Torn Space Theater, “creators of original, multi-media and aesthetically innovative performances”, has made a bold and refreshing investment into the East Side (learn more). What could have easily been a safe and secure move into downtown Buffalo, or the West Side, is instead a rallying flag for a historic Fillmore Avenue neighborhood that has come to rely on the cultural institution for its steadfast fortitude.
Earlier this evening, friends of Torn Space gathered together to witness the unveiling of a million+ dollar building renovation. The building? A former dilapidated gas station that no one in their right mind would have ever considered converting into a modern-looking cube of light. The old gas mart has been clad in a gleaming perforated Rigidized Metals wrapper.
The streamlined appearance of the new build is in start contrast with the historic Adam Mickiewicz (pronounced MISS-KEV-ITCH) Library and Dramatic Circle next door (home of the theater). The plan is to create a small campus, consisting of the two buildings, and plenty of landscaped green space that will allow for an enclosed courtyard/beer garden.
If you look closely, you can still make out the old “Gas Mart” lettering underneath the building’s fancy new skin. It’s an awesome (and much intended) touch that reminds us about the history of the site… from a jacked up gas station on the corner, to a proud, beaming cultural landmark.
This evening, as the sun was setting, the new build was illuminated as it was intended. It was as if theater founders Founded by Dan Shanahan and Melissa Meola had ordered the weather to complete the set.
Guests were invited to step inside the theater’s new digs, which will house a production studio, conference area, green room, dressing rooms, and set construction space. After a beer and wine reception, everyone walked over to the theater for a short presentation. Representatives from The Junior League of Buffalo, The Better Buffalo Fund were on hand, as was Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Fillmore District Councilman David Franczyk. As the remarks commenced, a light drizzling rain began, but the sun never stopped shining. It was a magical moment, as the last person made her way inside, and the door was shut tight.
If you have ever stepped foot into this theater, then you know that it is steeped in history. Over the years, the theater has become an integral part of the building. Dan Shanahan told the story of his first visit to the region’s oldest Polish-American organization and library back in 2000. He was immediately captivated by the space, and what was supposed to be a one-off show turned out to become “the region’s longest-running, nonprofit, avant-garde theater company”. The recounting of the formations of Torn Space garnered thunderous applause from the crowd. Shanahan also talked about the ongoing investments into the theater building itself, which also happens to house a pretty terrific Polonia oriented bar.
As the event wrapped up, and people walked out of the theater, and onto Fillmore Avenue, they were greeted with a brilliantly illuminated cube, which had been “switched on” as if on cue. To the left of the building, the towers of Saint Stanislaus Church could be seen.
Further to the east was the Central Terminal. The two iconic East Side buildings cast a watchful eye upon this new development, which is being viewed as the spark on the street that could, and should, help to ignite further developments in this very deserving neighborhood.
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