New Haven Academy of Performing Arts to Open Cabaret, Nonprofit Community

EAST HAVEN – The lights will come on on a new cabaret theater on Main Street, possibly as early as this summer.

Cabaret on Main, located in the heart of the New Haven Academy of Performing Arts at 597 Main St., has begun construction, with insulation and electrical work underway in the new space.

Theater and academy co-owners Billy DiCrosta and Neil Fuentes saw an opportunity to build their own community theater and shows when their building’s car dealership left just before COVID.

The former car dealership had a garage at the back of the building, which is being converted into a theatre.

“We did smaller shows and showcases right within our school,” DiCrosta said. “When they moved, we jumped on this space because we knew it would be the perfect location for a theater.”

Their plans ran into hurdles along the way, including time and money spent before the East Haven Planning and Zoning Commission to get the space approved. DiCrosta, who grew up in East Haven, said plans were approved in the summer of 2020 but stalled because people couldn’t attend live theatre.

“There was no point in spending a dime at that point and then, little by little, as things got better, we’re finally at the point now where we’re ready to say OK, we’ll do it,” DiCrosta mentioned.

DiCrosta and Fuentes aim to make theater a performing arts hub in the region.

The cabaret theater itself will not have fixed seating and the space may have traditional theater seating or cabaret tables and chairs depending on the type of event.

“First and foremost, we are an educational institution and if we have the possibility of not always having physical chairs there, we can use this space to rehearse the children and teach them something else and teach the technical theater and all the other things that come into play,” DiCrosta said.

A stage will be added to the space, along with several projectors so sets and backgrounds can not only be projected onto the stage but onto the walls of the theater to create an immersive experience for the audience.

Fuentes gave an example during a visit to the space, stating that if the band played Into the Woods, they would project trees and a forest onto the stage and the walls of the theater.

The garage door will remain behind the stage and will be used to move the sets in and out for the shows. The dressing rooms and backstage will not be behind the stage but upstairs. A staircase will be constructed to take performers to the second floor of the building where the academy’s dance studio will be used in place of the traditional backstage area.

A theater lobby will also be set up in the school, with a concession stand and restrooms.

Construction will be split into two phases, with the theater being completed first. Depending on supplies and the progress of construction, the theater could be completed before the summer. Construction cannot be done during the summer due to performing arts summer camps.

Work would continue in August after the camps were completed, if necessary.

“In a perfect world, our theater would be open for our summer programs. The kids would love to have their shows this summer there, and then in the acceptable world it will be open for business for our fall season,” DiCrosta said.

If the theater opens on time, students in the summer programs will perform The Little Mermaid Jr., Ghost The Musical (School Edition), Madagascar A Musical Adventure Jr., and The Wedding Singer on the new stage.

Along with the new theater, the owners will begin operating a new nonprofit this fall called Broadway On Main, which will provide professional theater training for youth and adults.

DiCrosta’s goal is for community actors and adults to act as professionals within the organization and mentor the young participants.

The plan is to have younger kids audition for the program and there will be a fee paid for them to attend the training. Adults would not have to pay to participate.

“The more grants and funding we receive for these programs, the more scholarships and other scholarships we can provide for children,” DiCrosta said. “We really want to be able to help those kids who can’t afford to have theater because I really believe it’s something every kid needs.”

Another goal for the new non-profit theater space is to have shows in other languages, starting with Spanish. Fuentes is from Venezuela and speaks four languages ​​and another teacher is from Puerto Rico.

The organization also plans to host multicultural events every month, such as African-American dance groups for Black History Month and performances in their native language.

“We really want to extract that missing link in this area because I know from being from East Haven that it’s really missing,” DiCrosta said.

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