Arts & Culture: Diversity Dialogue

Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts in New York State’s Southern Tier

Dreams to Remember 2: Reclamations & Theater

I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember…  

Theater is one of those dreams. When I arrived in Corning, there was a tradition of summer theater. O, not summer stock, but shows from Broadway that were staged at the Museum. Later on, I met some of the resident theater folks, studied with some of them, and came to, once again,  have a closer relationship to the love and dread of putting on a show.

My adult experience reconnected me to my roots. My first public performance was in a Tom Thumb wedding performed in my grandmother’s church, a few doors down from her grocery store. I may have been 5. My aunt, who played the upright piano that occupied the parlor in my grandparent’s apartment, groomed me for the role, where I was transformed from singing “won’t you buy my pretty violets” wearing a scarf, to the bride. Odd, that a genetically shy child, began her social identity as a performer. Music performance, in particular, remained a regular feature of my life until college.  This experience in managing shyness is another way that art grants transcendence, tools and skills.

In that reminiscence, the performance space was in a church. In high school, there was a grand auditorium. College offered several stages.  There are a couple of stages/spaces in Corning that I envision as options: the Courthouse and the Mason’s Theater.

Ever since I saw Tito Puente at the Mason’s, I was convinced that someone would and should invest in it and make it a regularly presenting venue for the arts. My Voices of Fire Reading Choir had its most exciting performance there.

Jazz in the Courthouse made me enamored of the Courthouse. I remember it as large, spacious and quirky, yet  evocative.

Theater is an endeavor that is at once its own and includes everything: writers, artists,lighting, actors, directors, designers, musicians and dancers… so many opportunities for learning and experience, for community building and knowledge sharing, for interaction and collaboration.

My musings on this may be misfocused. I think we need another performance space, a secular one, unattached to existing institutions. Perhaps the existence of a group like the Keuka Lake Players or Elmira Little Theater in the vast area between the two, would drive or define the development of a theater space.

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