Gregory Stavrou has big plans for that big hole in the ground next to Rochester Civic Theatre.
In a matter of months, that hole will become the new studio, or black box, theater at RCT, and will host theatrical productions, concerts, workshops, rehearsals, classes and — well, you name it and Stavrou will find a spot for it on the schedule.
“This is really significant,” Stavrou, executive director of RCT, said while
looking out the RCT lobby windows at the big hole.
The $4.5 million, 200-seat studio theater is part of the overall expansion at Mayo Civic Center. Completion of the RCT portion of the project is scheduled for next August.
“The idea of building an adjacent performing space has been around for 25 years,” Stavrou said. “When I arrived eight years ago, I was asked what I thought of the idea.”
He was for it, with a caveat.
“I told people nonprofits cannot ask for new space unless you’re utilizing every square inch of your space,” he said. Eight years later, the expansion of events and activities at RCT has led to exactly that.
“It’s not an exaggeration,” Stavrou said. Classes have multiplied to the point where they are held in the green room and lobby. Concerts fill dates between mainstage theatrical productions, and jam sessions are held in the lobby. RCT has even spilled over to the outdoors, with a Friday night music series held during the summer on the patio.
“All of this has been built with the idea that this (the studio theater) was going to happen,” Stavrou said.
Then again, the new theater space will create some squeezes of its own — the outdoor music series, for example.
“I don’t know,” Stavrou said when asked if the series will be able to continue. The patio space, he said, “will be physically different. It’s going to be our job to figure out how to fill it full of life.”
Here’s what else Stavrou had to say about the impact of the new studio theater:
— “I’m very excited about the multi-disciplinary aspect,” he said. “I look forward to creating longer-term partnerships with visual, literary, dance artists, to all come together here to create new work.”
— “I doubt that we would be doing two public performance events at the same time,” in the current theater and the new space, he said. “We would have an event going on in one space and a rehearsal or class in the other.”
Stavrou said he’s also open to the idea of moving a production from one space to the other, based on needs and audience interest. The current theater has 300 seats and would continue to host the majority, if not all, main productions.
— “Our hope is this space will give us an appropriate space for shows that will appeal to a smaller audience,” Stavrou said. He mentioned the upcoming “Wit,” which is to be presented at the Rochester Art Center, as an example.
— The new theater will be more up-to-date in terms of multi-media capabilities than the current facility.
There have been headaches associated with that big hole in the ground practically right outside the front door of the theater. But it will all be worth it in the end, Stavrou said.
“These are growing pains toward something,” he said. “It’s been a few more parking tickets for me, because I’ve had to park on the street, but that’s a minor inconvenience.”