When it came time for Landmark Forum graduate Sara Lazarus to choose a project in her Self-Expression and Leadership program, she was not inspired. She thought of doing a benefit for a favorite charity. As a successful theatre director, Sara knew lots of big name Broadway talent and could have asked them to perform. But she realized those actors are often being asked to give of their time and talent for free, so the idea didn’t call to her.
Then she considered doing something to show support for the Paper Mill Playhouse in her home town of Millburn, New Jersey. She thought about finding a way to sell subscriptions, and even floated the idea to some friends who were not enthusiastic about soliciting neighbors. She just didn’t feel moved to action by either option.
She remembers speaking to her coach in the Self-Expression and Leadership program, who gently told her to come up with a new possibility. That took some of the stress out of the process. The next morning, she realized that she had several local friends who were spectacular performers, such as Adrienne McKeown and Stephanie Nesser. What if, she thought, the show specifically benefited Paper Mill, featured local talent and was not just a benefit concert but a way of bringing the Millburn community together? Sara began to get excited.
“We have many things in this town that divide us,” said Lazarus. “We fight over schools, taxes, downtown development, Petsmart coming into town, you name it. I thought ‘How wonderful would it be to something fun and creative that really brought people together?”
She assembled a team and they titled the musical show “Stars Over Millburn” and it was held January 5th. The show featured a huge variety of local professional and amateur performers ranging in age from 10 to 85. They performed rock songs, broadway classics, folk music, classical music an more. It was a resounding success. The local paper, the Independent Press, declared that “The feeling of community spirit and good will was unmistakably present Saturday evening.”
Township resident Lisa Boldt remarked “I didn’t want it to end. I am still ‘possessed’ by some of the performances. Everyone I’ve run into who was there feels the same way. It was fun! And it was astounding to see what talent lies behind those suburban facades.”
While the show raised about $18,000 for the Paper Mill Playhouse, it did far more than that. It strengthened the bond between the town and and Paper Mill, and created a great sense of community pride. And for Sara Lazarus hereself, it opened up new worlds of what she could accomplish.
“I’ve always been a theatre director on the artistic end–Here I was a producer too,” she said. “I wrote weekly press releases, ok’d graphic design, put together the program, solicited stores and donors and different groups in town. I discovered so many sides of myself beyond my artistic skills. All sorts of career possibilities are opening up for me. I also got reconnected to my community, strengthened old friendships and made many new ones!”