The historic Weehawken Water Tower, an easily-recognizable historic landmark near the Park Avenue commercial strip mall, will be back in business this fall, when the Hudson Theatre Works production company will stage a series of plays in the tower’s renovated space at the invitation of Mayor Richard Turner.
The series, called PlayWorks, will include several readings of plays by up-and-coming writers who wish to workshop their screenplays before an audience prior to their completion. Plays are scheduled to be performed three Mondays in a row, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 7, and will include a “talk back” section following the performances when audience members can give feedback, and the playwrights can ask questions.
“It’s really important to support new writers and our own people, and PlayWorks is our way of doing that,” said the theater’s artistic director, Frank Licato. “Not everyone realizes the process of how a play comes to be, so it should be an interesting experience for the audience as well, to see something that may not be completely in its final stages.”
The first play, “White Christmas,” was written by Tim McGillicuddy and takes place in mid-1980s Manhattan. It focuses on the dynamic between a Wall Street investment banker as he tries to balance his addictions (work and cocaine) with his family, despite his wife feeling deeply neglected. When she becomes pregnant, possibly by her husband’s boss, the pair must work to save their marriage.
“There’s generally just going to be some excitement just from people being allowed to get in [the water tower], no one’s seen the inside in so many years.” – Frank Licato
There is a $10 admission cost to each of the shows in the PlayWorks series, and reservations can be made by calling (201) 472-5123, or emailing email@example.com. Seating in the tower is limited. There is plenty of parking in the Pathmark parking lot next door.
At home in the water tower
Hudson Theatre Works doesn’t have a permanent home, and over the past few seasons has moved from space to space throughout the north end of Hudson County, including most recently at the Park Performing Arts Center in Union City.
After Turner attended a performance of “Of Mice and Men,” Licato said, he became interested in the company and offered to help in any way possible. Licato told Turner in a meeting that space was the biggest challenge, and Turner suggested using the water tower. It’s been difficult for the township to find use for it because they haven’t been able to get it handicapped certified, but PlayWorks only requires the use of the ground floor, said Licato.
“It’s gorgeous inside, and I thought it’d be perfect for PlayWorks,” he said. “And I think there’s generally just going to be some excitement just from people being allowed to get in there, no one’s seen the inside in so many years.”
A landmark refurbished
The tower, which was built in 1883 by the Hackensack Water Company, was originally used to store water drawn from a nearby reservoir. The tower could hold up to 165,000 gallons of water and stands 175 feet high, 300 feet above sea level at the Hudson River. A Pathmark now stands on the location of the reservoir.
Over the course of the past year, the township has been working to refurbish the ground and first floors of the water tower, preparing them to hold art or historical exhibits as soon as this spring.
Improvements to the tower made over the course of the past year include a unisex bathroom on the ground floor, a new staircase to the first floor, and new electrical systems that power the existing light fixtures in the tower’s courtyard, as well as the refurbished interior lighting system. All of the walls have been redone and the floors have been cleaned and shined.
It is possible that the last year’s improvements have slipped under the radar to the casual observer. A more obvious change to the tower occurred back in 2005, when the township cut the ribbon on a courtyard around the tower, complete with public tables and benches. In 2010, in preparation for the township’s 150th anniversary, the tower’s brickwork was power washed to restore its historic appearance.
The town procured the tower from a local real estate development group in 2000 after the group knocked down the tower’s gatehouse. The shopping mall was built on the spot of the reservoir that was previously connected to the tower.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org