The Strand Center for the Arts Announces Its 2018 Gala Honorees

Posted on March 22, 2018 By

The Strand Center for the Arts, Lakewood, is honoring Valerie and Richard Cohen, head ushers; Julie Downes, JRD Bookkeeping; Strand Board member Fran Kirschner, Anthony Zarrilli, owner of Zarrilli homes; and Kendra Zarrilli, president of Brick Children’s Community Theatre, at its 96th anniversary celebration April 25, 2018, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Strand Gallery, Tickets cost $100.00 each and include entertainment, “A Piano Serenade with Remember Jones”; light fare, and an open bar.  Proceeds will benefit the Strand Theater.

Whenever you attend a show at the Strand, you see them – head ushers Valerie and Richard Cohen. Toms River residents for 37 years, the Cohens have worked night and day for the past seven years, making sure Strand theater-goers find their seats in the plush Strand Theater.

Julie Downes, who started her business in 1999, has been the bookkeeper for the Strand since 2006. Although she was born in Newark, she grew up in Chester, N.J. Downes worked in the restaurant business while completing her B.A. in accounting from Rutgers. She now has 10 bookkeeping clients, but manages to travel to such places as Ecuador, Wyoming, and Colorado.

Fran Kirschner, Lakewood, the president of the PR firm Frantasy Enterprises, is dedicated to supporting the Lakewood community and publicizing positive news about people and events. She serves on the boards of the historic Strand Theater, the MODC (Monmouth Ocean Development Council) and its  economic development committee, Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey, the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce, and as vice chairwoman of the Ocean County ELC (Employer Legislative Committee). She is also vice president (and past president) of Corporate Resource Alliance (CRA), an exclusive business group; and communications director for Jersey Shore Association of Human Resources (JSAHR).

Kirschner holds an M.A. in Human Development from Fairleigh Dickinson University, an M.A. in Administration & Supervision in Urban Education from Jersey City University, and a B.A. in Latin and English from Montclair State University.

Kendra Zarrilli, who grew up in Toms River before moving to Brick Township 12 years ago, is actively involved in the Brick schools and community. She is serving a fourth term as president of Brick Children’s Community Theatre Company (BCCT); and was instrumental in moving the BCCT , now in its 26th year, to the professional stage at the Strand Theater five years ago.  She holds a B.A. in communication from Rutgers University, and an MBA from Georgian Court University.

Anthony Zarrilli, a life-long resident of Brick Township, is the owner of Zarrilli Homes and the new owner of Mantoloking Road Alehouse. He is known as a leader in the Modular Home Industry and serves on the board of the Modular Home Builder’s Association. Zarrilli, who is actively involved in the Brick community as a baseball coach and sponsor of many township initiatives, is the lead sponsor, proud dad, and active volunteer of BCCT. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of Florida and an MBA from Georgian Court University.

For more information, contact Heidi DeFabritus at heidi@strand.orgMail checks for the 96th Anniversary Gala made out to Strand Ventures, Inc., Strand Theater, 400 Clifton Avenue, Lakewood, NJ 08701 Attn: Heidi DeFabritus.  Tickets can be purchased online at For more information visit the website or call the box office at (732) 367-7789. The box office is opened on Fridays 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. and two hours before every show.

About the Strand Theater The historic Strand Theater, 400 Clifton Ave., Lakewood, was designed by world-renowned theater architect Thomas Lamb in 1922 and is listed on the N.J. and National Register of Historic Places. Pearl Bailey, Dionne Warwick, Milton Berle, Ronnie Spector, Taylor Swift, George Carlin, and many, many more have entertained the public on its stage since its grand opening. The Strand, home to such organizations as the Atlantic City Ballet and Brick Children’s Community Theater Company, among others, is the hot spot for James D’Amico Productions and Tommy’s House tribute band concerts, which raises money for the homeless and veterans.

The Strand offers year-round entertainment in plush, air-conditioned surroundings. It is a perfect venue to showcase comedians, musicals, dinner theater, stars from television and movies, and legendary musical entertainers. The reception gallery includes a facility geared for catered events for 80 or more people, a dance floor, and restrooms. It is ideal for theater-in-the-round, smaller events and receptions.