The Park Theatre, a 1300+ seat house was built in 1931 by the Archdiocese of Newark, and originally named for the famous Passion Play that was performed there annually. For many years it had been an active performing arts venue but then had fallen into disuse and disrepair.
Signage and murals on the original floor and main entrance of the newly restored Park still identify it as the Passion Play Auditorium.
Starting almost exactly a year ago, a group of passionate volunteers/donors and art professionals have worked tirelessly, turning the Park back again into a viable arts venue. Cleaning, repairing, repainting, replacing carpeting, upgrading lighting, restored the theatre, while its operators lined up many performances and events to make the Park a financially self-sustaining venue, looking towards the future, and honoring its past.
On March 7, a ribbon cutting was held with Union City commissioners and blessed by Rev. John Docherty of the Holy Family Parish, with a grand opening of the refurbished art gallery (Gallery at the Park), and tours of the theatre and performances in a restored mezzanine lounge area.
The main theatre was scheduled to have opened a month later and exciting performances were slated through the Spring. Part of the historic marquee that long-time residents remember from outside the theatre was restored and displayed in the refurbished lobby.
But everyone knows what happened a few days later…. The pandemic put a hold on everything.
However, once it was feasible, the volunteers returned, and working now with masks and distancing, continue preparing and improving the theatre, for eventual re-opening, while lining up many productions, performances and events.
The Passion Play’s costumes and props have been preserved and organized with the possibility to resume its annual performance. Many other performances, acts and events are lined up to make it a self-sustaining arts venue, once it is safe to do so for the performers and audience.
While at this time, performances in the theatre will have to wait, the Gallery at the Park finally re-opened in October, with COVID guidelines being followed. The gallery features the exhibition which opened in March, of paintings by New Jersey artist Cara London.
Future exhibitions are planned, including work from artists from the local community. Check the website for hours. www.ParkTheatreNJ.org