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Teaneck Theater Aims To Rival The City Scene

Matt Okin, director of "Diana & Navy & The Golden Tooth," confabs with the principals of the production, after a rehearsal. Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE
Matt Okin, co-owner, Black Box Studios. Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE
Two cast members in "Diana & Navy & The Golden Tooth" rehearse at Black Box Studios, Teaneck. Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE
Haia Bchiri, 19, of Teaneck, stage manager and longtime student at Black Box Studios. Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE
View of Black Box Studios from Walraven Drive. Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE

TEANECK, N.J. –Matt Okin of Englewood, co-owner of Black Box Studios in Teaneck, is happiest when he’s around a play in progress.

On Tuesday, he happily wrote as the cast of a professional production of “Diana & Navy & The Golden Tooth” played out behind him in the darkened theater.

The space on Walraven Drive, formerly a furniture store, has been home to Black Box since last fall.

“We’ve been in Teaneck for eight years,” Okin said. “Before we moved here, though, we were nomadic.”

Black Box stays true to its roots as an educational theater company. But it’s now also home to professional productions such as “Diana & Navy,” the story of two young sisters struggling to survive in a post-Apocalyptic bayou.

After a time, the production’s playwright, Phoebe Nir, and composer, Tomás Doncker, call out that they’re ready. The 47-year-old Okin, a playwright, director and graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, leaves his desk and takes a seat in the audience area.

As the director of the production, which Black Box is coproducing with True Groove Records, he watches. He listens. He has ideas and he shares them as he confabs with the cast.

“Diana & Navy” was developed in New York City but chose Black Box to workshop the play.

“It’s an exciting thing for us to be developing something that came in from outside,” Okin said.

When finished, the play will be open to audiences at the Teaneck theater in 10 performances from June 22 through June 30. But it’s not open to reviewers. Not just yet.

“We’re trying to offer theater here that’s as cutting edge as anything you could see in New York, both from a student and a professional perspective,” Okin said.

He and his partner, lawyer and playwright Huey Esquire, want to build an audience base in Bergen County and beyond. They put on new productions of older plays; original plays, including Esquire’s recent “This Time,” and workshopped plays.

Black Box serves anyone from 5 to adulthood who’s interested in theater.

“It’s a very homey place,” Okin said. “People never want to leave.”

For more information, visit Black Box online .

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