ALBANY -- Capital Repertory Theatre is looking to move on and out of its current location. To do so the professional theater company needs a bit of a boost.
To move from its 111 North Pearl St. address to 251 North Pearl St., theREP needs to raise an additional $650,000. Some of the funding for the $13.5 million campaign has been raised through grants and donations. To raise the rest, theREP has begun the public phase of its capital campaign.
“You can see the exposed brick, the sturdy beams, the work that is going on," said Harold N. Iselin, the president of theREP’s Board of Directors during a press conference on Thursday held at the new space. The press conference was held to announce the campaign and show off the space under renovation. "This is a workspace and it will remain so because theater is work. The new Capital Repertory Theatre will create jobs, not only during its construction but also the years that follow,” Iselin said.
The new site, which is in the Livingston Square neighborhood, will include a 300-seat main theater and a 70-seat black box theater named the Lauren and Harold Iselin Performing Arts Studio. There will also be a cafe and box office with regular business hours, as well as administrative offices. Iselin said that land has also been leased for a proposed parking lot, which was one of the most requested additions to the project.
“Capital Rep began its dreams in 1981 swinging open doors of an old grocery store," said Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. "Now it’s almost 40 years later and we’re transforming a bakery into what will be a glorious arts institution.”
The building at 251 North Pearl St. was originally built in 1888 and was home to the National Biscuit Co. It’s larger than theREP’s current space and will allow for expanded programming and for easier access to rehearsal space, which has been an issue in the past.
“I think that because it will be a combination of high tech and historic — the wood floors, the wooden beams in the lobby are all staying — the fact that it has that collision point appeals to multi-generations,” Mancinelli-Cahill said.
Capital Repertory Theatre is the only year-round professional theater in the area, producing several shows a year, including “Lobby Hero,” which runs until Oct. 20. It also offers educational and workforce development programs throughout the year. Since 2011, the theater’s administrative, marketing and financial direction has been managed by Proctors in Schenectady while all creative direction is under Mancinelli-Cahill’s direction.
“When you work with Philip he is a miracle worker and I’m not kidding. He is a great partner,” Mancinelli-Cahill said of Philip Morris, the CEO of Proctors.
Morris said the project, which theREP aims to complete by July, has faced financial challenges and challenges of timing, but that's to be expected when it comes to construction projects
“Construction projects are like doing theater," Morris said. "You’ve got lots of players and they have to be harnessed both for their individuality and their ability to participate as a team. That’s the job. I’m the producer.”
While the new space will allow for improved theater operations and an improved theater-going experience, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said she sees it as part of a larger revitalization of the Livingston Square neighborhood.
“When Philip and I went to Washington, D.C. to argue for historic tax credits for this project, which had initially been denied, one of the things that we talked about was how this theater fits into a vision of downtown, a vision of equity that is something I think should be a national model,” Sheehan said.
“Looking around and seeing what is happening in downtown Albany and recognizing that not only is this building a treasure but the transformation and the transformative nature of the arts can really be demonstrated here in this neighborhood," Sheehan said. "This is a neighborhood that is mixed-income. We have hundreds of apartments being built within walking distance and to show my support for the theater, on Tuesday I moved into a house that is also walking distance.”
Mancinelli-Cahill said that the space at 251 North Pearl S. will allow theREP to continue its goal and expand it, ensuring that every young student in the area gets the chance to have a live theater experience by the time they graduate high school.
Mancinelli-Cahill said: “The mission of the theater is very specific. It’s to create meaningful theater with an authentic connection to the community. We take that very seriously. We believe that we must serve as a safe house for the cultural lives of both artists and the community at large. TheREP fosters the belief that the theater must serve as an advocate and caretaker of the common threads that bind Americans together and our culture together in a world that is more and more defined by difference.
"I wrote that paragraph when I came to Capital Rep more than 20 years ago and I mean it more than ever,” Mancinelli-Cahill said.
For more information about the project and about theREP’s Capital Campaign, visit capitalrep.org.