MADISON, N.J. – Bonnie J. Monte, who has been at the helm of the renowned Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) since late 1990, has announced that 2023 will be her final season as the company’s Artistic Director. T. Randolph Harris, STNJ’s Board Chair, said, “For 33 years, Ms. Monte has provided exemplary leadership – and I have had the privilege of working with her for 31 of them. She has transformed what was a small, struggling company into a vibrant, major player in the classic theatre arena, moving the company into a new era of growth and fiscal and organizational health. From the very start, she redefined the institution’s mission, placing a strong and equal focus on arts education, diversity, and artist training. Over the course of her long tenure, she has made STNJ one of the nation’s best teaching theatres, and has expanded its reach and impact beyond all expectations.”
Governor Thomas H. Kean, long-time Honorary Chair of STNJ, remarked, “During her tenure, Bonnie Monte has taken The Shakespeare Theatre to new heights. She is one of NJ’s arts leaders – she will be succeeded but never replaced.” And Wood Huntley, the company’s Board President said, “Ms. Monte’s drive and dedication has built STNJ into one of the most respected regional theatres in the country. Her abilities were never more evident than during the pandemic when her creativity and innovation enabled us to continue performing when most theaters in the nation were shut down. Her leadership, creativity, and foresight placed the theatre in a more financially secure position than most. After what will be 34 years of stellar leadership, Ms. Monte has more than earned a much-needed rest. She will be greatly missed.”
And from Ms. Monte, “Three decades ago, our Board took a chance on me, handing me both an incredible opportunity and an incredible challenge. My journey here has been my life’s dream come true, and while it has been a demanding voyage, each and every day has been loaded with experiences, people, and events that have enriched my life beyond reckoning. While I feel it’s time for me to hand the reins over to new leadership, I will remain very involved with the company as Artistic Director Emerita, and hopefully, continue to direct here and provide support in any way I can. At the end of my time as Artistic Director, I am looking forward to turning my focus solely to writing, directing, and teaching.”
Under Ms. Monte’s leadership, STNJ has evolved continuously. She has guided the company through two major capital campaigns, resulting in the transformational renovation and expansion of its principal performance venue, the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre on the campus of Drew University in Madison; and the creation of the Thomas H. Kean Theatre Factory, in Florham Park, the Theatre’s unique and groundbreaking support facility. She brokered a partnership with Saint Elizabeth University in 2002, thereby attaining a second performance venue for STNJ, at the University’s stunning Greek amphitheater. STNJ’s annual Outdoor Theatre residency there has become one of the region’s “go-to” performance events each summer. She took what was a modest $800,000 budget at the start of her tenure and has moved the company toward an annual budget of $4.0 million. She has directed over 90 productions for STNJ, and authored over a dozen translations and adaptations of classic plays for production at STNJ, two of which have now been published.
Determined to ensure that every student in New Jersey is exposed to Shakespeare’s work in exciting and dynamic fashion, she established its Shakespeare LIVE! touring company in 1997. That program alone has changed the education landscape in NJ and the mid-Atlantic region, now having brought live performances of Shakespeare’s plays to approximately 700,000 students in its 27-year history. Throughout her years at STNJ, she placed a major emphasis on using the classics as a highly effective teaching tool, and via the dozen or more education programs she created over her tenure, the company has provided both learning and rigorous training opportunities for thousands of students, teachers, laymen, and emerging professionals. Her emphasis on artistic excellence, both on stage and in classrooms, has established the company’s reputation as a superb creative home for hundreds of artists, many of whom got their start through STNJ’s training programs, and she has been able to lure many of the nation’s top theatre artists to the Madison stage. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, she has also been awarded Honorary Doctorates in Arts and Letters from both Drew University and Saint Elizabeth University. During her years at STNJ, she also engaged in guest teaching residencies at the University of Notre Dame, University of South Carolina, the New School in NYC, and at Drew University. Ms. Monte came to New Jersey after working at a number of other prestigious theatres including the Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Manhattan Theatre Club. She earned her B.A. at Bethany College in West Virginia, and a graduate conservatory degree from the Hartman Theatre Conservatory in Connecticut. She originally hails from Stamford, CT, and has been a resident of Madison, NJ for the past 33 years.
The Shakespeare Theatre’s Board of Trustees is currently working with Ms. Monte to identify and hire her successor to ensure a smooth transition and new leadership that will build on her vision and hopes for the institution’s future.
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The acclaimed Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is an independent, professional theatre company whose Main Stage is located on the Drew University campus. One of the leading Shakespeare theatres in the nation, it is New Jersey’s largest professional theatre company dedicated solely to Shakespeare’s canon and other world classics. Through its distinguished productions and education programs, the company strives to illuminate the universal and lasting relevance of the classics for a diverse and contemporary audience.
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s programs are made possible, in part, by funding from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional major support is received from the F.M. Kirby Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, MacMillan Family Foundation, The Hearst Foundations, The Edward T. Cone Foundation, CTW Foundation, The Samuel H. Scripps Foundation, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Bank of America, Shakespeare in American Communities: National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, E.J. Grassmann Trust, Hyde and Watson Foundation, New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund at the Princeton Area Community Foundation, Union Foundation, The Merrill G. and Emita E. Hastings Foundation, Turrell Fund, The Jack K. Ayre & Frank Ayre Lee Theatre Foundation, The John R. Eckel Jr. Foundation, and the Howard Gilman Foundation, as well as contributions from numerous other foundations, corporations, government agencies, and individuals.