Albany's Capital Repertory Theatre, the only fully-professional producing company in the Capital Region, will be moving up North Pearl Street into a new venue, hopefully by December of 2019.
Now located at 111 North Pearl, the new theater will be at 251 North Pearl inside what is now the old National Biscuit Company building in Livingston Square. Capital Rep has been using the space for storage since last August, and with the help of a $1.8 million Restore New York Communities Initiative grant, will turn the interior into two performance spaces. The main theater will seat 300 people and a second black box venue has room for 70 patrons.
"This is the dream," Capital Rep producing artistic director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill said in a press release. "We have worked towards this goal for so long. Being under our own roof, and one of our own design, will allow us to better serve our community, to better engage with our patrons and our friends nearby, and to truly be an arts center for the 21st century."
Capital Rep was formed in 1980, a creation of the League of Theatre Artists, a diverse group of actors and directors who spent their summers together in the Catskills producing plays. With the help of prominent community leaders in the Albany area and a strong contingent of volunteers, Capital Rep produced its first play at The Egg in 1980. In 1981 the group put on three productions at Page Hall on the downtown campus at the University of Albany, and in 1982 moved into its current home at 111 North Pearl, an abandoned supermarket.
In January of 2011, Capital Rep was given a boost when it "merged" with Proctors. The two theaters agreed upon a "management services contract" that left all the artistic decision-making to Mancinelli-Cahill, while Proctors CEO Philip Morris took on the role of overseeing the administrative functions, including ticketing, finance, marketing, development, education programming and group sales.
"We are moving forward with relocating theREP," Morris said Tuesday, "and joining good neighbors like Albany Distilling Company and invigorating Livingston Square. The new theater will have a few more seats for audience members, it will be a thrust stage, with seating on three sides like it is now, but there will be no columns. Also, the backstage area will be significantly improved."
Along with the two new theater spaces at 251 North Pearl, the venue will offer more parking options for patrons.
"The funding provided to the Capital Repertory Theatre development project will help keep one of the Capital Region's premiere arts institutions in the city of Albany for years to come, and our spur growth in the Arbor Hill and Warehouse District neighborhoods," said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan in a press statement. "Thank you to Governor Cuomo and Proctors for their continued dedication to the revitalization of New York's capital city."
"The project, resulting from an driven by years of commitment from the Capital Repertory Theatre board, is all about civic engagement," board president Harold N. Iselin said in a press release announcing the move. "Many local agencies have a hand in this, all coming together to create a new arts district with an authentic link to the community. We thank Mayor Sheehan, the Albany Housing Authority and Governor Cuomo for allowing us to take this step."
In addition to the Restore NY grant, the 251 North Pearl St., project has received funding from other sources in the hopes of fulfilling its goal that comes with an estimated cost of $8 million. The New York State Homes and Community Renewal contributed $2 million to the project, while other sizable donations included $1 million in pledged seed gifts from the Capital Rep board, and $950,000 from the Regional Economic Development Council.
When renovation of the National Biscuit Company is complete, the second phase of the Livingston Square transformation will focus on creating on-campus artist housing near Livingston Avenue and Broadway.