ELLENVILLE – At the corner of Market and Center Streets in the Village of Ellenville, ensconced in clear glass walls, is Shadowland Stages Second Space. The striking red and black interior houses roughly 5,300 square feet of community development. On October 12, a ribbon-cutting celebration will take place from 6 – 8 p.m., formally introducing the space to the community.
Second Space is an incredible achievement. The inside black box theatre is a home for Shadowland's Acting Academy — hosting more than 100 students this semester. It also acts as rehearsal and play development space, and in time it will be a smaller house where new and experimental work can be performed.
Shadowland Artistic Director Brendan Burke noted that years ago, the Shadowland main building needed extensive repairs. A substantial amount of money was raised to fix the issues — they did not even have public restrooms or dressing rooms at that time, he said. And in the process, they started to formulate a plan, a vision for the future that included more extensive education and community development. For that vision, they needed a second space.
Before Second Space was built, they used the lobby and the stage for classes — not exactly ideal when you are trying to put on one show and rehearse for another one at the same time. Not to mention, the ambition to develop new work, and to engage even more of the local and regional community.
"We also see Second Space as an economic driver for the community," said Burke. "Just as the success of Shadowland has brought new energy to Canal Street, we hope to see a similar resurgence on Center Street."
Hal and Joan Brill donated the building — "a raw, raw space," said Burke, and work on the Second Space started around December, followed by six to seven months of solid construction.
The list of upgrades and improvements is extensive: all new electric, new heating system and duct work, and more. "None of these walls existed," said Burke. "We have two huge public restrooms, dressing rooms, full bath with a shower, sound and light chambers, studio rooms, a sprung floor (making dancing easier on the knees), education and production offices, storage, a garage... It was planned so well, we have lots of practical space — more than we thought we'd have."
The funding for this incredible space continues. So far, a little over $1 million has been raised — enough for half of phase one, said Burke, who noted that they had two elements of funding, a CFA grant of $200,000 from New York State, and $75,000 from the Ellenville Million. A private donor has pledged $100,000 in matching funds, and the ribbon cutting on October 12 is a kick-off campaign to find those matching funds.
"The whole success of all of this is due to the board of directors," said Burke. "No one has worked as hard — they are active and involved with a real sense of ownership, and that makes all the difference."
And so, in raising money, personnel have been expanded, the opportunity to operate year-round has been realized, play development programs are materializing, and our community as a whole is immeasurably better for it. After all, the Shadowland mission is all about community building. Burke noted that local students take the classes, and then volunteer, learning hands-on. And what's more, the Second Space allows for a diversification of class offerings, with playwriting, dance, musical theater, improv, and tech theater classes.
"This is a playground for us," said Burke. "We long for the day when we have two productions going on at once. Think of all the people who will come to town when it becomes a venue. Folks that come to the community, really appreciate it. Sometimes it takes an outside eye, to see what you got."