Premiere Stages to Receive Major Naming Gift


UNION, N.J. — Kean University announced that Professor Emeritus W. John Bauer, Ph.D, and his sister Nancy Boucher will make a major gift to the University on behalf of Premiere Stages, the professional theatre company in residence at Kean. The gift will enable Premiere Stages and the Kean University Theatre Conservatory to refurbish the lobby and upgrade the entrance to their primary producing venues, the Zella Fry and Murphy Dunn Theatres, housed in Vaughn Eames Hall. It will also provide support to Premiere’s nationally recognized Play Festival and new play development programs. The University will commemorate the gift by officially designating the new entrance “The Bauer-Boucher Theatre Center.”

“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. “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.”

Plaques honoring Bauer and Boucher will be mounted in the refurbished lobby of the Zella Fry Theatre. In addition, a plaque honoring the late Estelle Ritchie, a professional actress and professor of English and theatre at Kean, will also be unveiled. Ritchie developed many theatre courses. The plays, papers and pictures of her 60-year career are located in the Nancy Thompson Library. These items were archived by Bauer and Boucher and are available to students and faculty.

“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 University 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 had opportunities to usher and meet 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.

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. For more information, visit Premiere Stages online at

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.


 (L-R)  Professor Emeritus W. John Bauer, Premiere Stages Producing Artistic Director John J. Wooten, and Nancy Boucher.

Press Contact: 

Margaret McCorry
University Relations 
Kean University | 908-737-0583

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