10 Questions with Eric Hafen
This month we talked to Eric Hafen, the new Director of Arts and Events for the Borough of Madison.
Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Eric has been involved in show business for 40 years as an actor, director, educator, producer, and arts advocate. He has led many regional theatres as Artistic Director including Theatre at the Mount and Little Theatre Stage Company, both in MA, Park Performing Arts Center in Union City, the Six Flags Entertainment Division and recently a successful 17-year run at the Bickford Theatre in Morris Township. He established the Bickford Theatre as one of New Jersey’s prominent professional theatres. The arts are in his blood.
What do you love most about your new position?
I was amazed to learn that Madison is the only municipality in Morris County that has every artistic discipline represented within its borders. I love the exciting opportunity to enhance each of these disciplines, to expand the audience for each discipline and to raise the profile of the arts throughout the borough.
What is your favorite artistic discipline?
I inherently enjoy all of them. I am both a passive and active appreciator of the arts. My passion has been in the performing arts. I have had fantastic projects on the stage and on the screen. I have acted in theatres, large and small, dinner theatre and children’s theatre. I have directed world and regional premieres, dramas, comedies, music revues, and stunt shows. I have produced and presented jazz, rock, dance concerts, and film festivals.
What sets you apart from other artistic directors?
Wow, that is tough. There are so many who are artistically ahead of me in experiences and years. I guess my basic philosophy is to entertain. I have never been much of a “message” director unless the playwright had dictated that avenue. The plays I had selected, the music and dance concerts I had selected to present all had to have the entertainment factor in them. I want the audience or guests, as I call them, to leave their lives behind for a couple of hours to escape into a story of words, movements or sounds and into the colors, shapes and forms of creative visual artwork. I also believe in the business end of “show business.”
I know you are married. Is your wife in show business too?
Nope. She was a voice opera major in college but had no desire to pursue it professionally. She had sung and soloed with many choruses in MA, including the Master Singers chorus. She had toured the Northeast and England with those choruses. Her passion is her dogs. She raises and shows miniature schnauzers. She is great at it, too. She is a Breeder of Merit with the AKC. She has been incredibly supportive of my career in show business throughout our lives together.
What is your most memorable moment in show business?
I have honestly had so many. Maybe performing with the legendary Gordon McCrea, directing the first regional production of John Cariani’s Almost Maine after its Off- Broadway run. It is probably the most produced comedy/ drama in the country over the past 10 years. I directed and produced Sweeney Todd at my summer theatre, Theatre at the Mount. Maybe it’s really seeing my former students from MA and NJ appearing on Broadway and in movies, as well as in local theatre, having success in my career. Pride for them, I guess.
What is your favorite spot in Madison?
I guess I should say the Madison Community Arts Center. Before I started this position, my exposure to Madison was limited to annual presentations to the Madison Rotary, occasional visits to the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts to visit Deb, performances at Playwrights Theatre, Drew University and Shakespeare Theatre, and eating at the Garlic Rose. I am so new to the borough that I don’t want to pick a favorite spot just yet. I do love walking around Main Street. Oh, and that theatre at the Junior School is extraordinary.
What is the benefit of working in Madison?
Well, as I said, there is so much artistic potential in Madison. The support I have already received from residents, local merchants and from the borough has been unprecedented in my career. I have received support from one of those parties, maybe two, from many organizations but never all three. This town wants the arts to succeed. That’s why I am here. That’s also why they have the new Madison Community Arts Center.
Tell us about the Arts Center. What are your plans for it?
The first plan is to get the residents of the borough to know about the center, where it is and what is has to offer. It is a 1300 square foot beautiful space with dressing room, box office, fully sprung floor (for dancers), projection system, and a recently donated Steinway piano. The goal is to make the center a multi-performance artistic space for both visual and performing arts. We need to raise some money to get the center out of its incubation stage into its teen years by adding a grid, lighting and sound systems. We had a very successful first fund-raiser in September. There will be a few more throughout this season.
In the meantime, we have Carolyn Dorfman Dance coming, children’s theatre coming, fantastic music concerts coming including Rio Clemente and Thomas Pandolfi, improvisational and stand-up comedy coming, and special holiday events coming. Everyone should look at what’s happening at the center every week. You can check the MACA (Madison Arts and Culture Alliance) website www.madisonartsnj.org or the borough website www.rosenet.org for scheduling and upcoming news.
What do you like to do outside of show business?
I thought you were going to ask me my favorite food. Let’s see, I enjoy the loudness of quiet. Maybe a long walk or just sitting in my backyard listening to nothing. I enjoy watching sports especially baseball and football. I am a diehard Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins fan. I enjoy giving talks about show business to senior groups. I really like giving master classes at college workshops and several high schools. I enjoy sharing dog shows and new litters with my wife. The clean-up… not so much.
OK, what is your favorite food?
Well, any seafood preferably not fried. Broiled, grilled, baked, or raw. My friend, Lewis, calls raw fish (sushi) “bait.” I am not a red meat eater, but I will experiment with any food actually. My mother made sure I explored all kinds of food, always saying, “Try it.” Casually, I always enjoy Chinese food.