For Cape May Stage's producing artistic director Roy B. Steinberg, a mistaken-identity farce, such as his company's "Lend Me A Tenor," makes for a perfect summertime theater presentation.
But when the weather cools, Steinberg schedules plays that are not only be entertaining, but also thought provoking.
"In the fall, there are the most interesting plays. 'Freud's Last Session' is funny. It has lots of laughs, but it asks big questions," said Steinberg. Atheist psychoanalyst Sig-mund Freud engages with Christian author C.S. Lewis in the Mark St. Germain play Cape May Stage is currently producing. "The play really examines both sides very equally. They are given fair treatment,"said Steinberg.
Similar to the movies, the fall theater season dispenses with purely frothy entertainment and tries to find a successful balance between plays that are entertaining, but also have some meaning to them. After the summer season, the fall is the second most important time of the year for local acting companies. Theaters will add crowd pleasers that capitalize on Halloween and Christmas. During the holiday season, they may be appealing to an audience that doesn't make it to the theater any other time of the year.
"My aspiration is to have people come to the theater for the theater. This theater really exists to touch people's hearts and souls," Steinberg said.
Steinberg follows "Freud's Last Session" with a Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama, titled "A Walk in the Woods," by Lee Blessing. In this play, two superpower arms negotiators, one Russian, the other American, meet informally in the woods after long frustrating hours at the bargaining table. People coming to see this play will see parallels with President Barack Obama dealing with Russian president Vladimir Putin over such issues as Syria and homophobia in Russia, Steinberg said.
The season ends with "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol," a retelling of the Charles Dickens classic through the perspective of Scrooge's former business partner and one of literature's more famous ghosts.
Gayle Stahlhuth, artistic director of Cape May's East Lynne Theater Company, said a different kind of dynamic and tourist operates in Cape May in the fall compared to the summer. More bus groups come to Cape May in the cooler months, she said.
Stahlhuth did not know whether she was fortunate or not this year. In August, the theater group had a world premiere of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." She had no clue that the Fox TV network would premiere a "Sleepy Hollow" fantasy/mystery drama last month. It was the first of the fall's new batch of TV shows to be renewed for a second season.
From Oct. 23 to 27 the group will perform its production of the play at the Ocean Professional Theatre in Stafford Township.
Where the "Sleepy Hollow" TV show may not be recommended for viewers who are afraid of dark-themed stories, Stahlhuth said her "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is extremely child-friendly.
The East Lynne Theater Company used to only do shows in the summertime, but Stahlhuth realized the significance of other organizations, such as the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, doing programming outside of summer, and she decided to follow suit.
Casts are usually bigger in the fall, but the theater doesn't do as many shows as it does during the summer, Stahlhuth said.
In addition to bringing in Stahlhuth's group for a Halloween show, the Ocean Professional Theatre Company is mounting a holiday production from Dec. 6 to 15. Steve Steiner, the company's producing artistic director, did the vocal arrangements and the orchestrations for the show "Holly Jolly Holidazzle."
"People enjoy going to the theater... People (residents), who work in the summer, wouldn't have the chance to go. People love going to the theater around the holidays," Steiner said.
The holidays also figure prominently in the planning of the Ocean City Repertory Theater.
Everything the group is doing this fall on its main stage, second stage and even stage readings is taking advantage of either Halloween or Christmas from a kid-friendly haunted house from Saturday through Oct. 29 to the unexpected return of "The Rocky Horror Show" musical, which they did this summer, at 10 p.m. Oct. 25 and 10 and 11:59 p.m. Oct. 26.
In the fall, many Ocean City visitors are second-home owners and adults who don't have children in school, said Flossi Micciolo, founder and artistic director of Ocean City Repertory Theater.
"It's light and fun in the summer and heavier and more intelligent in the fall. People don't want to see (The Diary of) 'Anne Frank' in July or August," said Micciolo, who added the fall season is the second-most important stretch of the year. "Halloween and Christmas really help the theater."
Micciolo said it is harder for her to attract residents in the fall to her productions compared to tourists in the summer. Most Ocean City residents are exhausted after the summer. They don't necessarily want to head out or do something at night, Micciolo said.
Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven finishes its 64th season this fall with a production of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" from Dec. 3 to 22.
Norb Joerder directed and choreographed all the summer musicals this past season at the Surflight, including "The Boy Friend," "Les Miserables" and "George M!" Joerder did the version of "White Christmas" that was performed last winter at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Joerder was supposed to do a production of "White Christmas" last year at Surflight, but the plans were wiped out because of Hurricane Sandy.
This is the third year that Joerder is mounting the national tour of "White Christmas." There will be two competing productions of Berlin's "White Christmas" in southern New Jersey this year. Millville's The Off Broad Street Players have a rendition of Berlin's "White Christmas" scheduled for Nov. 15 to 17 and 21 to 24 at the Levoy Theatre in Millville.
Joerder said that when people buy a ticket to see "White Christmas," they know they will be paying for a relaxing evening at the theater.
"They can sit back and enjoy. It's a two-and-a-half-hour vacation," Joerder said.
Contact Vincent Jackson:
Fall area theater
Here is a list of productions scheduled in southern New Jersey theaters until the end of the year.
Dante Hall Theater
14 North Mississippi Ave., Atlantic City
Nov. 2: "In The Eye of the Storm," (Atlantic City Ballet)
Tickets are free, but must be reserved.
Cape May Stage
The Robert Shackleton Playhouse
405 Lafayette St., Cape May
Today, Tuesday to Saturday: "Freud's Last Session"
Oct. 23 to Nov. 16: "A Walk in the Woods"
Nov. 29 to Dec. 29: "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol"
Tickets: $35 adults; $30 seniors (62 and older); $15 students.
The East Lynne Theater Company
The First Presbyterian Church of Cape May
500 Hughes St., Cape May
Nov. 1 and 2: "Holmes and Carter Mysteries"
Nov. 29 to Dec. 14: Christmas with Harte and O.Henry"
Tickets: $25 general; $15 students; and children 12 and younger free.
513 Lafayette St., Cape May
Today to Nov: 24: "Clues Monster"
Nov. 29 to Dec. 30: "Scrooge The Musical"
Tickets: $44.95 adults; $34.95 age 13 to 17; $24.95 children 12 and younger.
Greater Ocean City Theatre Company
Ocean City Music Pier
Boardwalk and Moorlyn Terrrace, Ocean City
Oct. 26 and 27: "Murderous Night At The Museum"
Dec. 13 to 15: "2013 Holiday Spectacular"
Dec. 21: "A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol"
Tickets: $10 "A Murderous Night at the Museum," "A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol"; $18 adult, $15 seniors and children younger than 12, "2013 Holiday Spectacular"
Ocean City Repertory Theater
813 Asbury Ave., Ocean City
Friday to Oct. 28: Second Annual Kid-Friendly Haunted House
Oct. 22, 23: "Poe Evermore"
Oct. 25 and 26: "The Rocky Horror Show" musical
Oct. 29: "National Frankenstein Day"
Oct. 30: "Wicked Cabaret"
Nov. 1, 2, 8 to 10, 15 to 17: "Barefoot in the Park"
Nov. 14: "Hamlet"
Nov. 29, 30, Dec. 1, 6 to 8, 13 to 15: "It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play"
Dec. 6, 7, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28: "Madeline's Christmas: The Musical"
Dec. 11, 18: "A Dickens of a Christmas"
Dec. 14: "A Christmas Cabaret"
Dec. 23: "Christmas Eve Eve"
Dec. 30 and 31: "Jesus Christ Superstar Cabaret"
Tickets: $5 per child for haunted house; $10 "Poe Evermore," "Wicked Cabaret," "Hamlet," "A Dickens of a Christmas," "A Christmas Cabaret," "Christmas Eve Eve" and "Jesus Christ Superstar Cabaret"; $15 "The Rocky Horror Show" musical, "National Frakenstein Day," "Barefoot in the Park" and "It's A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play"; and $5 "Madeline's Christmas: The Musical."
Ocean Professional Theatre Company
OceanFirst Theater, Stafford Township Arts Center
1000 McKinley Ave., Manahawkin
Oct. 23, 25 to 27: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
Dec. 6 to 8, 10, 12 to 15: "Holly Jolly Holidazzle"
Tickets: $35 adults; $20 children 12 and younger.
201 Engleside Ave., Beach Haven
Nov. 16: "Aida" (Center Stage Opera Company)
Nov. 29 to Dec. 22: Irving Berlin's "White Christmas"
Tickets: $35 "Aida"; $45 Irving Berlin's "White Christmas"
The Little Theatre
66 East Sherman Ave., Vineland
Today, Oct. 18 to 20: "Scapin"
Dec. 6 to 8, 13 to 15: "Fabulous Fable Factory"
Tickets: $15 for Sunday matinee and 8 p.m. shows, $7.50 seniors "Scapin"; $12 "The Fabulous Fable Factory."
830 E. Landis Ave., Vineland
Oct 27: Atlantic City Ballet's "Dracula"
Tickets: $33 adults; $28 seniors; $18 student/child.
The Levoy Theater
126-130 N. High St., Millville
Friday to Oct. 20: "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," by Off Broad Street Players
Nov. 15 to 17, 21 to 24: Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," by Off Broad Street Players
Dec. 1: The NJ Ballet Presents "The Nutcracker"
Dec. 8: The Ocean City Pops - Christmas Performance
Tickets: $20, $14 for seniors and students for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"; $20, $14 for children and seniors for "White Christmas"; $25, $30, $35 for "The Nutcracker"; $20, $25 for Ocean City Pops - Christmas Performance.