Updated: Jun 26, 2022
If you did not know already, I currently live in Morristown and I love it. It has great restaurants and bars, it’s conveniently located near highways and the train, and there are plenty of other great local businesses in town. The heartbeat of the town, however, has to be the Mayo Performing Arts Center. The building has been there since 1937 when it was originally a movie theater, but it’s path to today has been far from glamorous.
A quick search would bring up the quality of acts MayoPAC has provided its audiences over the years. Legendary artists like Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, and BB King just to name a few, stand-up comedians like Lewis Black, Norm MacDonald, and Tracey Morgan, and other special events like The Nutcracker presented by the New Jersey Ballet during the holidays. Personally, I’ve been to a few shows including a Manhattan Comedy Night which are always hilarious, legendary southern rock bands The Outlaws and Marshall Tucker Band, and I even got to see Steve Martin and Martin Short perform which felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and delivered.
I always knew the MayoPAC had been around for a long time, it feels like much of Morristown has, but I did not quite know the whole story until I sat down with General Manager Ed Kirchdoerffer who gave me an incredible background on the history of the theater. Learning about the tumultuous life of the theater, it’s impressive what the theater has become. Not only is it attracting quality acts like the ones mentioned above, but like I mentioned in the first paragraph it is the heartbeat of the town.
Morristown has not always been what it is today. Like most towns, it has gone through its shares of ups and downs but once the community made a push to save the theater from its ultimate demise, everything seems to turn around.
MayoPac is a non-profit organization that, as Ed says, “was saved by the community and community was in our original name (“The Community Theater” still adorns the facade on the front of the building), so community has always been a big part of our DNA.” That has been one quote that encapsulates one of the missions behind the Greetings From the Garden State podcast. We always ask our guests about their relationships with the community and the MayoPAC nails it.
It could be a Tuesday night where most restaurants would be empty, but there could be a show at the MayoPAC and the surrounding restaurants like South + Pine and Stirling Tavern would be full with theatergoers grabbing dinner before the show. Maybe even some of the local bars would get some foot traffic after the event because after seeing a show at MayoPAC who would want the night to just end?
Having the MayoPAC as part of our series of guests meant a lot to me. Not only is it a pillar in my hometown, but at its core it represents New Jersey as a whole. It’s past is not perfect and I am sure it has been the punchline of many jokes over the years, but it’s resiliency and character now shines through on a nightly basis attracting some of the biggest acts from around the country and providing us with a sense of community and something we can be proud of.
You can listen to the full episode here: https://linktr.ee/greetingsfromthegardenstate