Photo by Luis Valdez
Cutting the ribbon at the official opening of the Waterfront South Theater, Camden, on Friday, Sept. 10, are Rev. John O. Parker, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church; Helene Pierson, executive director of Heart of Camden; Joseph Paprzycki, producing artistic director of the South Camden Theatre Company; Msgr. Michael J. Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Church; Dana Redd, Mayor of the City of Camden; and Camden City Councilpersons Dana Burley and Deborah Person Polk. Pictured at the podium at the Waterfront South Theatre’s entrance is Robert Bingaman, trustee and president of the Board-South Camden Theatre Company.
CAMDEN — The establishment of a new legitimate theater in the Waterfront South section of the city “is yet another miracle in our area,” said Msgr. Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Church. “It’s like a gift from God.”
The Waterfront South Theater, a 96-seat facility, is owned by the South Camden Theatre Company. For five years it held performances in the basement of Sacred Heart Church, according to Joe Paprzycki, founder of the theater company and playwright and director.
“It is not an intrusion here,” said Msgr. Doyle, who is a trustee of the theater company. “The building can only enhance the neighborhood. It will affirm a destination, an inspiring destination.”
Waterfront South Theater, which comprises the Waterfront South Arts District, is across from Sacred Heart Church at 400 Jasper St. It’s in a building that used to be Joe’s grandfather’s bar.
“It looks like a tavern from the outside,” said Joe. “It duplicates my grandfather’s bar. Inside, the theater seats 96 people. It’s very intimate. The furthest seat from stage is eight rows away. If we succeed, other businesses could open around us, shops, restaurants, who knows?”
Heart of Camden refurbished the building and turned the deed over to the non-profit theater company. “We now own it,” Joe said, “and we’re responsible for upkeep.”
Heart of Camden concentrates on the rebuilding of abandoned homes in the city and promotes the redevelopment of Camden.
Joe works full time for the American Red Cross. He is a key account manager for the high schools where he conducts assemblies and gives talks about giving blood, among other subjects.
“This is the first brand new live theater for Camden in 100 years,” Msgr. Doyle claimed.
“This theater, in conjunction with the Heart of Camden, will help to spur the redevelopment of South Camden,” the priest said.
Joe noted that the theater company recently received a grant from the Camden County Cultural and Heritage Commission for the second half of the year which will help to double the stipend each member of the theater company receives.
He noted that the South Camden Theatre Company, Inc. “is dedicated to helping to revitalize the City of Camden, and we are committed to staging performances that entertain, elevate and inspire audiences.”
The company’s premiere performance in the new theater was on Sept. 10. Called “Last Rites,” it was written by Joe Paprzycki, and, according to Msgr. Doyle, “The play is set in Joe’s grandfather’s bar. It’s around the time the shipyard was closing in 1966, and the shipyard employees and the bar owner talk about this event. The play resonates with troubled times we’re in today, people losing their jobs, companies closing. It’s quite current.”
The play, which will run weekends, will be performed until Oct. 3. The director is Christopher Schimpf.
Joe said he never directs his own plays. Tickets are $15 or $48 for the entire season of four plays.
The play, “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” by Eugene O’Neill, will be the last play of the season, April 29-May 15, 2011. “That’s a gift for the monsignor,” Joe said. “He’s been helping us a lot with the theater company.”
The second play of the season, “The Old Settler,” by Henry Redwood, about two sisters in Harlem in the 1940s, will run Oct. 22-Nov. 7, and “Waiting for Lefty,” by Clifford Odetts will be staged Feb. 4-20. It centers on labor problems during the Depression.
For more information about the South Camden Theatre Company call 215-687-8845.