The Summer day and the midnight dance.
Roselle Park resident Jensyn Modero, along with her husband David (also a Roselle Park resident), have a passion for the stage. It shows in their dedication of expressing and communicating through the arts. So much so that, along with David’s mother, Marguerite Modero, they founded their own production company – Just Off Broadway Productions – that has, for the past seven years, put on musical productions every summer that brings talent of all ages from Union and Essex Counties.
They also believe in giving back to the community, so every year, they focus on a charity or issue to address with their productions.
This year, they decided on Andrew Lloyd Weber’s legendary CATS The Musical. As fate would have it, earlier this year, their hometown of Roselle Park was the first municipality in Union County to pass a Trap-Neuter-Return (T-N-R) ordinance that allows residents to humanely care for feral cat colonies and help control the feline population by allowing for feral cats to be spayed/neutered and returned to their colony. Before the T-N-R ordinance was passed, it was illegal to even feed a cat that visited a home.
Taking time off from the hectic schedule a week before performances, Jensyn and Christine sat down to talk about CATS and cats – the art and the cause.
For Jensyn and her mother, Christine Olmstead-Oertel, not only was CATS an opportunity to bring awareness to T-N-R, it was a sign that the issue needed more attention.
“I saw the value of T-N-R,” Christine said about the program, “And getting the word out now is important. Had I known about this years ago, I would have been able to take care of things sooner and help stabilize the cat population years ago. Now we need to try to get the word out to other towns.”
Christine and Maria Samadjopoulos started Meeko & Ollie’s Mission (M.O.M.) to educate people on not only the positive benefits of T-N-R, but also on what needs to be done from finding where to go to spay/neuter, to finding out about how to ‘trap’ them , to knowing who to call, to learning how to care for a colony. Christine and Maria are thankful that the municipality voted to approve the new law but they know that for the municipality T-N-R was a way to address the wishes an concerns of residents and move on to other issues, marking it in the ‘done’ column. They know that now is the time to educate residents on the best practices to make the most out of T-N-R from a personal caring standpoint. CATS is just another way to reach out to the community.
So now, the entire family, which includes David and Jensyn, both mother-in-laws, Jensyn’s father who does the graphics, and even their daughter, are working to put the finishing touches on CATS. David works as the musical director of a 14-piece orchestra while Jensyn takes on the roles of director, choreographer, and actress for the production. She knows it is a collaborative family effort, “We’re pulling in all our resources to provide a quality theater experience for a low cost.”
Christine has been supportive of her daughter’s pursuits and having this production bring awareness to something that was important to her was a way of a daughter giving support back, a way of saying thank you for all the work done.
Seeing the long term, the Moderos want to have a place in Union County, maybe even Roselle Park, where they can showcase not only the local talent but their town as well. Jensyn stated, “For a small town, you’d be surprised how many people are professional singers, actors, artists come from Roselle Park. We have such a talent base but there is also a need to showcase that talent. To someday bring it all back home to make Roselle Park a cultural hub is something I am working for. It’ll serve a lot of youth in Union County and Roselle Park in particular.”
Jensyn knows the rewards of having the arts be a part of her education. Both she and David are RPHS graduates and they want to see arts and theater programs not only continue but grow. She commented, “I hope that our district sees it as an asset. If we cultivate it, then people will want to come and bring their children to the district known for its theater and arts programs. Sports are a big draw but so are the arts. If we can funnel in the talent, then the school district could be the same kind of hub and draw the same kind of attraction for students and families.”
But her vision does not end with the schools. Jensyn remarked, “Let’s make it a commitment to raise the arts and bring the arts to downtown. Art isn’t as celebrated here as it could be in comparison to other town in the county that put it in the forefront. We should ask ourselves how do we want to see our town and how can it be competitive? I know I’m not alone in thinking that. I think that there’s a bunch of people out there that have the same vision. ”
As part of that overall vision, Jensyn uses Just Off Broadway’s acronym to make her point. It’s our JOB to provide quality productions while bringing awareness to issues outside the confines of the stage.”
For Jensyn, she knows that making people feel passionately about a song or a performance leaves an impact that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. Maybe, if it can be in connection with a a cause such as T-N-R, that impact can lead to action.
“This is what we do. This is our life’s passion,” she concluded before heading back to finish costumes for CATS, “If I get to do what I love, then that’s success.”
CATS will be performed from August 7th through August 9th starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Doris M. Byrne Performing Arts Center of Mount St. Dominic Academy, located at 3 Ryerson Avenue in Caldwell. Ticket are $12 for adults and $10 for students as well as seniors. Tickets can be purchased in advance through ShowTix4U (link) or by calling (866) 967-8167.