Founded earlier this year by Jessica Sawyer and Lea Matarazzo, the nonprofit theater company has partnered in the renovation with the theater education company Drama Kids of Medford, Voorhees & Williamstown Take 2 Musical Theater Academy. The project will result in more opportunities for the children of Take 2.
The women – both graduates of Stockton University – work at Drama Kids and have dedicated their entire careers to musical theater.
The estimated renovation cost for Brigade’s new home is about $30,000. Allowing Drama Kids to produce musicals there will reduce its production costs by thousands of dollars for each show, freeing up additional funds for scholarships and elevated design elements.
“[The current space] needs to be fully renovated. It needs new lights, it needs sound, it needs a stage and a deep cleaning,” said Sawyer, whose family will assist in the work. “It’s going to be a very expensive project that we cannot fund ourselves as a nonprofit. But, the whole point of the project is to help kids who can really benefit from these [activities].”
Sawyer’s husband Jared is among staff at Drama Kids whose skills will help the renovation.
“ ,,, Luckily my husband and his father are very handy so they will be doing a lot of the renovations,” she noted. “[We think] the materials to build just the stage will be over $10,000.”
Sawyer added that Drama Kids and the Brigade will not merge, but work hand in hand to create a working environment for young South Jersey theater aspirants.
“Obviously on paper they are separate entities, but when it comes to work, we (Sawyer and Matarazzo) do the Life and Death Brigade so that we can make Drama Kids accessible for those actors …” Sawyer explained. “As the Life and Death Brigade grows, we would like to be able to give opportunities to directors in the area who may not get a lot of opportunity.”
The Brigade’s first shows are scheduled for next spring, and staff there are hopeful that the entire renovation will be complete by then. Meanwhile, on Oct. 15, the Brigade will host a benefit show at Studio 67 in Medford to introduce itself to the community.
More information can be found at dramakids.com/nj3 and on the Life and Death Brigade website and social media page. Sawyer also encourages businesses and individuals in the area interested in donating to email firstname.lastname@example.org