Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights mourns Jane Stanton, Heights Players founder

Children’s Theater Director Dies at 96

February 2, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jane Stanton. Photo courtesy of Shannon Thornton
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Brooklyn lost a leading figure in children’s theater creation and management recently when longtime Brooklyn Heights resident Jane Strahan Stanton passed away on Dec. 31, 2015. In recent years, she was living with her family in Mendocino, California.

An accomplished theatrical director and children’s theater pioneer who brought the joy of live productions to many children for the first time during a 65-year career, Stanton was a former resident of Brooklyn Heights. She was the director (and founder with Heights resident Sally Forbes) of the Penny Bridge Players Theatre for Children, performing in the undercroft of Church of the Assumption, as well as in the St. Felix Street Playhouse at Brooklyn Academy of Music. She also was a producer and the director of Young World Productions, created together with former Heights resident Sally Weeks Congdon, which rotated performances between three locations in Manhattan. 

Stanton was the author of more than 16 imaginative plays for children, performed at the Heights Players and on many other theatrical stages on the East Coast, with music composed by Andrea Stryker-Rodda and Lewis Hardee. Among her better known plays are “The Prince with Blue Hair” and “Tinker Tom and the Magical Grannies.”

“Creating live theater for children is a labor of love, and being witness to the pure joy of kids who have never seen live theater before is absolute magic,” Stanton said in one newspaper account. 

Stanton was also a popular drama teacher and director of student productions at Packer Collegiate Institute for more than six years. She wrote and directed two original musical multi-media shows at Packer, “Right On, Ms.” and “Don’t Send Your Son to Eton,” both with casts of more than 100 students, faculty and parents.

Born in New York in 1919 to Robert Hardy Strahan and Harriet Dudley Mosher, Stanton earned a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College in 1940, and studied for a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University. A working mother of three long before it became common, she won the Vogue Magazine Prix de Paris, which led to jobs in New York as a fashion copywriter at Vogue and later at Alden. 

Stanton’s work advanced to Off-Broadway and regional theater stages where she directed many well-received productions for adult audiences, including a number of originals for the stage. She formed New World Productions in 1982 for which she directed 14 plays at the Wonderhorse Theatre. She co-produced the original Off-Broadway musical production “Oh Me, Oh My, Oh Youmans” at The New Vic Theatre, and “Knitters in the Sun” at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. 

Stanton was one of the founders in 1987 of the River Rep Theatre Company at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut. As artistic director for 18 years, she directed more than 84 critically acclaimed productions, both dramatic and musical. For 16 winter seasons, Stanton was the artistic director at the Hampton Theatre Company in Quogue, Long Island. Before retiring at age 85, she directed several shows each year for the Tar River Players in Tarboro, North Carolina.

Stanton was married for 36 years to Robert Francis Stanton Jr., an advertising executive from whom she was later divorced. She is survived by Alexander Stanton of Greenwich, Connecticut; Judy O’Karma of Mendocino, California; Anne Stanton Malone of San Francisco; daughter-in-law Wendy Stanton; sons-in-law Christopher O’Karma and Rik Malone; and five grandchildren who she adored — John, Andrew, Matthew, Spencer and Stella Jane. 

“I have always believed that excellent theater has the power to change the world by influencing lives and opening doors to thought,” Stanton said in another media interview.

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