After losing its home at 16 Linwood Avenue less than a year ago, the American Repertory Theater of WNY (ART/WNY) has found an even better location at 330 Amherst Street. The new site came about via a partnership between Dwane Hall of T Sportsmens Tavern, the Sportsmens Americana Music Foundation (SAMF) and ART/WNY‘s Executive Director Matthew LaChiusa. LaChiusa stated that after the theater company was displaced, he wound up talking to Hall about the potential of relocating into a building that adjoins the tavern. Hall originally intended to use the building as an alternate music production studio, but when the vision never panned out, it simply became a place to store things. While the original discussion didn’t lead very far, a second meeting ensued, which is when a deal was struck.
“So my brother Thomas and I swung into the Sportsman Tavern and chatted with Dwane.” said LaChiusa, recalling the beginnings of the agreement. “We said we’re still looking for a space. He (Dwane) said, ‘I still got one’ and so we agreed to help him move items out, which we did in October, and the rest is history in the making.”
Moving forward, the new location will be built out as a flexible 50 seat black-box production theater that will also be able to accommodate room for community educational programs, dramatic arts performances, music, film screenings and poetry.
“The 330 Amherst performance space is a win-win-win for both the Foundation, ART/WNY and the neighborhood,” noted LaChiusa when asked about the deal. “You are seeing a grassroots foundation and a local businessman utilizing their resources to renovate an unused space and turn it into an active production forum for a cultural organization that brings in local talent for theater productions. So instead of the ‘new Buffalo renaissance’ status quo of seeing tax payers’ money used for developing parking ramps, condos, and hotels, there is a cooperation of grassroots community groups that use their own resources to develop a space that draws people into the neighborhood which then benefits both the neighborhoods and businesses surrounding the space.”
After renting the Medialle Lecture Hall through Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions for a September 2015 show, ART/WNY will now be able to present John Guare’s pioneering work The House of Blue Leaves on March 10 (runs until April 2) at its new theater space on Amherst Street. None of this could have happened without the crucial partnering between the theater and SAMF.
“Both ART and SAMF have their own audience and we believe with this co-op, we will be able to tap into a bigger audience,” said SAMF board member, Angela Hastings. “SAMF has funded two education programs that are underway so far this year (Buffalo String Works and the after-school program with the Valley Community Center co-sponsoring Guitar Club for Kids) and we have many more proposed. The theater space that we have created will accommodate both our education programs and ART’s new theater for performance. Our objective is to work with ART in establishing a collaboration of theater and music…The theater space that we have created will accommodate both our education programs and ART’s new theater for performance. Music and Theater go hand in hand. We believe we can work together to become a big part of the arts in Buffalo.”
The dynamic pairing between the groups means that Black Rock will be home to another landmark cultural group. Some of the countries best musicians will be performing next door, while the theater company will be underway with its shows. That’s great news for Amherst Street, and even welcome news for the entire WNY cultural scene.
American Repertory Theater of WNY begins this new adventure with a production of the 1971 pioneering work by John Guare, The House of Blue Leaves. Under the directorial eye of the born & bred Black Rock native, Drew McCabe, the story focuses on one man’s desire for success as a big-time songwriter conflicting with what is expected from him in a 9 to 5 world. The House of Blue Leaves opens on March 10th and runs until April 2nd in ART/WNY’s new location, 330 Amherst Street, Buffalo (next to the Sportsman Tavern). All show-times are 8 pm, Thursday through Saturday. For more information on American Repertory Theater of WNY please visit www.arotfwny.org. For information on the Sportsman Americana Music Foundation and the various program they sponsor and events planned visit www.sportsmenamf.org. To check out upcoming music events at the Sportsman Tavern go to www.sportsmanbuffalo.com.