Theater league gives Proctors national award
SCHENECTADY Proctors can now boast national acclaim as the Outstanding Historic Theatre in America for 2009.
The award was presented to Proctors CEO Philip Morris Saturday night in Cleveland as part of a ceremony held by the League of Historic American Theatres.
“In selecting Proctors for this award, our award jury of historic theater experts has acknowledged a theater of exemplary vision and dedication to its community,” said Fran Holden, executive director of the league.
The award follows a $30 million renovation and expansion project that started in 2003 fueled by community support. That project followed decades of effort to first save, then gradually improve, the vaudeville-era showcase.
Morris said receiving the award recognizes the work of Schenectady’s community and puts the theater on the national scene.
“I was tripped up. It was pretty cool that it happened,” Morris said. “We were recognized for all that we do.”
The award itself is 18 inches high and weighs nearly 20 pounds and will be showcased inside Proctors somewhere yet to be determined.
“It’s heavy,” Morris said.
More than $10 million for the Proctors renovation project came as direct funding from the Metroplex Development Authority, according to Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen.
Gillen said Proctors is a frequently celebrated success that is one of the first stops when it comes time to show off Schenectady to investors and companies.
“It’s been a catalyst for a lot of additional development downtown and throughout the county,” Gillen said. “It allows us to expose the positive changes within Schenectady to a wide audience.”
Schenectady County Historical Society President Ed Reilly said he is pleased with the progress Proctors has made.
“It’s just a modern miracle that this community was able to mount that effort to save that beautiful, wonderful, historic theater,” Reilly said. “Our community does not have a good track record when it comes to historic preservation of buildings.”
Reilly cited numerous pieces of Schenectady’s heritage that were lost in the name of progress — the city’s train station that once sat at the corner of Erie Boulevard and State Street, the old Nott Terrace High School that was replaced by a Friendly’s restaurant that eventually went out of business, the home of famous General Electric scientist Charles Steinmetz, which was razed, and most recently the 80-year-old addition to the Ingersoll property on Balltown Road, which will share room with the construction of the Stanford Crossings shopping center.
“Proctors is a success after several failures,” Reilly said.
The judging criteria for the 2009 Outstanding Historic Theatre award included the significance and magnitude of the achievement, the impact of services and breadth of populations served and the length of time or intensity of activity.
According to the league, being an outstanding historic theater reflects the quality of historic preservation, programs and services given to the community.
There was a long list of supporters for Proctors to receive the award who conducted a letter-writing campaign, including James Jamieson of the Schenectady Historic District Commission, Gloria Kishton of the Schenectady Heritage Foundation, Mayor Brian Stratton, Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage, Schenectady School Board President Jeff Janiszewski and Congressman Paul Tonko.
Proctors will be the host site for the 2011 League of Historic American Theatres annual conference.
Founded in 1976, the League of Historic American Theatres is an international, nonprofit association that promotes the rescue, rehabilitation and sustainable operation of such facilities.
“We’re chasing conferences and meetings for downtown. That’s one of our strategies,” Gillen said. “That’s a national conference, so we’re excited about that.”
Proctors will partner with Stanley Theatre in Utica and Troy Music Hall for the conference, according to officials.
In October, Proctors will host a regional conference for the league titled, “It Takes a Village.”
The upcoming season at Proctors will present the largest Broadway series to date. The 2009-10 Key Private Bank Broadway Series includes “The Color Purple,” Oct. 13-18; Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps,” Nov. 17-22; “Wicked,” Dec. 9-Jan. 3; “Spring Awakening,” Feb. 16-21; and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” April 14–18.