HOPEWELL: Renovated Off-Broad Street Theater to reopen 

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By Frank Mustac, Special Writer
Now that finishing touches are being completed on the newly renovated Hopewell Playhouse, the partners in the venture held a thank-you event last Friday for those who helped bring a new look to the venerable performance venue.
Partners Jon McConaughy, Liza Morehouse and Mitchel Skolnick hosted the event inside the 200-seat theater at 5 South Greenwood Ave.
Mr. McConaughy, who owns Double Brook Farm in Hopewell with his wife, Robin, said he was initially looking at the playhouse building as a site for a creamery to bottle and package milk, yogurt and ice cream from milk produced at the farm, but those plans fell through.
“So a few of us got together and said this is a great community space,” Mr. McConaughy said.
Bob and Julie Thick of the Off-Broadstreet Theatre company had owned the building before the partners acquired it. The Thicks are staying on as the venue’s managing tenant and will continue to produce plays there as they have done for roughly the past 30 years.
There are plans to “expand the programming beyond the plays to support local music, local book readings, TED talks and other events,” Mr. McConaughy said. “Businesses in town would also beconnected, as well.”
“My vision for this place is similar to what we’ve done with some of the other things in town — get the community back and get people involved with what happens around them locally,” he said. “Farming is done here around us, the sale and consumption of those farm products is done here locally and ties in with the arts and artisans of the area.”
Partner Liza Morehouse, whose husband Schuyler (“Sky”) is a Hopewell Borough Councilman, said renovations to the playhouse building, based on plans conceived by ThinkForm Design Architects in Hopewell, started in early 2015.
Along with a transformation to the theater interior, there will be changes to the entrance area, the addition of restrooms and additional seating.
“We have two sections of fixed rows of seats,” Mrs. Morehouse said. “The rest is all flexible seating either for standing or tables and chairs.”
“The point is we needed to update the space,” she said.
Partner Mitchel Skolnick of Bluestone Farms race horse breeders in Hopewell Township said he got involved in the project through Mr. McConaughy’s persuasion.
“Jon roped me into this,” Mr. Skolnick said jokingly.
Hopewell Playhouse, he said, “is a place for the community to see talent, but it is also a place for tie-ins for the restaurants and other events going on in the community,” he said. “It will hopefully help spur business in the community.”
“Renovating the theater is the easy part,” Mr. Skolnick said. “The hard part is getting it to be a profitable venture. I think that is the challenge in front of us.”
He also told an anecdote about his involvement with the playhouse project.
“I found out through this experience that I am the only person in New Jersey who has no performing talent at all. I’ll tell you why. It’s because everyone from New Jersey has contacted me to ask me if they can perform here. I am the only one who doesn’t want to,” Mr. Skolnick quipped. 

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