Inter-Generational, Extra-Inspirational

The Rosen Performing Arts Center Spotlights A Theatrical Side to the Wayne YMCA

Wayne has a hidden arts scene that doesn’t necessarily jump out at you. But it should.

The Rosen Performing Arts Center is tucked away in the Wayne YMCA, a professional theater space nestled in a center known more for its gym and yoga classes than for performing arts. While it doesn’t have its own standalone building, as a facility, it rivals The Barn Theater in Montville and the Shea Center for the Performing Arts at WPU in Wayne. With its 406-seat facility, It’s actually bigger than the Barn and more intimate than the Shea Center. 

What rises to the surface with the theater program at the Rosen PAC is that it is truly based in the community, much like its YMCA home. The season at the Rosen PAC is filled with opportunities for kids and teens to take the stage, but one unique program is a true standout - their annual intergenerational show.

“This show is what the Y stands for. This show literally is for everybody in the community, it’s just one microcosm of what the Y is,” explains Erin Gilgur, Interim Membership Director for the Wayne YMCA. 

And no, you don’t need to be a member to participate.

It’s really an unusual offering for a community theater, running a production with a cast from age 5 and up. They’ll have multiple generation families participate, grandparents with their grandkids, anyone who joins will have a part. It’s a massive undertaking. When they did Beauty and the Beast, there were nearly 100 cast members.

“It’s a great experience to share,” says Meryl Budnick, Cultural Arts Director for the Rosen PAC and producer of the shows. “It’s a great way for people who may or may not have any acting experience, families whose kids have done shows but their parents haven’t. It’s an opportunity to do something fun together as a family.”

Sometimes, even the most inexperienced create theater magic. “We had a dad whose kids had been doing theater at the Y for years. We were casting for The Music Man, and he came with his kids and said ‘you know what? I’m gonna try it.’ He’d never done theater before. He ended up landing a lead role.”

But along the way, even the most apprehensive cast members learn something about themselves. Many come back to join the cast year after year. It becomes an annual rite; they’ve found their theater home. Or, in theater parlance, their troupe.

One of the most inspirational aspects of this show is their inclusion of all members of the community, especially as it relates to the kids in the cast. “They have the opportunity to work with adults as peers, and from all segments of the community,” explains Budnick. ““They can get to interact with adults, but also adults with special needs. It’s so much more powerful than what they might see simply in the classroom.”.”

To make sure that the community is indeed fully represented, they hire professional ASL interpreters for the deaf. One who comes back yearly is a professional actor and “he’s so good I end up watching him most of the time,” admits Gilgur.

This year’s intergenerational show was The Spongebob Musical, which had its three-day run in October. According to Budnick, she’s already gotten started on next year’s as-yet unannounced production. “Every year, we want to build upon our momentum for next year’s show. I start again the very next day.” 

With her robust theater plan and community success with the intergenerational show each year, the Rosen PAC might not be considered a hidden gem for much longer. One day, people might be asking “hey — did you know that there’s a gym at the Rosen Performing Arts Center?

For more information about the Rosen Performing Arts Center, go to (

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