Construction on Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany complete

Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, producing artistic director for Capital Repertory Theatre, shows off old basement cooking ovens below the new theatre's seating on Monday. 
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Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, producing artistic director for Capital Repertory Theatre, shows off old basement cooking ovens below the new theatre's seating on Monday. 

ALBANY — The new Capital Repertory Theatre may be just down the road from its original home but, stepping into the recently renovated location, it seems like they’re worlds apart.

After a $14.2 million construction project, the theatre, which is under the umbrella of Proctors Collaborative, includes expanded dressing rooms, a prop shop and a performance studio, among other features.

Construction at 251 N. Pearl St. began in 2019, and while it was scheduled to be completed last year, the pandemic delayed the project.

The bones of the building date back to the late 1800s, when it was constructed as a bakery. Eventually, it became the National Biscuit Co. and some of its history is preserved in the renovated space. It’s perhaps most obvious in the concessions area, which includes original brickwork and beams. These are juxtaposed with several screens on a wall just outside the main theater, which on Tuesday displayed photos of the renovation process.

“You can see the scars of the building,” said Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill.  “I love the idea of these really old pillars against the modern screens. I think it’s a nice nod to history yet it keeps us in the present.”

The theatre has 303 seats, a comparable size to the old location at 111 N. Pearl St., with one major difference: There are no seats with partially obstructed views.

“There were always 23 seats that were partially obstructed and then depending on what the set was, there would be more. And look at this — [there are] none,” Mancinelli-Cahill said, looking out at the new stage on Tuesday. “I love it.”

The theatre walls are designed to provide better acoustics and the lighting and sound systems also have been updated.

“It’s the best sound system you can get. It’s the same one that Proctors has,” said Philip Morris, the CEO of Proctors. “[There’s] also a thing called soundscape, which allows the technician to put the sound, almost like a ventriloquist, anywhere on stage without having to move the speakers.”

Upstairs is the Peg and Jim Miller VIP Lounge, which is surrounded by glass walls. Not too far away is the Harold and Lauren Iselin performance studio, which features a dance floor and blackout curtains.

“This room is going to be used a lot for a lot of different things, from youth events to poetry readings,” Morris said.

Behind the scenes, the new Capital Repertory Theatre features a sizable costume shop. There’s also a prop shop, which the former location did not have.

“It made props at The Egg,” Morris said. “It had a costume shop in the basement [with] no light. No windows, laundry was upstairs. It was really kind of a disaster.”

The dressing room area, which includes six rooms and 22 mirrors, is another big step up for the theatre.

“We had one [dressing room] for a cast of between six and eight max and we had one upstairs that could fit one to three people,” Mancinelli-Cahill said. “That was it. Whenever we did a large show, we would have to turn our rehearsal room into a makeshift dressing room.”

The basement, which is just beneath the seats in the main theatre, features a large collection of costumes, as well as a few more historical details that the theater preserved, including original ovens from the former bakery.

While the new theatre is larger, that doesn’t mean Capital Repertory will be opting to put on larger shows. Instead, the additional space will allow the theatre to do things simultaneously, and perhaps more efficiently.

As to when the first performance will take place, Morris said, “Eventually.” He added that the theatre won’t go back to businesses as usual for some time.

“What will happen is we’ll do some small things when it feels like it’s the right time,” Morris said.

For now, Mancinelli-Cahill plans to expand some of the community partnerships that the theater has created over the last few years, including one with Arbor Hill Elementary School, where they’ve had virtual storytelling hours with students and theater professionals.

“We intend that to go much stronger with Saturday programs for children and we take a lot of young people under our wing so that they can mix with professional designers and professional technicians so that we can teach them the profession of theater technology. That program will be very strong here at the theater and we are sure hoping that we have our neighborhood adolescence in that program,” Mancinelli-Cahill said. “We want this theater to be a community center in this neighborhood.”

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