After 17 months of no business for show business due to COVID-19, the not-for-profit Rosendale Theatre reopened to the public on August 19 with a big celebration under the banner “Let’s go on with the show!” The upbeat, well-attended event coincided with the 11th anniversary of the purchase of the building by the Rosendale Theatre Collective (RTC), a community group who rescued it from being sold to a developer by the Cacchio family, who had run it as a neighborhood cinema for 62 years.
Kicking off with boisterous live music under the marquee by the Rosendale Improvement Association Brass Band, the reopening party quickly moved indoors, past the shining new lobby fixtures, a tantalizing display of candy and an artful array of swag sporting the red-and-black RTC movie-ticket logo. The planned ribbon-cutting by Ulster County executive Pat Ryan and Rosendale town supervisor Jeanne Walsh happened onstage instead of at the entrance, so that attendees wouldn’t have to stand out in the rain.
Congressman Antonio Delgado added his congratulations in a video clip, with all three politicos acknowledging the importance of the arts to the local economy. Walsh recalled having seen her first movie and gone on her first date at the Rosendale Theatre, and Ryan thanked the Collective for “creating a place where we can have some humanity in the midst of such difficult times.” Delgado helped the RTC secure a federal Shuttered Venue Operators’ Grant, which helped the organization stay afloat while closed and will fund upgrades to the Theatre’s air filtration and ventilation system this fall.
With the first movie of the season, Summer of Soul, set to screen on Friday, much of Thursday’s event was dedicated to thanking the many volunteers who have been busy renovating the former casino and vaudeville venue during the COVID downtime. An animated photomontage was screened, depicting the nitty-gritty of the work that was done over the past year-and-a-half, which included tearing out and replacing walls, floors and ceilings and installing a small dancefloor in front of the stage. Also on the program was a commemoration, reminiscent of an Academy Awards ceremony tradition, of key volunteers who have died during the months when the Theatre was shuttered: Dan Guenther, David Little, John Wackman, Sam Pierce and “Uncle Tony” Cacchio.
The organizers also used the event to announce a major change in leadership: Longtime board member Carrie Wykoff is replacing Ann Citron as the Theatre’s executive director. An actor and theatrical director by training, Citron will now turn her full attention to organizing live performances on the Theatre’s stage, which was beautifully reconstructed by Pierce a couple of years before his death. “In 2019, I produced three shows here. It was what I wanted from the beginning. Then COVID happened,” Citron told HV1 afterwards. “We’re upping our game in terms of what we’re going to offer here.” Some of the new programming will include youth theatre workshops, both for “little ones and teens.”
Wykoff runs an event planning business called Events that Matter, and her hand was apparent in the festive touches that characterized Thursday’s reopening, right down to the goodie bags handed out to attendees as they left the Theatre. A big part of the fun was posing for snapshots by longtime volunteer and professional photographer Anne Coleman, each subject holding up a red glittery frame around their face. “Carrie Wykoff can do anything. She’s going to lead the Rosendale Theatre into its next incarnation as a multi-arts center,” Citron enthused.
The new ED will soon have her hands full with planning the organization’s annual Gala, which didn’t happen in 2020 but will return on Saturday, September 25. It will be an indoor/outdoor party at the Theatre building itself this time, rather than taking place at the usual venue next door, the Belltower. But the usual awesome dance band, Soul Purpose, will be on hand. Tickets are already on sale at https://rosendaletheatre.org/gala, at prices ranging from $50 to $125, and the organizers want to hear from people who have great stuff to donate for the Silent Auction.
Wykoff also noted that the recent influx of residents from New York City to the Hudson Valley means a fresh pool of potential RTC volunteers who might wish to network with the local arts scene. “We’ve got new neighbors in town, and we really want to meet you,” she said. The Theatre will host an Open House on Thursday, September 9 at 5:30 p.m., where members of its various committees will explain what opportunities exist for new volunteers. To learn more, including the schedule for upcoming films, check out the Theatre’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rosendaletheatre.