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West Hudson Arts & Theatre Company Making Classic Venue Home

Jan 01, 2023
Holy Cross Harrison NJ Main Banquet Hall

In a prior article on The West Hudson Arts and Theater Company (WHATCo), a WHATCo spokesman stated that “WHATCo’s Vision is that it will emerge as a significant arts facility in the West Hudson community known best for quality productions that seek to enhance the community as a whole and foster a caring approach to theater and theatrical education for its members.” 

WHATCo announced recently that it will be moving its center of operation to the Holy Cross Banquet Hall located in the former Holy Cross Grammar School located at 15 So. Frank E. Rodgers Blvd in Harrison.  The location, across from the Veteran’s Memorial Park and The Courts at Library Park, has been vacant for some time.  Former Councilman Anselmo Millan  lead a group of volunteers to refurbish the Holy Cross Banquet Hall by doing repairs to walls and ceilings and painting them. The non-profit Harrison Fest Inc. whose President Anselmo Millan, brought the venue back to life in 2016 with a very successful Queens Gala night as part of Harrison Fest 2016.

Holy Cross School Stage During Harrison Fest Queens Gala. President of Harrison Fest, Anselmo Millan, Judges and Hudson County Sheriff Frank X. Schillari (Center)

The President of WHATco Brandi-Leigh Miller was quoted by The Observer newspaper as saying, “It has become clear that the stability of a long-term home is necessary for us to continue to deliver on our mission of providing high-quality theater and arts education opportunities to the West Hudson community.”  The Holy Cross Banquet Hall lends itself to both being an office space as well as a theater and venue for theatre-related workshops and practice sessions.  As Anselmo Millan and his Harrison Fest Volunteers found out, the venue could use upgrades to its heating system and a central air conditioning system but its stage, its 30 to 40-foot ceiling height, balcony section, and ornate woodwork and plaster moldings harp back to a time where the venue was the center of many theater productions and musical band performances and dances.  Anselmo Millan stated, “When the idea of a Queens Gala came to fruition, I wanted to hold the Gala in Harrison. But we needed a large venue.  I approached the Holy Cross Parish and the Archdiocese of Newark which owns the building about using the Holy Cross Banquet Hall. It had not been used for years. It needed some repairs but it was a great venue for the Gala.  The photographs of the hall show its grandeur.  The venue is a great space for WHATco and theater is one of its original uses.”

WHATCo will be holding winter workshops.  Registration will be in January 2023. You can check Your Harrison for updates and/or go to WHATCo’s website.

As part of the move to the Holy Cross Grammar School campus, a fundraising initiative is planned to reach out to sponsors and donors both locally and afar who are arts-minded and understand the importance of theater and the arts in communities. Vice President Gloria Spence will be heading up the fundraising initiatives. VP Spence has many years of non-profit fundraising experience.

Award-winning North Jersey community theater veteran Beatriz Esteban Messina has joined the WHATCo Board.

WHATCo Productions Planned for 2023

Holy Cross Banquet Hall Set up For Harrison Fest Queens Gala

The WHATCo season will open with a fundraiser in March of an original murder-mystery dinner theater production. “Trivia Night Murder,” penned by Allyssa Hynes, a local award-winning playwright.  The season will continue with a Comedy by Billy Van Zant and Jane Milmore entitled “Drop Dead!” There will also be a musical based on the beloved Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schultz entitled “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”.  Music and lyrics for the Charlie Brown play are by Mark Gesner who got assistance with additional dialogue from Michael Mayer.  Last but not least, “The Great Gatsby” is an old-time radio show based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel adapted by Joe Landry.

Photos courtesy of Harrison Fest Inc.  Additional photos of Queens Gala on Harrison Fest Website Cover Photo Holy Cross Stage during Harrison Fest Queens Gala.

What are your thoughts on West Hudson Arts & Theater's use of the former Holy Cross School Banquet Hall?  Let Us Know Your Thoughts on our Community Discussion Board.  If you have not signed up yet to participate you can Sign Up now.