After nearly two decades in the Clinton House, the Kitchen Theatre Company is finally getting a place of its own.
The theater spent most of its 18-year existence tucked away on North Cayuga Street and will be moving in March to a space located at 417 West State St. The move involves careful planning and fundraising, but the Kitchen Theatre’s managers are confident that this will be a stable step forward.
To pay for the renovation of its new building, the Kitchen launched a fundraising campaign last March with the goal of $950,000 in donations. Earlier this month, the theater’s board of directors found themselves within reach of that goal and decided to aim for $1.2 million instead. The theater has already raised $890,000.
On West State Street, construction is already underway. The Kitchen Theatre’s new home will have a soft industrial theme, said Managing Director Stephen Nunley.
“Pipes and air-conditioning ducts will be exposed, and maybe somehow decorated or painted,” he said. “We’re not trying to get a real finished fancy kind of look, but something that is stylish.”
By increasing their fundraising goal, the KTC has added new aspects to the renovation they originally thought were not possible. They now hope to improve on elements of the new theater’s original design, like buying new seats that are more comfortable for theatergoers. There will be 99 seats total, better dressing rooms, bathrooms, a booth for stage managers and a full scene shop.
Rachel Lampert, the artistic director at the Kitchen Theatre said that increasing the number of seats from 73 to 99 should help generate extra revenue without losing the theater’s atmosphere. The 26 new seats will only add one row.
“We wanted to keep it really intimate,” she said. “That’s what we’re really known for and that’s the kind of performance we’re really interested in.”
The theater is aiming for longevity and a little extra space to grow into.
“We’re not looking to get bigger. We’re looking to substantiate what we have,” Nunley said.
Maintaining the feel of the Kitchen Theatre is very important to its subscribers, who make up most of the theater’s moving campaign contributors.
Lory Saltzman, a subscriber to the theater said she likes the intimacy of the theater space and the interesting plays they produce.
“The people who do this are extremely talented, and we’re so grateful that they’re here in Ithaca,” she said.
Greg Hartz, co-chair of the campaign, said fundraising has gone more smoothly than anyone could have predicted.
“The great success of this campaign is really a testament to the loyalty of our patrons,” he said. “It’s encouraging to know so many people in this community care enough about the theater to give money, even when times are tough economically.”
Nunley said that getting strong attendance numbers has been challenging in the past two seasons because of the poor economy.
“People are thinking more about how they’re spending their money,” he said. “[Theater is] not necessarily on the top of everyone’s list when there’s not a lot of extra cash around.”
Lampert said the move has been in the works for several years and will help the small theater live on in this community.
“In the last five to seven years we’ve really come into our own,” she said. “Our board and our sponsors realized that the theater is still going to be around in 20 years we’d like to continue to give back to this community that’s already given so much to us.”