New leadership at Camden theater company

Ray_Croce_sr
Ray Croce Sr., a board member, is the interim artistic director.

Ray Croce Sr. will take the reins as interim artistic director of the South Camden Theatre Company, a nonprofit professional theater organization, the company's board of trustees announced Friday.

Croce, 58, of Cherry Hill - who works full time as a medical dosimetrist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America's Eastern Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia - replaces Joe Paprzycki, who resigned from the company’s Board of Trustees after the board voted 11-3 in June to dismiss him as producing artistic director of the company. Paprzycki was a long-term board member, while Croce joined the board last October.

Board president Robert Bingaman of Haddon Township said Croce was among three candidates considered for the position, all of whom had directed shows for the company, which is at 12th and Jasper Streets and is entering its 12th season this fall.

"We did a thorough analysis of three different candidates that expressed interest and chose [Croce] for a couple of reasons, one being his long-term relationship with the theater company," said Bingaman, 59, who added he expects that Croce will hold his position for the next two seasons. "He's been involved with the theater company since its early days, when we were in the basement of Sacred Heart."

During his 25-plus years of experience at theaters in South Jersey and Philadelphia, Croce has worked as a managing director, producer, actor, and director.

At SCTC, he has directed And Justice for All, Belmont Avenue Social Club, Indoor Picnic, and Gemini.

He directed those three shows under the purview of Paprzycki (who wrote Indoor Picnic) and acted in Gemini, in addition to codirecting the production with Jordan Feld, now SCTC's facility usage coordinator.

"Unfortunately, as hard as we've tried, [Paprzycki] has severed ties completely," said Croce, who has known Paprzycki since the early 1990s. "I will always look up and think of him fondly. He's a phenomenal artist."

Croce hopes to bring a greater variety of works to the theater.

For the 2016-17 season, he selected the Pulitzer Prize-winning Water by the Spoonful by Philadelphia playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes, who also wrote the book for Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical In the Heights. In January, Croce will direct Hudes' play, which features characters of several racial backgrounds, including a Hispanic American and an Arab. "We're diverse, but we're not diverse enough," Croce said. "This play brings into the fold a Hispanic playwright."

Croce said he also wants to foster a more collaborative atmosphere and eliminate professional conflicts of interest. Before he got the green light to direct Water by the Spoonful, for instance, he and the board implemented a policy stating that if an artistic director "wants to direct a show, they'll also have to petition the board."

"It's been a very busy summer," Bingaman said. "This is all about regaining our footings and moving forward."

Contact Zoë Miller at 856-779-3813 or at zmiller@philly.com

Editors Note: This story was revised to correct the nature of Joe Paprzycki's departure from the theater company. He did not resign as artistic director. He was dismissed following a board vote.