A Diamond in the Rough: The Strand Theater
Updated: May 19
At the turn of the 20th century, one town stood out as a playground for the rich and famous. A destination in the forest of the pines. A resort area that rivaled no other. This. was. Lakewood, NJ. (Yeah, it was news to us too.)
Power of the arts
Standing the test of time is The Strand Theater. Built in 1922 in downtown Lakewood, the theater draws patrons from near and far to this otherwise depressed town. That’s the power of the arts.
Shows that Wow
We had the opportunity to see a performance of Legally Blonde at the Strand on February 22. The cast of students from the Performing Arts Academy of Ocean County Vocational Technical School (OCVTS) was led by the aspiring actor Ashley DeAngelis as Elle Woods. It’s inspiring to see the passion and excitement of these young artists honing their craft. We were thrilled with the performance, and so was the rest of the audience, who gave it a standing ovation.
There are great things to come at the Strand Theater in 2020. In the next month alone, the theater is hosting a Pop, Rock & Doo Wopp show on March 7th, Yellow Brick Road: A tribute to Elton John on March 14th, Almost Queen on March 20th, and A Night of Comedy with the Garden State Comedy Club Vol. 1 on March 21st.
Fran from The Strand
Keeping busy is the Operations Manager for The Strand Theater, Fran Whitney. She took a few moments from her day to answer a few questions about the arts… and The Strand.
How did you get your start in the arts?
I loved to dance as a child growing up in Union Township, and the dance studio I attended in Elizabeth back in the day actually performed on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, thanks to my dance instructor, Dorothy Inderleid. Guess I got the stage bug at the Jersey Shore then, but it went dormant for many years until my friend (now Councilwoman) Danni Newbury invited me to volunteer at the beautiful Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, where I lived for over 20 years. I worked at UCPAC for 7 years.
Why did you join The Strand?
Circumstances landed me in Lakewood, and I applied for positions locally. Hoping to stay in theatre arts, I volunteered at the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan for a bit, and then my resume landed on the right desk at The Strand in 2012. The rest will be part of my story.
Why do you feel the arts are so important?
Live theatre, real people, unsurpassed performances are what make it so important. This is true art and needs to be protected for our youth. It’s culture! It’s entertainment! It’s life — it’s my life! My world seems to revolve around The Strand Center for the Arts. It’s with me 24/7, and I feel extremely lucky to be a part of an amazing team of professionals that I love like family. I guess it’s because we are, like I’m a stage mom.
What makes the Strand such a great theater to see a performance in?
Built in 1922 by one of the foremost American designers and architects, Thomas Lamb, the theater is impeccably maintained and boasts the best acoustics around. There’s not a bad seat in the house really. Its grandeur is remarkable.
What can patrons expect in 2020?
Patrons and entertainers can expect amazing customer service and top-quality LIVE entertainment, and theatre arts kids whose very beings are theatre can expect an experience like no other. Currently booked for 2020 are outstanding tribute artists, comedy, doo wop and the up and coming. Plays presented by Brick Children’s Community Theatre and Ocean County Performing Arts Academy. Dance and orchestral concerts by Georgian Court University, The Atlantic City Ballet, Garden State Philharmonic, and many others. Our recital season is bursting at the seams with talented children who are delighting the audiences. The Strand relies on donations as a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit and currently is also seeking sponsors to help support the work we do to keep this gem thriving.
Jersey Shore Style thanks Fran from The Strand for her time to chat with us and for her dedication to making the theater a joy to visit.
If you plan to see a show at The Strand, free parking is available, or treat yourself to car service to drop off and pick up.
Support the arts and catch a show soon. You’ll also be doing yourself a world of good.
Until next time, peace!