Haddonfield Plays & Players named top community theater in state

Local troupe also garners additional recognition at Perry Awards.

While the rest of the region was ensconced in their homes, watching NFL football on Sunday, Sept. 15, Haddonfield Plays & Players was named Community Theater of the Year at the 2019 New Jersey Association of Community Theaters Perry Awards, held at The Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway.

“This award is for all of us, those who are here now and those who have given their time and their hearts across all the years to bring Haddonfield Plays & Players to where we are today,” said David Stavetski, who has served as HP&P president for the last four years. 

For more than 40 years, the Perry Awards have recognized outstanding achievements in community theater. Each year, more than 200 shows produced by theater companies across New Jersey are evaluated, which requires more than 400 reviews by trained NJACT volunteers. 

“Community Theater of the Year” is a special award given to a Garden State theater organization that has made a significant contribution to its community.  

“I think it’s an all-encompassing award. It’s a credit to all of our programs and not one particular show. Out educational programs are excellent. This is our 86th year, and we’ve always been proud to serve our community,” Stavetski added.

“In addition to our shows each season, we open up our house to Bancroft for the special-needs students to put on a talent show, and we open up to Brandywine to have the seniors put on a show. We’re always looking for ways to give back. We are a Haddonfield-based theater, but we want to open up our doors to everybody.”

Plays & Players enjoyed a banner 2018-19 season, thanks in part to receiving a grant totaling more than $87,000 last fall, from the Columbia Bank Foundation, to support capital improvement initiatives at its home theater adjacent to Crows Woods.  

It also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking “Number the Stars” Holocaust education program that has reached approximately 20,000 K-12 students through the years. 

“We receive a county grant for ‘Number the Stars’ each year. Schools will have their students read the book first and then come see the play. It’s a very powerful program which has grown so much over the last few years,” said Stavetski. 

Haddonfield Plays & Players also received multiple nominations for sound, lighting and individual performances for its productions of “A Christmas Story,” and “High Fidelity.” 

While the nominations were known well ahead of time, the big reward wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret. 

“They tipped us off. But when they told us we were going to be the winners about a week ago, they wanted us not to tell anyone so as not to ruin the revelation at the ceremony.  It prepared us for being there, and then receiving the honor and recognition that goes with it,” Staveski revealed. 

Though the head of the organization, and the one who ultimately accepted the accolades, Stavetski deferred to those who stoke the fires of creativity. 

“Our life-blood is the spirit of the volunteers, and it would be nothing without them. We also pull from a team of dedicated actors, costumers, tech crew, everyone who build the sets for each play. Every production has a team of quality individuals to make sure everything moves forward. It’s really the heart of the people we have. We’re fortunate to be able to move theater forward, and we are where we are today because of that time and effort,” he said. 

For more information about upcoming productions, and to purchase tickets, visit https://www.haddonfieldplayers.com/