Montclair State's Alexander Kasser Theater Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Sold-out Gala event raises more than $300,000 to support performing arts at Montclair State

On Saturday, November 1, 2014, Montclair State University marked a decade of stellar performances at the Alexander Kasser Theater with a gala celebration. Since opening in 2004, the Kasser Theater has garnered regional, national and international recognition as both a home for world-renowned talents and as an incubator for the next generation of innovative performing artists. The sold-out event raised more than $300,000 to ensure the Kasser Theater’s future excellence and continued relevance.

“Tonight we celebrate not only the 10th anniversary of the Alexander Kasser Theater, which has provided a beautiful home for dazzling performances by our students, by professional artists and, often, by a wonderful combination of the two, but we also honor the Kasser family, whose vision and generosity have made both this evening and this theater possible,” said Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole, addressing the capacity audience.

Since the theater’s inaugural evening on October 7, 2004, when dance legend Mikhail Baryshnikov became the first artist to step onto its stage, the Kasser Theater has hosted 170 critically acclaimed productions. These include 26 specially commissioned works, as well as 34 world premiere and 35 American premiere performances. Kasser audiences have also enjoyed more than 350 performances by students from Montclair State’s prestigious programs in music, dance and theater.

A Gala Program

On Saturday night, Richard Alston, dubbed by The Times of London as “our most musical choreographer,” returned to the stage of the Kasser Theater to enthrall a capacity audience. Alston’s last visit to Montclair State was an enormous success with The New York Times hailing his company’s performance of Unfinished Business as the best dance performance of 2013.

The gala celebration marked the American premieres of two new works created for the Benjamin Britten centenary, Rejoice in the Lamb and Holderlin Fragments, as well as a reprise of Unfinished Business (Duet) and 1994’s Illuminations, set to Britten’s song cycle based on poems by Rimbaud.

Rising tenor Nicholas Phan; renowned pianist Jason Ridgway; the vibrant American Contemporary Music Ensemble; and Montclair State’s own 24-voice choir, Vocal Accord under the direction of Heather Buchanan, provided live music for the special performance.

A short video featuring highlights of the Kasser Theater’s history, the life of Alexander Kasser and past performances at the theater was also screened during the gala.

“The 10th anniversary celebration helps us to ensure a vibrant future for the Alexander Kasser Theater,” said Cole. “It is a jewel of a theater and a state-of-the-art home for just the kind of dynamic, breathtaking and thought-provoking performances showcased at Saturday’s celebration.”

At the gala, Robert Jackson, Mayor of Montclair, declared November 1, 2014, to be Kasser Family Appreciation Day. “I’m happy to honor the Kasser/Mochary family for their vision and generosity and to acknowledge the many ways in which Montclair has been enriched by their philanthropic and civic contributions.”

Mary Kasser Mochary and Rose Cali served as cochairs of the gala event committee. In 2002, Mrs. Mochary, along with her brother, I. Michael Kasser, and her two children, Alexandra Bergstein and Matthew Mochary, made a joint gift of $4 million to name the Alexander Kasser Theater after her late father, an international philanthropist, art lover and one-time Montclair resident. A member of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, Mrs. Mochary served as mayor of Montclair from 1980 to 1984.

Rose Cali, founder of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State and the current cochair of the Montclair Art Museum’s Board of Trustees, is a longtime member of the University’s Board of Trustees and chairs the John J. Cali School of Music Advisory Board. Mrs. Cali’s late husband was John J. Cali, for whom the University’s School of Music is named. In 2008, the Cali family made a $5 million gift to name the school.

The Kasser Theater and Peak Performances

Conceived as a venue honoring the late Alexander Kasser by providing cultural opportunities for University students, the community and the state of New Jersey, the 500-seat Kasser Theater today attracts visionary performing artists from around the world. Drawn to the energy at the Kasser, they debut important new works through the theater’s Peak Performances series, which was formed in 2005 under the artistic direction of Jedediah Wheeler, the University’s executive director for Arts and Cultural Programming.

During its first decade, the theater has served as a creative home where such celebrated artists as Tony Award-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones, MacArthur fellow and Bessie Award-winner Susan Marshall, performance artist Laurie Anderson and the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet were free to create, develop and perform groundbreaking new works.

Peak Performances’ 10th-anniversary season promises to deliver exciting performances from artists that include avant-garde director Richard Schechner, choreographer Liz Lerman, the Shanghai Quartet, performance artist Robert Whitman and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

“The Kasser is more than a theater that happens to be located on a college campus,” said Cole. “In its first 10 years, it has become both a leading cultural institution and a model for university-based theaters across the country. Professional artists develop works here with student involvement in both performance and production, while our talented students have found a welcoming home on the Kasser stage.”

As a reflection of Montclair State’s commitment to making live performances an integral part of the University experience and accessible to the public, students can take in every performance for free, while attendees pay just $20 per ticket to an outstanding line-up of performances.

View a video about the Kasser Theater.

Celebrating Montclair's Alexander Kasser Theater - The Montclair Times

Richard Alston Dance Company in Montclair - The Montclair Times