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Batavia Players

January 25, 2023 - 10:01pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Batavia Players, city centre.

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Think of a tiny hamlet up north, not quite reaching Canada, filled with regular town folk but with no governing rules because nobody ever got around to officially organizing. It’s filled with geese, and moose, snow-sprinkled deer, and scenery so photogenic you’d swear it’s Maine.

But as you will soon learn, it’s Almost, Maine, Batavia Players’ next show to debut this weekend.

“The whole premise of the show is that it takes place over 10 minutes. And the place that's called Almost Maine is based on an actual place. So it's nine different vignettes that take place in the same town with nine different couples. It's kind of a cool premise, like a snapshot in a small town, to me is kind of like a cool premise,” Director Patrick Burk said. “So it goes from everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. There's extremely funny parts, there’s extremely dramatic parts, there's challenging parts, there's social redemption parts. It's really a great, great play.”

The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday on the concourse stage inside Batavia City Centre.

What better way to spend a cold winter night than to learn about the intermingling of those nine couples, introduced to the audience through each separate scene? Though the entire production is 90 minutes, each scene reenacts the same 10-minute point in time from varying perspectives, which fascinated Burk when he first encountered the show.

It makes a spectator wonder, ‘why didn’t he know that so-and-so did that?’ a question that is answered when one realizes that the scene is happening at the same exact time as every other scene, Burk said.

“There's connections between the scenes because, obviously, like in any tiny town, everybody knows everybody else. So there's references to the other scenes. And there's a lot of names that switch back and forth with the scenes, with the couples talking about different issues. It's a beautiful, beautiful play, it really is. But it's kind of a strange way to be looking at things because you're trying to figure out, well, why didn't she know that?” he said. “And it's because it happens at the same time, so she wouldn't know. It's not like one scene follows another scene. It all happens at the same time. So it's a very strange premise, but it's beautifully done. And I think the cast does a phenomenal job of that.”

Part of the beauty is that people fall in — and out of — love, hearts get broken, love happens in the strangest of ways, and residents of Almost, Maine -- cue the dramatic music -- “will never be the same,” according to the show’s description.

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The set is rather basic since it is based outdoors, with a bench, chairs and a table, and costumes of winter apparel. There are 19 characters and 16 actors — some have two characters each — and Burk has been impressed with how actors embraced their roles so fully to unfold completely within each 10-minute segment.

“It is very, very popular in high schools. I think the characters are amazing,” he said. “I kind of looked at it as a fairy tale. Could this be true?”

He was equally impressed with how well actors collaborated with one another, given they were from several counties, including Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, and Niagara.

That, coupled with the ability to perfect the role and be familiar with those of others in case of illness and absenteeism, has worked out well, he said.

“We just came off of our Christmas show, with a cast of 40 people, we were really pushing the envelope, and then coming back with this — and we’ve only been rehearsing for three and a half to four weeks,” he said. “I really do hope people come and see it. It's a tremendous show. And it's absolutely beautiful. I know, I say that frequently when we do things, but it really is a beautiful show. It really has a huge appeal, I think to a wide array of people. And I think people will see things, and the characters, of family and friends and themselves, and people that they know.

"And I just think it's extremely well written, and our actors in this particular show, the 16 of them are absolutely amazing. I can't say enough about it,” he said.

Almost, Maine was developed at the Cape Cod Theater Project in 2002 and received its world premiere at Portland Stage Company, where it broke box office records and garnered critical acclaim. It opened Off Broadway in the winter of 2005/2006 at the Daryl Roth Theatre and was subsequently published by Dramatists Play Service. Almost, Maine has been produced by more than 5,000 theater companies in the United States, making it one of the most frequently produced plays of the past decade.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors. To purchase, go to showtix4u.com.

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Photos during rehearsal include actors Shaun Coburn, Jacquie Morrison, Justin Chortie, Brianna Jones, Maia Zerillo, Seth Coburn, Richard Ferris, Sophie Houseman, Stephen VanValkenburg, and Kristen Gelia. Photos by Howard Owens.

November 30, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, city centre, Batavia Players, theater, arts.

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After performing twice before in the same Batavia Players show, Heather Ferris is now taking the baton, so to speak, as director of what’s become a holiday favorite for the group each December.

This year’s “A Christmas Carole” has not only made Ferris attentive to the script, but also to every other aspect of production — from auditions early on to the finishing touches of dress rehearsal.

“I definitely enjoy the directing versus being on stage. I’m a little shy. Sometimes getting on stage for me is, it can be a little overwhelming. It can be a little scary. But being able to direct, I feel like I can let my creativity come to life through the actors that are on the stage. So it's more of a creative outlet for me than actually being on stage,” she said prior to rehearsal Tuesday. “I just start thinking about how far we’ve come. My youngest cast member is 3 years old, and then I've got cast members all the way up into their 70s. And just to see them kind of blossom, and just really bring characters to life, for me, it’s just so fun to watch that. And so I get really excited for them when they're bringing it all together.”

Scrooge and his ghosts debut at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the makeshift theater at Batavia City Centre.

This isn’t a first-time directing for Ferris, who is co-directing this one with her husband Richard; however, it is her first experience off-stage guiding the action for the beloved Christmas classic.

“It’s a fun show, it’s very family-friendly,” she said. “You expect the change that Scrooge comes through, and see the spirit of Christmas come alive through him. To see how the story that was written almost 200 years ago can be so much like what we deal with today … money doesn’t always make you happy. It’s a feel-good story, and you go from bah-humbug to a time where people are happy; it makes you feel good at the end.”

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Written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843, the story features Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly, penny-pinching curmudgeon whose ultimate life lessons come to him through ghosts of Jacob Marley and of Christmas past, present, and future. After learning about each phase and its impact on people and the community, Ebenezer’s moral compass and hardened heart are transformed.

Of course, before that idyllic ending takes place — just as with the storyline itself — there are the typical challenges with such shows, especially with a cast of 32 and half of which are youngsters, she said. School activities, sports practices and work schedules all must be juggled amidst a rehearsal timeline that began in October.

And even though the pandemic has rested in most everyone’s rearview mirror, there has been illness to deal with amongst the troupe, she said. But now, with a full dress rehearsal upon them for Wednesday night, it is, as they say, show time. And Batavia Players is ready to entertain, said Ferris, a retirement plan consultant.

“Tomorrow is really just making sure that our lighting is good, our sounds are good, that we have all the costuming in place and things like that,” she said. “So it's literally just the finishing touches, the little things that make the production a whole production.”

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Although by day she crunches numbers and deals with accounting for clients, Ferris, a resident of Medina, can let her innovational nature flow in the after-hours of theater.

“It really allows me to have that creative outlet,” she said. “It’s a way to get away from my everyday challenges, and let that stress melt away.”

Filled with familiar music and traditional Christmas carols, the show is also augmented with pianist Kathy White and Kristin Gelia on violin.

Tickets are going fast, and folks are encouraged to get them sooner than later, said Patrick Burk, aka Ghost of Christmas Future. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors, and may be purchased at showtix4u.com or possibly at the door for some dates, Burk said.

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Photos of rehearsal Monday for "A Christmas Carole" by Batavia Players at Batavia City Centre. Photos by Howard Owens.

October 27, 2022 - 10:26pm

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Halloween is quickly approaching, then it’s Thanksgiving, and before you know it, the annual Christmas in the City takes hold the first weekend in December.

As members of Batavia Business Improvement District and Batavia Players — led by Co-Chairpersons Pat Burk and Shannon Maute — strive to get things in place for the event, there are plenty of opportunities for others to participate, they say.

Christmas in the City
The main event runs from 1 to 6 p.m. on Dec. 3 Downtown, with a visit from Santa Claus from 1 to 5 p.m. inside the mall and a finale parade at 6 p.m. throughout downtown. Local groups, businesses, emergency services departments, kids, adults, and most anything in between are welcome to join the fun.

Maute has put out the call for not only organizations but also for departments with fire trucks, to sign up.

“You can walk, ride or enter a float,” a BID flyer states.

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Mall events will run from 1 to 5 p.m. and include Santa’s Village, pictures with Santa, hot cocoa and cookies, crafts, cookie decorating, a kids’ zone, Santa’s workshop, shopping specials, Dickens Carolers, Scrooge, adult tastings and more, organizers said.

Our Hometown Christmas
Even earlier that day will be a craft and vendor fair that begins at 10 a.m. and runs to 8 p.m., Burk said.

“We already have 22 tables,” he said. “And there will be entertainment; our dance academy is performing, the small brass group from BHS signed up, and there’s Santa’s Village. We’re trying to get people in what used to be the mall, and our Christmas show will be happening Dec. 1, 2, 3 and 4.”

Burk, long-time executive director of Batavia Players, is learning how to juggle theater responsibilities with Board of Elections tasks and being president of the Genesee Valley School Boards Association, he said.

The theater in Batavia City Centre has been one of many projects delayed by the pandemic’s onslaught of labor, supply chain and social distancing issues.

With fingers crossed, Burk is hoping for a completed theater to open in May or June of 2023. There are grants involved, and though the Players are a pre-qualified status through Grants Gateway, there is more footwork to be done, and it is all falling at the same time as taxes being due Nov. 15, he said.

Despite the “bad timing,” he and group staff and members look forward to that day when a performance happens in the fully renovated theater.

“We had some pretty hefty demolition left to do with plumbing, electrical, all those old air conditioning units that were there for the X-ray machines and stuff. Yeah, huge. They're all gone. I mean, we're moving daily. And we're working hard,” he said. “So I don't know what time we're going to be completed. And a lot of it's depending on availability of our stuff, and when we get our reimbursements from the state.”

Grant funding is crucial, due to how — sounds like a broken record by now, he said — COVID affected pricing for everything.

“Our supplies went up by over $260,000. We’re in for $1.2 million already and have raised money. And all that money doesn't mean anything, because we have to come up with more money for it, just to complete everything," he said. "On top of that, we really want to do a good job of accessibility and maximizing use and having good lights and sound and all that other stuff. And all that stuff went up in money … it all went through the ceiling."

They should get word on the grant application in March or April next year, he said, and he has learned how meticulous all of that paperwork needs to be, especially given at least three grant-related changes taking place this year. If one number is off, it gets sent back, and then they wait another month or more for approval of a resubmission of the corrected material.

“You have to have people look over this stuff, over and over and over,” he said.

A Christmas Carole
Nonetheless, the show, as they say, must go on, and the Players will be presenting the seasonal Dickens’ favorite “A Christmas Carole” the weekend of Christmas in the City.  It is set for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1, 2, 3 and 2 p.m. Dec. 4 at Main St. 56 Theater in Batavia City Centre. Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 students and seniors, and available at showtix4u.com.

The Players will also be sponsoring Our Hometown Christmas all day on Dec. 3 with an array of gift options at craft and vendor tables. There is still space available, and any interested crafts dealers, food trucks, vendors or antique dealers may want to grab a table NOW

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Santa’s Village will be part of a festive display, and local schools are to be participating, Burk said. There are so many activities jam-packed into the schedule, that Burk would like to see a future two-day event, he said.

The Hometown event is a fundraiser for the Players, and will provide entertainment and fun for visitors, he said.

“We’re trying to keep the theater going with no theater and with no money,” Burk said. “We are literally scraping together money to pay to keep the lights on.”

Wreath Contest
The BID is also hosting its annual Wreath Contest for downtown Batavia “as a creative way to add some holiday spirit to downtown.” The contest is open to any business, group, organization, or family. For $20, each participant is provided with a 16-inch plain wreath to decorate. Participants may pick up their wreaths on Nov. 19 and have a week to decorate before dropping them back off to the BID for committee volunteers to place throughout downtown, Maute said in a recent press release.

Voting for the most creative will take place from Dec. 3 through 24. The first-place winner is to receive a $100 cash prize, second place $75 and third place $50.

To participate in the wreath contest or parade, contact Maute 

File photos of Christmas in the City 2021 by Howard Owens

August 12, 2022 - 8:08am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Batavia Players, batavia, notify.

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In its 25th year, Batavia Players’ Summer Youth Theater program returns from a pandemic year off with something spectacular to behold, Director Pat Burk says.

He chose the musical “Godspell” to give prominent and ample opportunity for the 15 youth actors to fully embrace their characters and bring the Gospel of Matthew to life in an atypically festive and colorful atmosphere.

“It’s about parables and things, and also excerpts from the Gospel according to Matthew. But you know, the whole premise of the show is just a very beautiful premise, and the show itself is physically gorgeous. I think people will be surprised at our setting this year … during Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” Burk said during an interview with The Batavian. “And that's another nice thing about the show, you can kind of put it into the setting you want it to be in. Originally it was in a junkyard in New York City. It was a bunch of homeless, kind of hippie vagrants, in the junkyard in New York City. We've changed that, and ours is very New Orleans, Mardi Gras-themed. and it is a very beautiful show. So I think people will enjoy it.”

The musical is a retelling of the Gospel of Matthew set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The disciples of Jesus spread his message of love and tolerance through the city streets as the time gets closer to Jesus's betrayal at the hands of Judas and his eventual crucifixion. Parables are interspersed with music set primarily to lyrics from traditional hymns, with the passion of Christ appearing briefly near the end of the show.

With its debut on Thursday, Summer Youth Theater’s production continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday at Batavia First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main St., Batavia.

"Godspell" began as a project by drama students at Carnegie Mellon University and evolved from off-off-Broadway to being rescored for an off-Broadway production, which became a long-running success.

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Don’t let the actors’ ages, from 12 to 21, fool you; most are fairly well versed in theater and in working with Batavia Players, Burk said. There have been challenges, though, with the venue — First Presbyterian Church in Batavia. The widespread choreography and sets were too much for the Players’ makeshift stage while the new one is under construction, he said.

The troupe was invited to perform at the East Main Street church and accepted, meaning a complete transplanting of sets, the light and sound boards, costumes, props and stage setup, he said. They had to rent sound equipment, move and reset lights, and faced more challenges with designing a set for this particular show, he said, “which we want to really highlight the design and the costumes and the coloring, the colors involved in the show and how we're setting the show.”

“We had to bring in a bunch of really expert people to make that happen,” Burk said. “And I think people will be amazed. It's pretty expansive, and it's pretty impressive, actually.”

There also wasn’t room for the pit band that accompanies vocalists, he said. Their current, temporary digs consist of a small stage area inside Batavia City Centre until the theater construction is finished.

“Because the only shows that we do in there … we can have drums and guitars and bass and two pianos, and there's no room for that in our temporary space,” he said. “So the shows that we've done in there, if there is music, have either band recorded music that you purchase, and/or an individual piano. So, this show really requires a fuller pit, plus the choreography and dance numbers are, in our version, are fairly extensive, and they would not have worked in that space.”

That being said, the church performance space has worked out nicely for a breathtaking production that, contrary to what some people may think of biblical prose, is anything but boring, he said.

“It's absolutely gorgeous. And the music is amazing. Absolutely amazing, and it allows a lot of individual moments to shine within the show,” he said. “It's kind of an ensemble cast, which, there's obviously, one big important role. And then there's a bunch of ensemble roles, but they all have lines, they all have solos, they all have songs. It's also a good one to highlight the kids that are in it.”

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"Godspell" takes Burk back — nearly 50 years — to when he was first cast in it at 16. He found it then — as he still does today — to be a “beautiful, beguiling, and bold” over-the-top celebration that was an immediate success amidst a swirl of controversy, he said.

“It certainly was not a traditional telling of biblical parables. What many did not realize at the time was that this musical was not about the life and times of Jesus, it was about how Jesus created this loving and caring

community from a wide array of people,” he said. “Instead of being the universal story of the life of Jesus, it used Jesus as a vessel for the story of how a community is created and how it can include all.”

Ticket information is available at showtix4u.com

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Batavia Players' Summer Youth Theater cast readies for a debut of "Godspell" Thursday evening; Elise Baumer, Crystalina Baumer, Melania DeSa e Frias, Maia Zerillo and Jocelyn Coburn; front row featured actors Deacon Smith, Kai Hoag and Gabriel Burk Flanagan; Matthew Stevens as the lead of Jesus, with Samantha Jane Balbi, who is also the show choreographer; Matthew Stevens and Dorothy Sue Flanagan, the youngest member of the cast. Photos by Howard Owens.

 

 

 

August 5, 2022 - 3:00pm


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for more information or to purchase tickets!

June 1, 2022 - 4:18pm
posted by Press Release in Batavia Players, batavia, news.

Press release from Batavia Players:

Our community suffered a tremendous loss this past Sunday as Wendy Williams, local business owner, teacher and humanitarian took her last breaths at Crossroads House comfort care home in Batavia.

Wendy was a 1985 graduate of Hilton Central School and continued her education to earn her Bachelor's degree from Oberlin College Conservatory.

A well-known actor and performer, Wendy shared her many talents on stage in venues throughout Eastern Ohio and Upstate New York. She was a long-serving member of our own Batavia Players/Main St. 56 Theater, performing regularly for over a decade in various plays and musicals including Into the Woods, Mary Stuart, Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Lile Women, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Cabaret, Mamma Mia, August, Osage County and countless more.

In addition to her various acting credits, she served as a member of the Board of Directors and was the Director of the Education at the theater, spearheading programs such Liberty Camp, which focused on keeping young people at risk interested in their education, TOAST Pre-K to first-grade introduction to the theater and the Summer Theater Camp.

Wendy also tirelessly fundraised for the theater and was a major deciding component of the new downtown Main St. 56 Theater Project.

Her illness did not stop these efforts and she continued to do everything she could to ensure that this project would come to fruition.

Wendy was also a solid supporter of the Main St. 56 Dance Company, where her daughter Avelyn was a student.

Williams was a patron of the musical arts in every possible way. Many may remember Wendy from her annual Christmas Caroling events. She funded theater classes and vocal competition fees for friends, acquaintances, and students to ensure that all could receive equal access to these programs.

As a former band director at St. Joseph’s Regional School, a school that had previously been without a band program, she campaigned, collected, and purchased instruments to distribute to her students who would have otherwise been unable to participate.

Wendy’s true genius as a facilitator of musical expression came from her teaching.

As a licensed Kindermusik educator for more than 20 years, Williams was passionate about the formative role of musical play in child development. With a degree in both Music Therapy and Vocal Performance, she was well equipped to provide instruction in both the technical aspects of music as well as the psychosocial role it plays as a tool for self-expression and therapeutic relief. The students of Sound Foundations, her rapidly growing voice studio, ranged from pre-k to adulthood.

An adjudicator for the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Wendy was adept at bringing out the very best in each of her students and many took part in companions at the national and international level, performing in Chicago, Washington DC, and Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Despite these many contributions, Wendy may be most well known for her human kindness. There was never a soul in need that Wendy Williams did not rally to. Every year, new and like-new winter coats would be purchased and collected by Williams and her mother Barbara Kerns to be distributed to those in need. Groceries were purchased for the ill, disadvantaged, or grieving.

On so many occasions, Wendy would fill her home with food, clothing, or toys to provide for individuals who had suffered a house fire, unemployment, or simply the challenges of life.

Wendy loved to bake and was involved in quite a few baking exchanges in the community.

The Williams house was always open to any looking for a roof over their head or a home-cooked meal.

A strong advocate for LGBTQ rights, Wendy was a mother to all and welcomed many estranged young adults into her inclusive family. When the idea of a PRIDE celebration came up in Batavia and Genesee County, Wendy made sure that it was promoted and worked to ensure that our local theater and Dance Academy were a part of the PRIDE events. She was truly an icon of love and compassion, and she will be sorely missed.

Wendy is survived by her mother, Barbara (Williams) Kerns, husband, Sean Williams; children, Collin Jones, Brannon (Emily) Jones, Charlie (Sara) Williams, Owen Jones, John Williams, and Avelynn Williams; a sister, Shayna (Bre) Klassen and her sister of the heart, Sara Brunner. Family and friends may call on Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home, 403 East Main Street in Batavia. There will be no funeral service and Wendy will be laid to rest in Hillside Cemetery in Holley. 

April 20, 2022 - 11:07am

main_st._theater_2.jpgNow that the City of Batavia Planning & Development Committee has put its stamp of approval on exterior changes to the Main Street side of the City Centre Mall, the project manager for the Batavia Players’ Main Street 56 Theater said he hopes construction-related issues won’t delay the project.

“We want to start as soon as possible, but the industry is short on materials and people. So, we'll have to work on a schedule to see when we can get people started again,” David Ciurzynski of Ciurzynski Consulting said today.

The City PDC on Tuesday night voted in favor of the new lighted façade that will serve as the primary entrance to the new theater.

Ciurzynski said he will speak to the architect about some necessary minor changes to the plan as requested by City Code Enforcement Officer Doug Randall, and then he will begin the bidding process for contractors next month.

When asked if the work will be done by December, he said, “We're really hoping that's the case. I don't see why we couldn't but it's going to really depend on labor and material availability. People and materials are the biggest challenges in construction right now, along with pricing.”

The façade, a storefront glass system with two levels, will “activate” that section of the mall and “give it a little bit of life,” Ciurzynski said.

“The upper piece will have an etched glass with an under-light LED strip that will add a little interest to the glass with the etching on it,” he said. “The etched glass will have the logo. When you light it at night, the logo will kind of glow instead of having this big marquee that sticks out in front of you.”

Ciurzynski said that will be the main entrance – the place people will enter the theater to access the ticket booth and concessions. Another smaller entrance will be available on the north side of the mall.

An open house and special craft/vendor show in the temporary theater space and dance academy is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, April 30. A hotdog stand will be operated by the Batavia Lions Club.

April 12, 2022 - 1:20pm

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Just as in a dance recital or musical, executing all the “steps” properly are vital in the process of redeveloping existing space into an attractive public venue.

Patrick Burk, president, executive and artistic director of the Batavia Players, today said he understands the significance of the Main Street 56 Theater project reaching the planning board stage over the next week.

The Genesee County Planning Board will be considering the Downtown Revitalization Initiative site plan on Thursday night, and the City of Batavia Planning & Development Committee is on track to do the same on April 19.

“It's wonderful that we have a lot of people working on the project that, I guess I could say, know what they're doing,” Burk said. “I'm learning as we go and making sure that we keep putting one foot in front of the other, whether it's a big step or a small step. It looks like over the next week or so, we're going to be making some pretty big steps – moving forward to getting more of the construction work done.”

Batavia Players, Inc., was awarded more than $700,000 from New York State’s DRI and another $400,000 from the NY Main Street Grant program to transform space at the City Centre into a contemporary theater to showcase its productions.

“And we raised about $210,000 ourselves, and we're continually working to raise that that dollar amount even higher as we need it for the work that we're doing,” Burk said, noting that the project will cost in the $1.5 million range.

For the past 20 months or so, the troupe has been performing in a temporary space at the City Centre.

“We call it our backstage theater because we have so much space there that we're using right now,” Burk said. “We're performing in that space while the construction is going on.”

The Batavia Players presented Shakespeare in Springtime: Love’s Labour’s Lost in March, and will be presenting The Springtime Music Spectacular: Back on the Boards Again, a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, on April 22-24.

OPEN HOUSE SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 30

A special craft/vendor show, including a hotdog stand operated by the Batavia Lions Club, is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30.

“That’s when we will have our open house in the temporary theater space and in our dance academy,” Burk said. “We’re also going to be showing the space as it stands right now -- wherever they're at on April 30 -- so that people can see the development of the space. So, yes, we will be going into the construction space as well.”

As far as when the new facility will be ready, Burk said he hopes construction will be done by the Batavia Players’ Christmas show – Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical – in early December.

For now, he said he’s excited that the project is in the hands of the two planning boards.

“I'm so thrilled that we're going to the county planning board because that's a big step. We have to have approval for that because we sit on a state highway. And our frontage is on a state highway and we're making quote, unquote, significant changes to that frontage,” he said.

Burk said the site plans and architectural drawings are “sitting there at City Hall, all set and ready to go.”

“We’re just waiting for these approvals, and we’re hoping that it moves forward as quickly as possible,” he said. “Once that step is done, it will be gangbusters, since we’ve been assured by our construction manager that it’s going to go pretty solidly and pretty quickly.”

More information about the Batavia Players can be found at www.bataviaplayers.org

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Top: Architect's rendering of the facade of Main Street 56 Theater, the new home of the Batavia Players, which is under construction at the City Centre. Bottom: The way it looks now -- unfinished -- next to Genesee Dental along Main Street. Bottom photo by Mike Pettinella.

March 2, 2022 - 3:50pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, arts, Batavia Players, Main St 56 Theater, batavia.

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It looked like the Batavia Players cast had quite a party as show Director Anthony Baldwin-Giambrone dropped empty beer bottles into a cooler near the stage Monday evening.

There was a party, he said, however, only as part of the 2022 Shakespeare in Springtime series. Beer-drinking during a yearly Shakespearean staple? Only when the setting has been switched up from the typical 16th Century scenario of kings, queens, and jesters, to a modern-day educational setting.

“We took the entire show and set it at a college, with a fraternity house and a sorority house,” Baldwin-Giambrone said during rehearsals at the new venue inside City Centre. “We had this play ready to go in March 2020 … we have two-thirds of the original cast back. We had to recast eight people, and we bumped up an actor from a small role to a lead role.”\

The show didn’t go on then, as all things COVID-19 shut it down. Fast forward two years and construction of the new theater is still in progress as new and returning cast members rehearse in The Backstage space that accommodates 84 patrons. Known as “black box theater,” this space offers a close-up view of the action. It was a welcome sight for 34-year-old Justin Chortie, he said.

“It’s nice and intimate,” the North Tonawanda actor said. “I haven’t done black box since college.”

He plays Ferdinand the King, aka president of the fraternity. Thought to be sort of snobby, his character convinces his friends to give up girls for a while. Of course, this wouldn’t be a comical love story if the king actually followed his own advice, as Chortie said, and the king’s own words get him into hot water.

Chortie believes the two-hour round trip for rehearsals is worth it. He had but one word for why: passion.

“To hear the audience laugh, it’s adrenaline almost, it’s like a drug,” he said. “I mean, it's wild. You gotta go. You’ve got kings and princesses, but they're not really kings and princesses; they're fraternities and sororities. There's all kinds of fun.”

The show is Love’s Labour’s Lost, and it’s set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m Sunday at The Backstage at Main St. 56 Theater, Batavia. For those unfamiliar with this new space at Batavia City Centre, the entrance is a purple door next to Batavia Family Dental.

Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s for a performance before Queen Elizabeth I. The King of Navarre and his three companions attempt to swear off the company of women for three years in order to focus on study and fasting. They break their oath through a subsequent infatuation with the Princess of France and her ladies. The play closes with the death of the Princess's father, and all weddings are delayed for a year.

Although Baldwin-Giambrone is no stranger to the Players troop or the Shakespeare series, this is his first time directing this particular show. A resident of Kenmore, he is one of a big handful of actors and staff driving to and from rehearsals after a more typical day job. 

For this director, he goes from being a special education high school math teacher by day to working with a cast of 18 people at night. Think Shakespeare is dull, dry, and a ho-hum display of antiquated dialect? Think again, he and his cast members said. This is a show they described as “fun and funny.”

What hasn’t been so funny is how that unyielding pandemic wiped out this show two years ago.

“We were two weeks away from opening. And then we were shut down before we opened. And then with COVID, we had to make sure we were wearing masks at all rehearsals,” he said. “And then I know my assistant director, Jane (Burk), she actually, after every single rehearsal, stayed after and wiped down all the surfaces and sprayed and cleaned everything.”

Pushing COVID repercussions aside, Baldwin-Giambrone ran with the comical theme of Love’s Labour’s Lost. He replaced the more regal characters of kings and queens with frat boys and sorority sisters and paired them by personality — over the top and very clear cut  — such as the dumb blonds and the studious ones. 

“And they’re funny because this is a comedy. So it’s very funny seeing them do their very stereotypical distinct personalities,” he said. “The biggest challenge, I would say, was rehearsing in a shorter time period … just being able to get in here and start working with people to begin scheduling and everything. It just was a lot more tight.”

Dorothy Gerhart of Alabama had to drop her former role of Holofernes for the sorority mom, Boyet. It wasn’t really a bigger role, she said, because she counted the lines, and they were about equal. However, the mom role provided opportunity for more fun, she said. Her outfits are wild and colorful, with leopard, tie-dye, and purple pok-a-dot patterns. 

“I think she graduated from college but never really left,” Gerhart said. “She sees herself as one of the girls. She’s kind of the comedy relief, with a lot of funny lines.”

Aaron Klafehn is another newcomer to the Players, though not at all new to acting, he said. Working in quality control for HP Hood in Batavia, the 34-year-old discovered Batavia Players through his partner, the show's assistant costumer Marshall McCall. Klafehn has been interested in theater since elementary school. He plays the role of Costard, who he describes as a “chaos-causing math teacher.”

“He purposely does things incorrectly, to try and get a rise out of someone else,” Klafehn said, adding that he had a hiatus from theater during the last couple of years. “I fell right back into it, and am making new connections. It’s much different than the day-to-day aspects of what I do. It’s fun to bring someone’s creation to life. I try and make sure that it's as organic to the character that I'm creating as possible, rather than trying to imitate or copy someone else's. I'm excited to be back performing again, and very excited to see the new performing space when it's finished.”

Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, go to: showtix4u.com

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Top photo: Shaun Coburn, Justin Chortie and James Barcomb run through a rehearsal Tuesday night of Batavia Players' upcoming Love's Labour's Lost, which is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at The Backstage at Main St. 56 Theater, Batavia City Centre. The actors are joined by Sam Bowman, shown in the fourth photo from the top, during mandatory masked rehearsals for the Shakespeare in Springtime Series comedy by Batavia Players. Photos by Howard Owens. Editor's Note: Due to scheduling conflicts, this rehearsal was not in costume. 

June 7, 2021 - 4:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Players, city centre, batavia, news.

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The Batavia Players cut the ribbon on Sunday night on the company's new dance studio in City Centre.

Director Pat Burk called it a state-of-the-art facility. 

Cutting the ribbon is dance student Lucy LeFevre along with instructor Briana Blair Kelly while students Jocelyn Coburn and Samantha Balbi hold the ribbon.

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June 7, 2021 - 2:54pm

From Main St. 56 Theater:

Main St. 56 Theater, home of the Batavia Players, will hold Summer Theater Camp 2021 in two sessions next month.

Workshops will include: theater background -- monologues; pantomime -- improvisation; dancing, singing, skits.

  • For campers ages 5 to 8 (5-year-olds must have completed kindergarten), camp will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 19 to 23.
  • For campers age 9 to 12, camp will run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 26 to 30.

Tuition is $175 per camper.

Campers must provide their own lunches, snacks and beverages.

All COVID-19 regulations and guidelines will be followed.

Arrangements may be made ahead of time for early drop off and late pick up with an additional charge.

For more information or to register your camper, contact Kathy White at:   [email protected]

April 16, 2021 - 3:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Yngodess Shop, news, Batavia Players, arts, entertainment.

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Jilian Helwig won a large, wine-filled gift basket in a drawing yesterday in a drawing at The YNGodess Shop as a fundraiser for Batavia Players, which is moving its theater on Harvester Avenue to a Main Street location in City Centre in Downtown Batavia.

YNGodess owner Chris Crocker drew the winning ticket.

The raffle raised $5,800 for Batavia Players.

April 8, 2021 - 10:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, Batavia Players, video.
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"Dirty Face" by Shel Silverstein read by Avelynn William for National Poetry Month.

April 7, 2021 - 6:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, video, poetry month, Batavia Players.
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Poetry Month: "The Shortest Day" by Sarah Cooper read by Wendy Williams.

April 6, 2021 - 5:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, Batavia Players, video.
Video Sponsor

April is National Poetry Month, and as we did last year, we've asked Batavia Players to read some poems for us. Today, "Pangur Ban" is read by Dorothy Gerhart.

You, members of our community, are also invited to submit videos of yourself reading a poem. Please record your video with your camera set to produce a horizontal frame, keep it steady, well-lit with good quality audio. You can send us your video via wetransfer.com, emailed to: [email protected].

April 2, 2021 - 11:19am
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, Batavia Players.
Video Sponsor

April is National Poetry Month, and as we did last year, we've asked Batavia Players to read some poems for us. We start with 'In the Woods' by Oscar Wilde read by Stephen VanValkenburg. 

You, members of our community, are also invited to submit videos of yourself reading a poem. Please record your video with your camera set to produce a horizontal frame, keep it steady, well-lit with good quality audio. You can send us your video via wetransfer.com, emailed to: [email protected].

April 26, 2020 - 2:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, news, arts, entertiament, Batavia Players.
Video Sponsor

Avey Williams reads Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess. Avey is associated with Batavia Players.

April 23, 2020 - 3:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, news, video, Batavia Players.
Video Sponsor

Jane Burk reads "Reflections on Man" from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare. Burk is a member of Batavia Players.

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