RHINEBECK, NY – From humble beginnings in a tent on the outskirts of the village in 1994, the Rhinebeck Center for Performing Arts has grown into one of the premier community theaters in the Hudson Valley and beyond.
Now, however, as the nonprofit plans to celebrate a quarter century in permanent residence, it is struggling to make ends meet as it is still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. and the economic downturn. .
“It’s been a challenge,” said Lou Trapani, the center’s artistic director and general manager. Trapani said that while the educational programs the center offers for young people and adults continue to be successful, it has been more difficult to get people back into the theater seats.
“Between 1998 and 2008 we experienced enormous growth,” said Trapani, with the center welcoming more than 27,000 spectators a year. “Now we are in 2022 and we only have 10,000 people left.”
Ticket sales have dropped precipitously, he said, and he considers it a good night if a show fills 85 of the theatre’s 165 seats.
“In the past, the audience that supported us was 65 or older,” Trapani said. “During Covid they didn’t go out at all and very few of them are going out now.
“People who are ready to come out are in the 20-35 age bracket and that demographic doesn’t have money, so it’s really difficult,” he said.
But the center has encountered and overcome difficulties before, he said.
Between 1998, when the center first opened in its permanent theater at 661 County Road 308, and 2008, the center has experienced phenomenal growth. This ended with the economic downturn of 2008, which resulted in a huge financial loss for the center.
Just as the center was recovering, Tropical Storm Irene hit in 2011, causing extensive water damage when the facility’s basement flooded, causing tens of thousands of dollars in locker room damage. , the dance studio, the classroom, the green room, the bathrooms, and — worst of all — the costume storage area.
As the center had rebuilt and things were finally starting to get back to normal, COVID-19 closed the theater again.
“COVID has been bad for all of the performing arts,” Trapani said. “It was particularly difficult for us.
Trapani said ticket sales for any show average between 35 and 40 per night and he considers a show “sold out” if it has 85 patrons. Still, in true theatrical tradition, Trapani and the staff at the Center for Performing Arts are committed to making sure the show goes on and the Center has a full schedule of performances scheduled by December 2.
Next weekend, the center will host the final three performances of the family musical “Really Rosie.” It tells the story of Rosie, a girl from Brooklyn who entertains herself and her friends by fulfilling showbiz fantasies, including directing and starring in an Oscar-winning film. The performances will take place on Friday and Saturday July 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday July 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20.
Next up will be the thriller musical “Curtains,” with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. from Friday July 22 through Sunday August 14. Tickets for this production are $25.
Visit centerforperformingarts.org for tickets or more information. More information is also available by emailing [email protected] or calling (845) 876-3080. The opening hours of the center ticket office are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Trapani said as the center enters its 25th year, he is optimistic that audiences will start to return and a curtain will rise on a new The Center for Performing Arts
A celebration is planned to celebrate the center’s silver anniversary, and, while those plans are still in the preliminary stages, Trapani is considering a gala fundraiser at the center that would include “an elegant dinner under the stars, cooked by someone famous here at Rhinebeck , and a show.
Photos: The Rhinebeck Center for the Performing Arts