Home Culture A List of Performing Arts Centers in Essex County

A List of Performing Arts Centers in Essex County

by Samantha Bonizzi
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Long, lazy summer days are here. And while that means plenty of time outdoors soaking up the sun, it also means having a few indoor activities on deck to escape the heat. One such activity is catching a show at one of the local performing arts centers in Essex County. While we’re fortunate enough to live just outside New York City, sometimes it’s nice to take in the robust art scene that we have in our own backyard. Keep reading to discover the best venues for performing arts in Essex County, New Jersey.


Alexander Kasser Theater | 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair

Students and local patrons can head to Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University to catch PEAK Performances, a wide-ranging program of professional theater, music, dance, and public events for the university and surrounding communities. The program has attracted talented artists from around the globe to the theater, which houses impressive acoustics, cutting-edge technology, and a spacious, versatile stage suitable for everything from intimate piano performances to elaborate shows complete with special effects. The theater will announce 2024/25 shows before the upcoming school year.

The Ivy at Chatham

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Luna Stage | 555 Valley Road, West Orange

Luna Stage develops and produces vibrant plays about local and global experiences. The theater is located in New Jersey’s Valley Arts District, a 10-block area in the old industrial core of the Valley neighborhood on the Orange/West Orange border that is now home to artists’ studio spaces, storefront art galleries, art organizations, thrift shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and Luna Stage. The theater’s programs reflect its neighborhood and region which is a melting pot of cultures, and its performances illuminate diverse experiences and amplify underrepresented voices.



New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) | 1 Center Street, Newark


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As one of the largest performing arts centers in the country, NJPAC brings audiences world-class performances, works with students through comprehensive arts education programs, and engages the community with free cultural events. It considers itself an anchor cultural institution for New Jersey, driving change in the community and making Newark a destination for the arts. Performances within the NJPAC walls range from comedy to conversations to dance and music. Its community engagement events span New Jersey to share its love of the arts with more people, with over 200 free events yearly.

Nutley Little Theatre | 47 Erie Place, Nutley


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Born in the early thirties during the Great Depression, when economic conditions encouraged interest in community activities, Nutley Little Theatre has continued to be a vital community organization for over 88 years. Located in a converted barn that was a former jam factory, the historic theater welcomes auditions to both its members and the general public. Its goal is to present diverse live theater to the community and provide a place for people to learn and grow as performers, directors, and technicians.

Paper Mill Playhouse | 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn

paper mill playhouse

At Paper Mill Playhouse, you’re one stop away from Broadway. This nationally renowned musical theater features shows with top talent that aim to entertain and inspire and a robust education program for rising young stars. The playhouse collaborates with other regional theaters and independent producers to bring audiences the best in musical theater, from celebrated revivals to new work from the industry’s most talented artists, many of which go on to Broadway or launch as national tours. Upcoming 2024-25 season shows include Jersey Boys, White Christmas, and Mystic Pizza. Patrons can make it an all-day affair by visiting the adjoining restaurant called The Carriage House, which serves American cuisine and is open pre- and post-performances.

South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) | One SOPAC Way, South Orange

SOPAC brings the community a wide range of entertainment and arts, from musical concerts and comedy to dance and theater to kids and family shows. Some recent and upcoming performances include a Journey tribute band, the Essex Funk Collective, and more. The unique building features a stunning three-story glass-enclosed atrium, also home to SOPAC’s Herb + Milly Iris Gallery. Outside the building, SOPAC co-produces local events such as South Orange Summer Nights and serves students and schools through its education programs.

Studio Playhouse | 14 Alvin Place, Montclair

Studio Players is an organization inclusive of volunteers, where no experience is required. While some members have a background in professional performing arts, many do not, but they all share a love of theater and bringing it to the community. All Studio Players auditions are open to the public, and they’re committed to casting people of color in any role that will showcase their talent and producing works by playwrights of all races, faiths, genders, and sexual orientations.

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Vanguard Theater Company | 180 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair


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Dedicated to DREAM–diversity, reciprocity, education, activism, and mentorship — the Vanguard Theater Company was born out of its founder’s own experience with typecasting and prejudice during auditions and is now changing the narrative around professional theater. It’s doing so by fostering purposeful inclusion of diverse voices and stories, casting and staffing individuals that reflect the community, and organizing and promoting partnerships that propel cross-community conversations with non-arts organizations to connect the stories onstage with events offstage.

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