Theatre in the Heights Debuts July 25 at The Hutton

Photo: Christina Verde

Enjoying a night of theatre shouldn’t involve a trip across the Hudson and starting July 25 it no longer will. That’s when New Jersey-based No Dominion Theatre Co. will debut Theatre in the Heights, a new series of staged readings taking place across various venues throughout Jersey City Heights. The first reading will take place at The Hutton. We spoke with Kaitlin Overton and Michael Joel — the duo behind Theatre in the Heights — to find out what they have in store for the Heights community.

What is Theatre in the Heights?
Kaitlin: Theatre in the Heights is a new staged reading series that aims to bring together new theatre, local actors, and the small, local business scene in Jersey City Heights and the surrounding area. It’s about bringing to light great things that are right here in our backyards. It’s also about bringing people together for a great evening. You don’t have to travel far for a night of theatre and great food!

Michael: It’s a new play reading series from No Dominion Theatre Co. that hopes to introduce our brand of original devised theatre to Jersey City Heights.

Have you always been involved in theatre?
Kaitlin: I’ve always been involved with theatre, and though No Dominion is currently separate from my day job, my day job is also currently with a theatre; I work full time for an off-Broadway theatre in Manhattan, so I’m constantly in theatre, which I feel super lucky about.

Michael: We’ve been involved in the theatre since we were in college — where we met — but as of now No Dominion runs simultaneously with our day jobs. I am the manager of a restaurant on the Jersey Shore during the summer and spend my time working with the company in the winter months.

Why did you choose the Heights over other neighborhoods in Jersey City?
Kaitlin: The Heights is not only where I live but it’s an up-and-coming neighborhood. It’s an exciting place that’s changing quickly: new businesses popping up, lots of art and music, and new people, too. I chose the Heights because I love all of these exciting, new things and I love the people. Everyone is so nice and supportive and there are so many like-minded people, so I thought it’d be the perfect place to collaborate and add to the exciting arts scene here.

Photo: Arielle Pellis

Theatre in the Heights is No Dominion Theatre’s second community collaboration.  Where was the first one and will you manage both simultaneously?
Kaitlin: Our first tried and true community collaboration was in my hometown of High Bridge, New Jersey. I joined the Cultural and Heritage Committee so we could produce our first full-length, original piece in this historic site there called Solitude House.

Michael: We interviewed members of the community about their experiences living in High Bridge and used that material in the piece. We had a huge turnout from members of the community including the mayor who was interested in us creating a theatre camp for kids over the summer. This is still a possibility in the future, and we would love to revisit Solitude House at another time. We are pulling most of our focus towards Jersey City now and establishing a relationship with that community.

Kaitlin: I’d say our second collaboration of sorts was the launch of H.A.T.C.H. (Helping Artists to Create Here), and that launched in September of 2016. H.A.T.C.H. is an incubator series where, essentially, we produce other artists’ work that might not necessarily fit into our Main Stage season as a full production; it might be performance art, music, or something in between.

Theatre in the Heights was born similarly, as we wanted to provide an outlet for new plays to be heard that aren’t necessarily ready for a full production. The series also gives some exposure to local actors and directors, as well as playwrights. How we will manage both series simultaneously, on top of also working on Main Stage productions and cultivating our Board of Advisors? Just like we’ve been doing: we just do our best to figure it out and do it.

What are some of your favorite spots in the Heights?
Kaitlin: Some of my favorite spots are The Cliff, Dulce De Leche Bakery, Fox and Crow, Corkscrew, Congress Station, and the Hutton; and those are just the places in my neck of the woods! I haven’t even been to all of the places I want to go to, and I’m excited for the new spots that I hear are coming to the Heights soon, too!

Jersey City has a very vibrant arts community, but what would you say is missing or could be better?
Kaitlin: To be honest, I don’t even know all there is to know about the Jersey City arts community, since I still consider myself new to the area, but since I did want to get involved, I guess I could say that I felt No Dominion was missing. We’re such a collaborative company and I always feel any community can always use more collaborative spirits, so I’m glad we can contribute that to the JC arts scene. What could be better? Perhaps access to affordable space. That would be awesome. The arts scene here is so vibrant that I can’t help but think those people who are making it so are doing the right things.

Michael: Access to affordable space would be extremely helpful in so many ways!

How did your collaboration with Growing in Jersey City come about?
Kaitlin: I met Jenna through Instagram. The whole vibe of Growing in Jersey City is so down-to-earth, and I reached out to her not exactly sure if she’d respond since she has so many followers, but she did! And we hit it off right away. She is so supportive of new ideas and so kind. She was excited from the start about launching this series, and it just seemed like the perfect fit.

How can people get involved with Theatre in the Heights?
Kaitlin: Anyone who wants to be involved, not just with Theatre in the Heights but also with H.A.T.C.H., our Main Stage, and even our Board, can email; say hi and let us know what you’re interested in! We are always looking for new plays, actors, and helping hands. And visit our website, too. And come to the reading, too, and we can exchange business cards!

Michael: Submit your work on our website, like us on Facebook, come to our events, and chat with us. We’re always looking for new collaborators with new ideas!