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Auburn Community Raises Curtain on Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, Season Begins in May 2012

DATE: 05-17-2011

Familiar Broadway show tunes greeted the crowd of nearly 100 who entered the dimly lit Auburn Public Theatre on May 17. They were there for the unveiling of the name and logo of the summer musical theater festival slated to begin in 2012.

Projectors cast architect drawings of Cayuga Community College’s planned theater on State Street in Auburn and images of the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, both of which are included in the four sites expected to host musicals during the festival. All the visual messages worked to rebrand the region as a cultural destination.

The event opened with a short video that laid out the vision of the festival and its potential impact in the City of Auburn, Cayuga County, and the broader Finger Lakes region.

Then Ed Sayles, producing director of the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, took to the stage and quoted the musical, The Life. “‘You gotta use whatcha got to get whatcha want’—whether that’s economic development, jobs, and construction,” Sayles said. He pointed out that the region is one of the best places to live and has one of the “finest musical theaters in the country.”

Sayles also said the musical theater festival is a symptom of the area’s revival and not the cause of it. He then introduced a series of featured speakers who represented the many facets of the community who are supporting the festival, including:

  • Congressman Richard Hanna
  • Michael Quill, mayor of Auburn
  • Peter Tortorici, chairman of the Cayuga County Legislature
  • Meg Vanek, executive director of the Cayuga County Office of Tourism
  • Dr. Daniel Larson, president of Cayuga Community College
  • Andrew Fish, director of the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce

“The arts are as important as water, sewer, and roads,” Hanna said. “They enrich our lives and shouldn’t be supplanted by the practical.”

Quill and Tortorici both emphasized the teamwork and collaboration that has been happening to move the festival forward toward its May 23, 2012, opening, and Vanek said her organization “could not be more enthusiastic and supportive of this project” and that she hoped the region would soon become the No. 1 lakeside destination in the country.

Dr. Larson described how the mutually beneficial relationship between the College and the festival would provide more opportunities for Cayuga Community College students and the possibility of tying in educational programming and events related to the festival.

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 this fall, the College will offer its first academic course in dance in addition to several credit-free dance classes.

The College will be sharing a new performance with the festival. The planned 384-seat theatre is slated to be built on State Street where the former Kalet’s Building was located and be opened in 2013. The festival would use the space for performances from May to September, and the College would use the space for acting, technical, and other courses and programming during the academic year.

Andrew Fish described his and the entire business community’s hopes that the festival would “not only succeed, but thrive.”

Organizers project that the festival will generate $30 million in ticket sales, dining, lodging, and related activities. Vanek said that the festival is hoping to bring in 150,000 people and that consultants estimate that each travel party will bring in $900 to the region.

Finally, it was curtain time.

William Dorr, chair of the Musical Theatre Festival Board of Directors; Hugh Murphy, chair of the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse Board of Directors, Michael Chamberlain, managing director of the Musical Theatre Festival, and Ed Sayles came to the front of the stage unveiled the official name, logo and slogan: Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival: On, Off, and Beyond Broadway.

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