News in Cortland NY

CRT Plans Expansion to Downtown Facility

Cortland Repertory Theatre has announced the purchase of the former Recreation Bowling Alleys, located at 24 Port Watson Street in downtown Cortland. CRT has a three-phase plan for the 13,000 square foot building: to relocate the Box Office and Administration Offices from the current Cortland location at 37 Franklin Street; then to move the scenic, costume and props shops and storage; and third, to create a performance space for fall, winter and spring productions. The theatre plans to begin a capital campaign and will sell the Franklin Street warehouse.

“The most important point to make is that CRT is not leaving the Little York Pavilion for our summer productions!” Producing Artistic Director Kerby Thompson says. “Over the years, CRT and Cortland County have invested a great deal of time and money to create a comfortable summer home for us all. As long as the County will have us, we plan to stay there for the summers. It’s a beautiful location, and frankly, we’d be crazy to want to leave.”

However, the plan for CRT to expand beyond a summer season has been in the works for a few years. “We’ve looked at different locations for about five years, in hopes of finding an affordable building that would serve our purposes.” Thompson says. “The fact of the matter is, we can’t keep raising ticket prices in order to meet our financial needs. Part of our mission statement is to offer our shows at an accessible price, and we’re proud that we’re still the most affordable professional summer theatre in the area. However, even though our attendance in recent years is the highest it’s ever been, expenses obviously continue to grow. Due to the size of the Pavilion, we can’t add more seats, and lengthening our season would be questionable because of the cool fall weather in an unheated theatre with no insulation.”

Also, Thompson says, CRT has outgrown their warehouse space. “The Franklin Street building is solid and secure, but we simply don’t have the room to work there anymore. We save and recycle a lot of wood, set pieces, props and costumes, so our current storage space is overflowing. Also, most of our set building is done on our lawn, which is challenging in the changeable Central New York summer weather. After much searching, we believe that this downtown building is able to accommodate everything we want and need - more room, more visibility, and more productions.”

A theatre at the Port Watson location - tentatively called “CRT Downtown” - would seat 125 - 150 people. The performance space is planned to be one large open room called a black box theatre, which would allow for a great deal of creative staging and audience seating. Scenic designs could be created for shows “in the round”, ¾ round or proscenium style. Audience seating may include small cabaret style tables, which will allow for snacks and drinks to be served at the seats. The building will also include a lobby, refreshment counter, dressing rooms, and upgraded, handicapped accessible rest rooms. The theatre will double as CRT’s summer rehearsal space and could also serve as a meeting hall for conferences, receptions, parties, art and craft shows, and more. “The only limitation is our own imagination!” Thompson says.

Thompson cautions that significant renovations are necessary, including ripping down walls and ceilings, installing new electrical wiring, upgrades to heating and air conditioning, and expansion of plumbing. No definite date has been set for when CRT would move in, though a goal of Fall 2010 has been tentatively set for the office and shop relocation. “Actual performances may be at couple of years away.” Thompson says. “Honestly, it all comes down to the speed and amount of financial and volunteer support we receive. Obviously, the quicker we raise the funds and complete the renovations, the faster we can get the building ready for a winter season. We’re extremely excited about what this could mean to CRT and downtown Cortland. We’re glad that we can be part of it.”

For more information and to watch progress on the building, visit www.cortlandrep.org.