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A Chat With Count Basie’s Numa Saisselin

Lots of exciting things are happening at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre: Al Pacino, Pat Benatar, dance-a-thons, awards ceremonies and more. Jersey Shore Style recently spoke with CEO Numa Saisselin to hear the latest about this historic theater.

JSS: Tell us about what’s new at the Count Basie Theater.

JSS: How often are new shows added to the season line-up? Numa Saisselin: We book by individual shows, so we add them when we see a event that will be fun to do. The brochure that people receive in the mail is not the definitive calendar. There’s always something new, which is why we recommend people to sign up to our online mailing list so that they can receive updates about shows added. It comes out once a week and is a great way to keep up with what’s new. For instance, just last week we announced Al Pacino for a one-night only event on June 1.

JSS: So what is this year’s summer concert lineup looking like so far? Numa Saisselin: Bobby Collins, a comedian, is preforming June 17th. He flies under the mainstream, but he’s huge on satellite. Chris Botti, on August 18th, is a terrific jazz trumpeter. We’ll also have Meatloaf, July 18th, and he’s completely new to the theater, so we’re excited. Just a matter of hours ago, we added a Pat Benatar date on July 20th. We’ also have blues signer Keb Mo playing on September 30th. Keb Mo is a tremendous songwriter; he’s Robert Johnson crossed with Jackson Browne. We’re adding shows all the time – Kevin Smith will be back this fall.

JSS: A new program for teens has been added to the events calendar, the Teen Dance-a-Thon. Can you fill us in? Numa Saisselin: Count Basie’s Junior Board — a support organization made up of 10-18 year-olds from the community — is sponsoring our first ever Teen Dance-a-Thon, which will take place on July 3rd. Their goal is to raise $60,000 through sponsor pledges. Another program that we hold annually is the Basie Awards, which are given out for high school drama productions. The Basie Awards are always a lot of fun, and we love putting them on each year.

JSS: Can you tell us more about the Basie Awards? Numa Saisselin: All year long, we send evaluators to Monmouth County high school drama school productions. There are a set of criteria they use to evaluate and rank the performances. At the end of the year, we tally up the scores, and the top scoring productions become our nominees. Just like the Academy Awards, we have best actor in a drama, musical, lighting design, etc. We have a reception where we announce the nominees. Then, on the last Wednesday of May, we have an awards ceremony in the theater. It’s half-Tony Awards and half-pep rally. Those that are nominated for best musical send in a production number; scattered throughout the ceremony are performances of each of the best musical nominees. We have local civic leaders and celebrities as award presenters – local school superintendents, mayors, even Joe Piscopo and Max Weinberg have participated. It’s really a wonderful evening – one of the emotional highs of the year.

Part of our goal with the Basie Awards was to raise the level of awareness in music, arts, and theater in schools — giving the same recognition to these students as sports dinners do for student athletes. We’re going into our 5th year, and the recognition by students and schools has just been tremendous. It’s really driven by the students.

JSS: If someone is not familiar with the Count Basie Theater, what would you like to tell them about the venue? Numa Saisselin: The Count Basie Theatre is a great place – we’re friendly, and we’re always thrilled when someone comes to our theater for the first time. If you’re looking for a good place to go out, Red Bank is it. You can have dinner, go to a show here, reasonably priced, and have drinks afterwards. Our ticket prices range from $20 to $100, depending on the performer.

According to Count Basie Theater’s mission statement, it seeks to “[provide] a broad spectrum of quality entertainment and education programs that reflect and celebrate the diversity of the region; foster understanding and appreciation for the ennobling power of the performing arts; and create opportunity for cultural enrichment for people at all economic levels.”

It’s safe to say that the theatre has done just that – in the interest of the latter goal, Count Basie currently offers half-price “rush” tickets for select shows. By calling the box office on the day of a show to check availability, customers can take advantage of 50% off rear and side seating for that show. It’s a great way for theater fans of all ages and backgrounds to gain access to some of their favorite productions.

Here are details on upcoming Count Basie productions and events:

* The Basie Awards: Wednesday, May 25th, where the best musical and dramatic theatre productions by Monmouth County High School will be celebrated. * Teen Dance-a-Thon: Friday, June 3, 7:00pm – 1:00am. Teens ages 10-18 are invited to participate in this dance contest – last until midnight to win a meet-and-greet with Shontelle! Sponsored by the Count Basie Theatre Junior Board; proceeds will support the Count Basie Theatre’s booking of concerts and performances for young concert goers. For additional details on how to sign up to dance and business sponsorship opportunities, call 732.224.8778 x105. * Free Films: Count Basie regularly offers free viewings of both classic and modern films. The month of May will feature Finding Nemo (Sunday, May 1 at 2:00pm), On the Waterfront (Monday, May 2 at 7:00pm), and A Face in the Crowd (Tuesday, May 3 at 7:00pm).

For more information on more current and upcoming Count Basie theatre events and productions, visit their website. Tickets may be purchased online or through their box office by calling 732.842.9000, or visiting directly at the theatre’s location in Red Bank. The Count Basie Theatre 99 Monmouth Street Red Bank, New Jersey 07701 Box Office: 732.842.9000

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