Cayuga Community College and the Musical Theatre Festival, Inc., have agreed on a 25-year plan to share a new performance space in downtown Auburn.
The venue, to be located at the Kalet Building site on State Street, will be used by the College for acting and technical courses during the academic year from September to mid-May. During the summer, the planned 384-seat theatre will be one of four area locations for Musical Theatre Festival shows.
The Festival season will offer internships for Cayuga students to gain musical theatre experience as they apply related coursework. Student interns will have opportunities to assist in areas including performance, design, lighting, stage management, house management, box office and other Festival operations, sales and marketing.
Currently owned by the City of Auburn, the vacant building is the former home of Kalet's department store. Because of its deteriorating condition, the cost of renovation to create an up-to-date, code-compliant performance space would exceed that of new construction on the site.
The city has approved a plan to tear down the building in 2011, with the Stardust Foundation of Central New York and the Fred L. Emerson Foundation reimbursing up to half the demolition cost.
Cayuga Community College will then build and own the new facility.
State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, during a visit to the College in August 2009, saw the State Street site and voiced her enthusiasm for the theatre concept. Cayuga, one of 64 SUNY campuses, has received a funding commitment for $2.4 million - half of the anticipated $4.8 million building cost - from the SUNY Construction Fund.
The Musical Theatre Festival, a new multi-venue theatre organization planning a summer 2012 launch, will match that amount through its own fundraising. This commitment forms part of a memorandum of understanding between the Festival and Cayuga Community College, approved this fall by the College Board of Trustees. Included in the memorandum are agreements on use of the building, program collaboration, naming rights for the physical facilities, upkeep and insurance.
Besides the State Street location, three other venues form the cluster of local performance spaces envisioned by the Musical Theatre Festival. On Genesee Street in Auburn, the existing 199-seat Auburn Public Theater and the planned 115-seat Carriage House space at Cayuga Museum of History and Art will form a triangle with the Kalet site, presenting shows from smaller musicals to off-Broadway and Broadway shows. The existing 501-seat Merry-Go-Round Playhouse at Emerson Park will round out the Festival mix, presenting recent and classic Broadway hits.
The Festival's annual economic impact, through ticket sales, dining, lodging and related activity, is projected by the organizers at approximately $30 million. Plans are in progress by other developers for additional downtown hotel space to accommodate an expected influx of theatre-goers.
Cayuga Community College has long been the home of the award-winning Harlequin Players theatre company. The College offers acting and technical theatre classes, a regular schedule of stage productions, and a theatre concentration within its associate degree program in liberal arts. Music performance classes at Cayuga include vocal, instrumental and ensemble courses, and several dance classes are offered on a credit-free basis.
According to College president Daniel Larson, "Increasing our engagement with Cayuga County is a priority for the College. This community partnership will help us attract theatre students through expanded learning and production opportunities, while our entire region becomes a cultural destination for high-quality shows ranging from experimental to classic."
Michael Chamberlain, managing director of the Musical Theatre Festival, noted that theatre tourism has transformed other small cities in the United States and Canada into popular summer destinations. "For decades, our community has been noted for outstanding musical theatre. We're going to leverage that niche, combined with our other summertime attractions - beautiful scenery and weather, award-winning vineyards, friendly hospitality - to create a center for cultural tourism that will energize our region and its economy."