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A rendering by Ackert Architecture, PC, of the Ancram Center for the Arts, included in a feasibility study completed in 2021. Photo submitted

Renovation to support new works, community

ANCRAM —  Since 2016, Ancram Opera House (AOH) co-directors Paul Ricciardi and Jeff Mousseau have brought contemporary, innovative theater performances to a rural audience. With the expansion of the Summer Play Lab program as well as the AOH campus itself, Ricciardi and Mousseau see a bright future ahead for the organization.

“It really grew initially out of COVID,” said Ricciardi of the Summer Play Lab.

“We felt that new work, in its early stages, could be served in a virtual presentation,” said Mousseau.

“It grew out of wanting to support artists and give interesting programs to the community. It’s a real embodiment of who we are at the Opera House, and we strive to bring artists to the area who our audiences would otherwise not normally get to see in an intimate, up-close, personal setting,” Ricciardi continued.

Presented exclusively online when the program began in 2020, the Summer Play Lab’s rehearsals, workshops and talkback events are making the transition to in-person theater. For this year’s program, AOH is seeking proposals from artists based in the Hudson Valley, the Berkshires of Massachusetts, and Northwest Connecticut for a two-month residency culminating in public work-in-progress performances.

The “residency” portion of the program is soon to be literal as, due to receipt of a $255,675 grant from the New York Main Street program of the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal, AOH will be able to start refurbishing a neighboring building to provide housing for artists, crew and interns as well as a dedicated community room in which to facilitate workshops and training.

“It’s really about increasing our capacity for space for serving our artists and serving the community,” said Ricciardi.

Renovations to the soon-to-be-renamed Ancram Center for the Arts will include an ADA-compliant restroom on the main floor of the opera house as well as ramps and other walkways to improve accessibility; replacement of the HVAC system; improved parking facilities; and outdoor spaces and porches to encourage socialization before and after performances.

Bids are currently being solicited for the restroom project in the opera house, which will “ideally start in mid to late spring” according to Mousseau. Due to the timeline of state grants and support, work on the house will take more time: “I think we’re looking at starting midsummer,” said Mousseau, “and that project, once it gets going, will take eight to nine months before it’s done.”

“When it became known that this house would potentially be available, there was zero hesitation from our board about needing to acquire it. It really will help to create a sense of campus,” Mousseau continued. “It’s about deepening experiences, creating accessibility for interns, [and] it will allow us to have more residencies throughout the year.”

Any artist wishing to participate in the Summer Play Lab residency must submit a proposal and application form by April 14. More information is available at -www.-ancramoperahouse.org/summer-play-lab-residency

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