Premiere Stages to Receive Major Naming Gift


Brother and sister W. John Bauer, Ph.D, professor emeritus, and Nancy Boucher, longtime supporters of the arts at Kean, are making a major gift to the University on behalf of Premiere Stages. The generous donation will be used to refurbish the Theatre Conservatory lobby and entrance of Vaughn Eames, which houses two primary performance venues, as well as to provide support to new play development programs.

“John and Nancy’s incredible legacy began nearly 25 years ago and has remained steadfast ever since, resulting in monumental changes to our theatre programs,” said John J. Wooten, producing artistic director of Premiere Stages, the professional theatre company in residence at Kean. “They have helped to establish Premiere Stages as one of the nation’s leading developers of new plays and emerging artists, and continue to make a lasting difference in the lives of current and future students who will become the next generation of leaders in the field.”

The University will commemorate the gift by officially designating the theatre wing of Vaughn Eames Hall, which includes the Theatre Conservatory, a box office and the Zella Fry and Murphy Dunn Theatres, as the “The Bauer-Boucher Theatre Center.” The gift will also support Premiere’s nationally recognized Play Festival and new play development programs.

Plaques honoring Bauer and Boucher will be mounted outside of the Zella Fry Theatre, alongside a plaque honoring the late Estelle Ritchie, a professional actress and professor of English and theatre at Kean who developed many theatre courses. The plays, papers and pictures of her 60-year career, which were archived by Bauer and Boucher, are available in the Nancy Thompson Library.

“This gift will provide significant financial support to Premiere Stages to undertake substantial enhancements that will enable the company to continue to provide world-class theatrical performances and develop and nurture emerging artists," said James M. Gurland, senior advancement officer for the Kean University Office of Institutional Advancement. "It benefits the talented Kean students and alumni who gain professional experience through their work with Premiere Stages and the playwrights who are developed through the program."

Bauer and Boucher are natives of Short Hills, where they attended numerous theatre productions at the Paper Mill Playhouse. As Millburn High School students, they ushered and met professional actors and actresses. Later, as members of the Summit Playhouse, they worked backstage, helped to restore the building, having it and the institution placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and even did a little acting.

The siblings, current residents of New Providence, are longtime supporters of Premiere Stages and Kean University, where they also sponsor the Bauer-Boucher Playwriting Award, and six scholarships in English, theatre and education.

For more information about Premiere Stages, visit

Premiere Stages offers affordable prices, air-conditioned facilities and free parking close to the theatre. Premiere Stages also provides free or discounted tickets to patrons with disabilities. All Premiere Stages facilities are fully accessible spaces, and companion seating is available for patrons with disabilities. Assistive listening devices and large print programs are available at all times; publications in alternate formats are available with advance notice. Call 908-737-4077 for a list of sign-interpreted, audio-described or open-captioned performances.


Premiere Stages is made possible in part through funding from The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, The Northfield Bank Foundation, The Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Union Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, Investors Foundation, The Union County HEART Grant, and through the generous support of individual patrons and local organizations. Discover Jersey Arts is our marketing partner. Visit for more information about other arts programming happening around the Garden State.


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