Q: What’s your connection to the North Fork and the North Fork Community Theater? A: I grew up here, graduating from Mattituck High School. I got into theater in my teenage years at the North Fork Community Theater. Though I went to MIT for electrical engineering and worked on Wall Street for years thereafter, when we moved back here in 2004 I got back involved. I am currently the President; I have served on the board since 2006.
I have performed and produced many shows over the years, but had never directed one before this year. My directorial debut was The Boy Friend. That’s one of the really exciting things about Community Theater--some people have gone to school and studied theater and performed professionally with other companies, but on the other hand anyone with talent, spunk and time can get involved in any aspect.
Q: Is the NFCT a year round institution?
A: We stage shows throughout the year, with our season starting in the fall and ending in August. We do five main stage shows: three musicals and two plays, and a bunch of smaller events.
We play to about 8,000 people a year, 166 seats at a time. One of the musicals is a Youth on Stage musical, with all the performers being between the ages of 14 and 22. We do that one in the summer. Each show runs for three weekends.
We just finished our holiday show last weekend, one of our one-weekend-only productions. Our next performance is our 11th Annual Variety Show, in which people perform a variety of single acts, and the proceeds go to scholarships for students in six area high schools. The variety show opens January 2nd and will play one weekend only, closing January 4th. Tickets are $10.
Theatergoers can also enjoy a reception for community artists in the hour before the show. This year we hosted a juried art competition for local artists, and we’ll be hanging the dozen or so selections throughout the winter and early spring, or until they sell out. The opening reception for this year’s show, which is “What is your vision of the NFCT” is on January 2nd at 7PM before the 8PM Variety Show performs.
Q: Only $10? That’s incredibly priced for live performance.
A: We’re trying to put on theater at as low a price as possible to keep theater really accessible while providing a terrific experience. The Variety Show tickets are $10. Tickets for the main stage plays are $15, musicals are $20, and the full season costs a whopping $75; since we are partly through our season, the remaining four shows are $60. All tickets and season passes can be purchased on NFCT.com or by phone at 631 298 NFCT (6328).
We keep our prices so low because all labor, from ticket sellers to star performers and everything in between is volunteer. Ticket sales cover royalties, production materials, the physical theater (electric, heat, air conditioning, etc.)—hard costs like that.
Q: All your labor is volunteer? That’s amazing.
A: For the nearly six decades NFCT has been around it’s always been volunteer; I think it’s been so successful because there are so many people participating every year. We probably have 50-70 work on each production in some capacity, and since most people don’t work on every production we have hundreds of volunteers each year.
We constantly need volunteers, not only on stage but also back stage—building sets, helping with rehearsals, selling refreshments, ushering, etc. Every year the membership appoints five members a year to read plays—70 or so of them--and decide what we should perform.
There will be a volunteer info night February 15th at 5 pm.
Q: You said the membership—do you mean season ticket holders or something else?
A: Something else. The theater itself is a membership organization; you can join to be a member of the theater for $10/year. Members get a monthly newsletter, an invitation to meetings and the right to participate in decisions.
We also organize about 10 community events throughout the year that members and the general public are invited to, though we hope that any non-member attendees will consider joining the organization on the spot. For example, our members just went caroling on Love Lane, and we have an ice skating event planned for Feb 15th. We also take trips to regional theaters and New York City including one on January 9th to see Little Shop of Horrors.
Finally, the membership owns the building the NFCT performs in.
Q: For $10/year you become part owner of the theater?
A: Essentially, yes. We did a five year fundraising campaign to raise the over $500,000 necessary to buy the building, and we closed on it in the fall of 2012. Over 750 people contributed, some several times, most in smaller donations. It was a real community effort.
In the past year we started a renovation campaign. Michael and Emilie Corey, some of our biggest donors, have pledged to match up to $300,000 in donations to renovate the building, meaning that for every $100 we are given, they will give another $100. We have until December 31, 2015 to raise the full $300,000. So far we have raised over $125k, and have mostly used that to fix up the building’s exterior. The art show that’s opening on January 2nd is a renovations fundraiser too—30% of each sale goes into the fund.
So far we’ve renovated the exterior: repainted the building, restored the 100+ year old stained glass windows we discovered were hidden behind the old marquis. We are now looking to renovate the interior: the more integrated and technical parts of the building. We do not yet know if the renovations will impinge on the season, but our goal is to improve the theater going experience, particularly the sound, seats, lighting—everything, really.
Just as an example, our seats were hand-me-downs that we got from the West Hampton Airbase in the 1980s when they were replacing their seats; this is a whole new exciting world.
Q: 100+ year old stained glass windows? How old is the building? Was it always a theater?
The building was built in 1861, expanded in 1896 by a church, and then a community fraternal order had the building from the early 1900s through the early 1950s. Older members of our community remember going to dances and volleyball games there. We’ve been in the building since 1961.
Q: Does the NFCT focus on any particular genre, such as new works, and, if someone wanted to audition, how do they do that?
A: We generally do Broadway standards. It’s a family atmosphere out here on the North Fork, and we pick pieces for that atmosphere.
We have open auditions for every show, and although there are a number of people who audition and perform frequently, every show has new people. There’s a constant flow; it keeps the theater alive. Anyone can audition.
Q: You mentioned that the season runs through August—what’s on the calendar between now and then?
A: Well, we have the variety show soon on Jan 2-4, and then our next play, Moon over Buffalo, opens on January 16th, running Fri-Sun for three weekends.
Every February we have a donor appreciation event; this year it’s Love Loss and What I Wore, which we will stage February 14 at 8 pm, and Feb 15 at 2:30. A Renovation Plan Update following that performance, and later that evening is the Volunteer Info meeting.
After that our production of the play Over the River and Through the Woods will run Fridays to Sundays March 13 through 29. The first musical will be Camelot, running Thursdays through Sundays May 14 through 31st.
Our fundraising gala will be held in Stonewalls in Riverhead in June 13th, a big party with performances by the NFCT company and a live auction.
Finally we do the big Youth on Stage musical, which this year is All Shook Up and will run Thursdays through Sundays July 23rd through Aug 9th.
Q: That’s quite a calendar of future fun; I look forward to the performances. Any final thoughts?
A: Yes. Community Theater, particularly NFCT, is about two things: the art—the music, the performance—and the community, whether it’s a high school student gaining confidence, or an empty nester with time picking back up something they loved doing decades ago. It’s almost as much about the community as it the performances itself.
People can become members by sending the $10 to NFCT at P.O. Box 86 Mattituck 11952. And check us out on Facebook, we have a lively community there for posts and updates about theater and other activities on the North Fork.