Having waited almost 25 years to find a permanent home of its own, the Elmira Theatre Company has returned to the search. The owner of its current location says it will not renew the lease when it expires in two years’ time.
ETC has a part ownership in the building at 76 Howard Ave. in Elmira, and played a key role in winning Woolwich Township approvals in 2005 to expand the facility to run a theatre from the site in an industrial part of town.
The non-profit group founded 40 years ago had previously run its performances from rented space such as the Elmira Lions Hall and the St. Jacobs community Centre.
It shares the building that houses its current dedicated space with Calla Studios, owned by Tina Weltz, who said this week the company is not ready to reveal its plans for the building.
“The landlord advised this and well in advance, which we appreciate of course, that she was not going to renew the lease on September 30, 2023. So, she’s given us lots a heads-up to start to find a new place,” said ETC president Bev Dietrich of the notice she received.
The organization has formed a search committee to find a new home, with Dietrich noting the effort is hampered by ETC’s space requirements and its budget.
We have some specifications. The two main things are the ceiling height, because we need at least a minimum of 16 feet for the lighting – 18 would be ideal, but we can make it work with 16 feet. And then we need some access to parking, because we’re bringing these people here and they need a place to park,” she explained, noting ETC currently has about 6,000 square feet of space.
“Probably the biggest one is we’ve got to be able to afford it – we’re a non-profit organization. We’re all volunteer.”
While it’s early in the process, the options aren’t abundant at this point, said Dietrich, noting the organization is looking to stay in Woolwich Township rather than casting a wider net … at least for now.
“It would be nice just to stay in our geographical area here. We’ve been here for 40 years, we’re starting our 41st season.”
Its productions having been on hold through the pandemic, ETC plans to return to the stage at its current location for a 41st season starting in November with Of Mice and Men, the play that was set to go before the lockdown.
“For now, it’s game on. We’re hoping to open in November with the show that was still sitting on the stage, like a little time capsule when, Of Mice and Men. That will be November, and we’ll put together a season that will have something in February and something in May.”
While staging productions, ETC will be looking for a new home and seeking support with expenses related to a move.
“We do have some funds set aside, and we also do own part of that building. When we leave, we will be selling that part of the building to the landlord. We will have funds from that as well, but we don’t know what that amounts going to be yet,” said Dietrich.
“We’re most fortunate our audience does really support us by coming out to seeing the shows and … there are people who do donate, which is wonderful as well. We appreciate our audience, our patrons.”