ASBURY PARK, NJ - It began with a knock at 3 Deal Lake Court. "You're Maureen Nevin and I hear you know everybody in Asbury Park," the delicate green-eyed brunette said. "I'm Terri Thomas," she sang out in a lilting British accent. "I'm an actress and coloratura soprano and I want to create a Black Box here."
Soprano, thought Nevin, would explain the voice. Having an hour of air time to fill for her new radio show each week, Nevin had met quite a few people in town. She invited Thomas inside.
"But how would that work?" she asked. "Do you peak inside the box like an antique film projector?"
"Not exactly," said Thomas, accepting a cup of Earl Grey from her host. The concept was common in the United Kingdom, Thomas' long-time home. "A black box is a small, plain -- in fact black -- performance space, so versatile that it easily morphs to accommodate a variety of productions; poetry and spoken word readings, script-in-hand play readings, jazz combos and chamber ensembles, one-person shows, works in progress and small plays..."
Nevin dictated about six or eight names and numbers and Thomas hit the pavement never stopping until she had secured a storefront on Cookman Avenue and opened her Black Box. That was ten years ago. Today, the Black Box of Asbury Park is an arts incubator helping to nurture new works and encourage writers and performers who might otherwise slip through the cracks. A not-for-profit, the Black Box is recognized by the Monmouth County Arts Council for its long list of credits for helping to produce plays, hosting women's festivals, musical productions and weekly writers' workshops. And, the Box hopes to enter its next phase with a brand new home courtesy of Carter Sackman and Trip Brooks, city developers, who are restoring the historic 500 Building of Cookman Avenue.