Ross Eckert will try something new this weekend when he takes a front row seat at 710 Main Theatre to watch Seth Rudetsky's one-man comedy show during Friday's Curtain Up! performance.
For 25 years, Eckert sat in either the second or third row seat at the former Studio Arena Theatre as a season ticket holder. And he was among a core group of supporters who spent the past few years working diligently to save the Main Street theater, after it shut down mid season and went bankrupt.
"It's been a long slog to get here, but I think it'll be worth all the effort and investment of time and energy to bring it back," he said.
Friday's performance of Seth's Big Fat Broadway Show is part of the 31st Annual Curtain Up! event that officially opens Buffalo's live theater season, sponsored this year by the Theater District of Western New York and M&T Bank. The event includes productions at 15 participating theaters in cooperation with the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo, as well as a black-tie gala dinner on the Shea's Performing Arts Center stage and a free post-party featuring live entertainment on Main Street in the Theatre District.
The timing for the rebirth of the former Studio Arena was intentional, said Eckert, chairman of the board for 710 Main Theatre and a board member at Shea's.
"It's not only exciting for former subscribers of Studio, but I think a whole new series of theater-goers will enjoy the rebirth and reuse of an important asset for Buffalo," he said.
Those who miss Friday's show will have a chance to see the renovated facility next weekend during a two-day run of actor John Lithgow's one-man show, Stories by Heart, with three performances Sept. 21-22. The renovations were bolstered by a $45,000 grant through the New York Main Street program, which targeted projects in the Theater District.
With Shea's managing the site, Eckert and his team hope to offer a few more performances this spring, followed by a five-show subscription package in 2013-2014.
"Now we continue the hard work of finding the appropriate programming," Eckert said. "We're pretty confident, but it takes time and we have to find the right programming."