocked to the event center to usher in its future.

The audience entered the theater at 6:30 p.m. and was met by Tom Widener, chairman of Count Basie Center Board of Trustees and Count Basie Theatre’s president and CEO Adam Philipson.

The duo stood upon the theater’s legendary stage, draped in white hot spotlight to unveil the next evolutionary step in the lifespan of this nonprofit performing arts facility, which is The Count Basie Center for the Arts.

Part of a $26 million expansion, of which construction is already underway, The Count Basie Center for the Arts will expand the uses and capabilities of the spaces surrounding the 1,568-seat theater.

Though, according to Philipson, the organization’s mission will remain the same.

“We must continue to evolve, and we’re at a point where we can no longer just be known as a theater. We’re ready to close that chapter of our story and begin a new one. Today we raise the Basie name to represent all that this regional center for the arts stands for: our nonprofit mission of arts and education, our work in schools and the community and all of the excellence and excitement that comes from that.”

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With a cannon blast of confetti sprayed out upon the audience, the virtual representation of this new performing arts complex – which will be approximately a city block in length – was displayed on a projector screen above the stage.

Showcased were performance spaces around every turn of the exposed brown brick walls, with microphone stands and baby grand pianos in abundance.

An upscale bar named the Carlton Lounge will reside on the second floor, while a second, smaller music hall – currently unnamed and saddled with the working title “Second Space” – will sit to the right of the Basie box office. It will be a general admission, standing room venue with a second story balcony overlooking the dance floor and stage.

On the rooftop will be a second bar and lounge overlooking Monmouth Street and the surrounding Red Bank neighborhood.

“With our groundbreaking last fall, we began our expansion on the west end of our building,” Widener said. “Building a creative campus in the heart of Red Bank, with multiple buildings and continuous activity, has long been a dream of our board. It is exciting to see this dream begin to materialize.”

The west end expansion will house the previously announced Jay and Linda Grunin Arts and Education Building, as well as the “Second Space” venue.

Construction on the east end of the building is not yet underway, but upon completion will expand the current Basie lobby, allowing for new concession operations and upgraded restroom facilities.

Also on the east end will be a Basie members-only lounge named the Stillwell-Larkin Pavilion, as well as a spacious outdoor plaza.

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“(Count Basie) was more than just a musician,” Philipson said. “He was a symbol of creativity and talent, born in our town and famous for his many contributions to music and culture. Tonight, we embrace his legacy into a name that better suits us as an organization with a mission to entertain, educate and inspire.”

This article was first published in the May 17-24, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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