Categorized | Page 1

Tags :

Top Ten 2011: Bay Street Theatre Needs to Find New Home

Posted on 28 December 2011


After 20 years, the Bay Street Theatre has almost become synonymous with Sag Harbor’s iconic Long Wharf; but by its 2013 season, the theater will no longer find its home there.

According to Bay Street Theatre executive director Tracy Mitchell, after this summer season the theater will move on from Long Wharf and the space it has inhabited for the whole of the theater’s life. The theater has long leased the space from waterfront property owner Patrick Malloy III and its board will not seek to renew that lease when it expires at the end of 2012.

Last week, the theater announced it will host a community meeting on January 12 at 7 p.m. in an effort to find a solution that will allow them to find a permanent home in Sag Harbor. If not, they have already begun to negotiate with the Village of Southampton, which has invited them to be the resident theater in the space that will be vacated by the Parrish Art Museum.

At a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting this fall, Mitchell and Bay Street Theatre Creative Director Murphy Davis cited the high cost of operating a theater in a leased space as one of several reasons the theater would move on.

The theater’s board of directors and its management were united in the decision, said Mitchell.

The theater’s administration, however, does hope Bay Street will find its new home in Sag Harbor, although no new theater space has been announced yet.

“The idea is eventually we will have a permanent home in Sag Harbor, which is a place we are committed to staying in,” said Mitchell in an interview earlier this year. “It may take a few years to do it, to raise the money and find the right place, but we are exploring every avenue possible.”

In the meantime, Mitchell said that after the 2012 season it is possible the non-profit may operate as a “theater without walls” while solidifying plans for a new home. The board of directors and management have formed a Housing and Venue Committee and is looking at everything from empty spaces like the Stella Maris Regional School, said Mitchell, to partnering with developers in the village.

“Our number one goal is to stay in Sag Harbor,” continued Mitchell. “That was one of the reasons we got the news out there, in case there are people with the financial wherewithal to move this ball forward, because we will need help to do this, to find our new home.”

The reason Bay Street Theatre is unsustainable in its current location, said Mitchell, is primarily because the space the theater occupies is not for sale. Mitchell noted that ticket sales have actually increased over the last two years and that the theater generally is at 48-percent capacity – much higher than the average not-for-profit theater of Bay Street’s size.

On top of that, the theater’s budget has been pared down some 30 percent over three years, said Mitchell. If the budget was cut any lower, it would impact the productions – the death knell for any performing arts company, she said.

According to Mitchell, the theater pays Malloy about $185,000 annually. However, that is not the only rent the theater pays. Because it employs union actors and staff, management must provide housing for those people within a half-mile of the theater – in downtown Sag Harbor, in the summer. That adds an additional $150,000 to $200,000 in rent to the theater’s budget.

The theater also spends monies on a space in Riverhead to construct its sets.

“So we are talking about half a million in rent, and that is before we start talking about everything else the theater needs to operate,” said Mitchell.

The not-for-profit is also often denied grants because such a large amount of money is going towards rent, and not towards the arts, said Mitchell. Large donors, she added, are reluctant to donate to a theater that is not in a permanent location.

“We have been here for 20 years, and not it is time for us to take the theater to the next level for the next 20 years,” said Mitchell. “It’s exciting really – a challenge, certainly, but exciting. Can’t you just picture what it will be like when we have a permanent home for Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor?”

Be Sociable, Share!

This post was written by:

- who has written 3102 posts on The Sag Harbor Express.

Contact the author

3 Responses to “Top Ten 2011: Bay Street Theatre Needs to Find New Home”

  1. Bob Fisher says:

    The Bay Street Theatre is the crown jewel of Sag hrbor village. If Bay Street is forced to leave, I’m certain that we and future generations will look back and say, “how did we ever allow that to happen”?

  2. Robert Savina says:

    I haven’t lived in Sag Harbor for several years, but I often come to this website to see what’s going on. I loved Sag Harbor as it seemed to march to the beat of a different drummer as compared to the other East End communities. It had a nobler spirit – perhaps, because of the ancestral whalers in it’s gene pool.

    I’m shocked at the developments with Bay Street Theatre. I’m not shocked that they’re struggling financially. Most theatrical institutions around the country are wading through the same issues, right now . No, I’m really speechless that such a wealthy community is allowing this to happen. Pat Malloy should be grateful that Bay Street Theatre moved in back in the early 90s and transformed the wharf to what it is, today. The wharf was practically derelict bordering on charm.

    I remember seeing Joe Pintauro’s “Men’s Lives” and felt, then and now, what a wonderful marriage of theatre, art and community. It was truly inspiring. Rich and Working Class in the same audience, a local playwright and a local story causing us all to think and applaud, together.

    Pat Malloy needs to follow Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage’s (Mrs. Russell Sage) example and donate the property to the people of Sag Harbor.

  3. Barry Cummings says:

    Not a very good year for Sag Harbor, is it? First the contentious and extremely ugly demise of Stella Maris School, and now the end of Bay Street Theater’s residence on the waterfront. I have many questions. To what use was the property being put prior to Bay Street’s tenancy? To what use is the property to be put after the theater vacates? Why is the property not for sale? Could some lower cost arrangements be made in regards to housing personel?
    The “Theater Without Walls” concept is very seldom successful. We need only look as far as New York City Opera, once a very real competitor to the Metropolitan Opera, and now, after two years of being “without walls” on the edge of permanent extinction. Think lommmng and hard, Sag Harbor – this is a slippery slope.

Leave a Reply

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off-topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Terms of Service