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College and Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival host groundbreaking event for new downtown Auburn theatre

DATE: 09-23-2013

Cayuga Community College and the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival broke ground on the site of the Schwartz Family Performing Arts Center on Monday.  The new state-of-the-art jewel box theatre will host musicals such as Spamalot, Million Dollar Quartet, Tommy, and Avenue Q.

The two entities entered into a 25-year agreement, late in 2010, to share use of the new College 300-seat theatre in downtown Auburn. Leaders from both organizations praised the innovative partnership as a way to benefit the College and the Central New York and the Finger Lakes region.   

“We’re excited about this project because it brings the College back into downtown Auburn, just blocks from where the College was founded on James Street 60 years ago,” said College President Daniel P. Larson. “The College will be able to provide new academic and community programming in an accessible and convenient location in the heart of Auburn’s Creative Corridor.”

The College will use the space during the academic year, and the Musical Theatre Festival will host shows throughout the summer.

The event paid tribute to the generous donors who are helping to make the theatre a reality, including the Schwartz Family Foundation of Pittsford, the theatre will bear the family’s name.

Ed Sayles, producing director of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival/Merry-Go-Round Playhouse thanked those who came to support the event.

“I want to thank you all for sharing their vision, for being unafraid to hope that Auburn can return to where it has been,” Sayles said. “We are so excited to be here with all of you, to recognize the generosity of our donors, and to move this project forward.”

“The Schwartz family has been incredibly supportive of the College and our students for decades,” Larson said. “In fact, the late Maurice I. Schwartz, a former two-term mayor of Auburn and then president of the Auburn City School Board of Education, played an integral in helping to found the College in 1953. The Schwartz Family Foundation and College have had a relationship since then, with several Schwartz family scholarships and gifts to the annual fund nearly every year.

“Their naming gift as well as the substantial gifts from our other theatre donors supports the College and the Musical Theatre Festival, and they help us energize the regional economy through professional theatrical performances and cultural experiences that will boost tourism and spending in the area,” Larson said.

Brad Schwartz spoke on behalf of the Schwartz Family Foundation and recalled all the places on and around State Street that had meaning to his family, including the site itself where the Kalet store used to be.

“We were very close to the Kalets,” he said. “It is fitting that the theatre be built here.”

The Stardust Foundation of Central New York donated $2.5 million toward the construction of the new theatre, which brought the foundation’s total investment in the Festival to $4 million. In December 2011, the College and the festival announced a $100,000 gift from the Foresman family to name the Joanne Foresman Lobby.

In addition to the Schwartz and Foresman families, the event paid tribute to the generous donors who are helping make the theatre a reality including the Emerson Foundation, Stardust Foundation, Allyn Foundation, and the Gifford Foundation.  The community effort and has also received support from the Richard Mather Fund, Kauffman Foundation, John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund, J.M. McDonald Foundation and numerous individual donors.

The capital funds from the State University of New York will cover half of the $7.7 million project, and the College granted the Festival naming rights to the theatre to help raise the remaining half. 

Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2014, with the theatre ready for the 2015 Summer Season of Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival.

About Cayuga Community College

Founded in 1953, Cayuga Community College is one of 64 accredited institutions that make up the State University of New York (SUNY) system. A full opportunity College, Cayuga offers open access and an affordable gateway to higher education, with courses and degree programs offered at campuses in Auburn and Fulton and online. Cayuga Community College provides a strong liberal arts foundation for further study and career preparation. The College also addresses identified community needs through targeted training and personal enrichment programs. By sustaining academic excellence within a supportive learning environment, the College, a careful steward of human and fiscal resources, serves as a valuable asset to the development of our local, regional, and global communities.

About the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival

Located in Auburn, N.Y., in the picturesque Finger Lakes region, the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival is the largest musical theatre producing organization in New York State, outside of New York City. With three stages running concurrently, the festival provides exciting and diverse professional musical theatre entertainment. The main stage, The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, has been in existence for more than 30 years and presents hit Broadway spectacles.  The 2014 season includes “Mary Poppins,”  “Damn Yankees,”  “On the Town,”  “The Will Rogers Follies” and “Church Basement Ladies: The Last Potluck Supper.”  The MGR Downtown program at Auburn Public Theater presents newer and quirkier material such as this year’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” and the world premiere of “Neurosis: A New Musical.” The third space, Theater Mack, is a cabaret-style environment, which features a new musical in development each week in a new-works series, known as “The PiTCH.” The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival provides top-notch entertainment to more than 60,000 patrons each summer and maintains a high regard in the industry for its artistry and execution.