By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star
---- — Friends of the Oneonta Theatre will take over operation of the historic venue, preserving it as a performing arts center, the building’s owner, Tom Cormier, said Wednesday.
“We’re going to enter an agreement for them to operate the theater on a not-for-profit status,” he said.
“If I could wave my magic wand, this is what I would have wanted.”
The agreement came during a meeting Tuesday night with the six-member Friends’ board, said Patrice Macaluso, its president and chairwoman of the Theater Department at the State University of New York College at Oneonta.
It sets in motion a number of parallel efforts she said, including work to transfer the theater operation to nonprofit status.
“There are organizations that help you do things like this, and I’m already in touch with them,” she said.
She also said that she would like to expand Friends’ board.
“Right now there are six people on it, and one of our goals is to start building the board, now that we have this new resolve to move this forward. … We would like to get up to 10 people, maybe, 10 or 12.
“But underneath that, there are a lot more people who want to be part of the subgroups that help things happen. And that’s also what we’re trying to set up. So, it won’t be just the board. It’ll be trying to figure out how to engage all of the people who are coming forward to help with this effort, and there are a lot of people.”
To that end, she said the group may hold a public meeting at the theater, which is on the federal and state registers of historic places, between Christmas and New Year’s.
“Because a lot of people first saw it when it was really run down, and if they haven’t been back, I think part of it is to open up and show people what has been done,” she said.
Cormier also saw the wisdom in opening the theater for meetings “to show them the place, show them what we’ve done.”
“A lot of people aren’t really aware of what has been done to the theater to bring it up to code,” he said.
Cormier added that he hoped to have more details before the First Night celebration Dec. 31, when the Catskill Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to perform. Macaluso added that tours of theater may be offered before that performance.
Cormier said last week the theater would be closed after the First Night show, at least until the spring. But he appeared to inch away from that Wednesday.
“There will be some events,” he said. “There will be a transition period, so things may be quiet for a little bit while we’re going through a transition period, but right now we need to start bolstering support.”
The building, which also contains six apartments and three storefronts, remains on the market, he said.
“I hadn’t even given it much thought,” Cormier said. “As of today, it’s still on the market, but I hadn’t given any thought of it.”
He added, however, that he was committed to changeover.
“My goal is to see this important historic building to Oneonta be there and operating for another 115-plus years,” he said. “So, I’m very much a team player in looking to work with them (Friends) to find solutions to everything. My whole thing in life has always been to figure ways to make things happen.”