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Center Players ‘Off Stage’ will present ‘Meet the Oakleys’

Center Players “Off Stage” will present a virtual broadcast of “Meet the Oakleys” streaming April 10 at 2 p.m. The historical dramatization is produced in partnership with the Heritage Arts Program of the Freehold Township Heritage Society.

“Meet the Oakleys” is an original play based on the 13 families from Monmouth County who lived at the historic Oakley farm at 189 Wemrock Road in Freehold Township from the early 1800s to the 1960s, according to a press release.

The farm has seen victory and defeat, birth and deaths, feast and famine, joy and sorrow. Many people are aware of the conflicts and tragedy of the Battle of Monmouth, but the farm saw its own share of important history as well, according to the press release.

Period costumes, family photos, music performed by the Oakley Briar Pickers folk musicians and vintage films of the people who lived in the house and worked the land will add authenticity to the production, according to the press release.

“Who would think an old house and farm nestled in Freehold Township for hundreds of years could have so many inspiring stories and perhaps ghosts from days long ago?” Center Players Artistic Director Bernice Garfield-Szita said.

“When Richard Smith and Denise Warren approached me with the concept of writing and producing a play about the Oakley farm and its residents beginning hundreds of years ago, some of whom were Richard’s relatives, it really intrigued me. It seemed like an ideal project for Center Players’ “Off Stage” virtual productions that would be entertaining and educational,” she said.

Garfield-Szita directed this piece of living history, coordinating a team of more than 15
actors and behind-the-scenes technical, costume and prop people all working together via Zoom. The interior and exterior settings in the house and the barns that are seen in the broadcast were photos taken by Mark Lamhut, according to the press release.

The production will culminate with a talk-back with the playwrights, director, actors and historian Cheryl Polverino, whose historic writings helped make “Meet the Oakleys” come to life.

While the event is free, registration is required at www.centerplayers.org or on Facebook
at https://www.facebook.com/centerplayersnj

Donations may be made on those sites, as well as on the Freehold Township Heritage Society site at http://www.twp.freehold.nj.us/freehold-township-heritage-society

Celebrating its 20th season at Center Playhouse, Freehold Borough, Center Players is an award-winning organization that presents engaging productions featuring local talent in downtown Freehold.

In addition to their signature plays, the group also sponsors free play readings and other special events and offers dinner and theater packages with several local restaurants.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Center Players has formed Center Players “Off Stage” to provide virtual programming until it is once again safe to open the playhouse
doors, according to the press release.

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