While Susan Rosko Fogarty has big plans for the Palace Theatre, she has no intention of stealing anyone's turf.
"I like to consider all of us, Proctors, SPAC and the Palace, as friendly neighbors," said Rosko Fogarty, who became executive director of the Palace Performing Arts Center at 19 Clinton Street in Albany in October. "We are lucky to have such a great arts community here in the Capital Region, and I am so proud and honored to be a part of that. We're like three different parts of an arts initiative, with plenty of other wonderful arts partners, and there's absolutely room for everybody."
Rosko Fogarty comes to the Palace from the Capital District YMCA where she was the Chief Strategic Officer. A Schenectady native who grew up in Clifton Park, Rosko Fogarty spent most of her career in the music industry before returning to the Capital Region 10 years ago. Before she graduated from Shenendehowa she was working at a Clifton Park record store, and when she was done with her education - she earned a degree in public policy from Syracuse University - Rosko Fogarty was off to Atlanta in 1991 to run her own record shop.
"I came from a family that really emphasized hard work," said Rosko Fogarty, who is married with two children, ages 8 and 11. "I was babysitting at 12, working in the record store at 16, and all through college I worked at a store part-time. I think working in retail all those years gave me a great background. I managed a team, actually worked a calculator and worked with customer service. It all helped prepare me for this profession."
In her career, Rosko Fogarty has worked for V2 Records, the company formed by British businessman Richard Branson, and Sony/BMG, where her boss was five-time Grammy Award winner Clive Davis. She has also held administrative posts at Bank of America and Key Private Bank, and while things are changing at the Palace, she says the venue is on very firm footing.
"I'm incredibly lucky to come into an organization like this where the people are passionate about what they do," said Rosko Fogarty. "They are truly the most talented and committed staff I have ever seen. They work long hours, they're revenue conscious, and they know what to do to keep the doors open at this beautiful theater."
While the details haven't been quite figured out yet, the Palace Performing Arts Center is going to take over ownership of the theater from the city, and grant money and a campaign to fund to move ahead with renovation and restoration work is under way. Rosko Fogarty is expecting the Cohoes Music Hall, currently under the Palace umbrella, to be a totally independent entity by the beginning of 2018, but the Park Playhouse, a fixture at Albany's Washington Park each summer, will remain a partner with the Palace.
"Cohoes has asked us to end that relationship at the end of the year, so we're in conversation with them and moving forward," she said. "But we're very proud of the work our staff here has done to get that beautiful old hall back in business. I love our partnership with Park Playhouse, it really is a theater jewel in the Capital Region, and we expect to be long-term partners with them.
"This is a transformational time for the theater," Rosko Fogarty continued. "We're expanding our facility, we're in the middle of transferring ownership of the building from the city to us. It's such an exciting time, being a part of all this, and I feel like it's the culmination of my life's work."
Putting together the programming for the 2,800-seat theater is going to be great fun according to Rosko Fogarty.
"We're going to continue to have the great variety of entertainment we've offered in the past," she said. "We have world class comedy acts, strong musical acts, and hopefully we're going to have more jazz and R&B performers. That is perhaps an area where we could do more."
Rosko Fogarty was officially announced as the new executive director on Oct. 19 after her predecessor, Holly Brown, resigned.
"We knew that Holly was exploring some other options, so we started looking back in the summer," said Steve Baboulis, WNYT-Channel 13 general manager and a member of the board at the Palace. "Susan may have never run a theater before but she has quite an impressive resume with 16 years or so in the music industry. She also has a good financial background so it was a combination of things with Susan. We think she's a perfect fit for the next stage of Palace Theatre history. She's very capable, very smart. She's just the right leader to be at our helm right now."