Technology draws new patrons to historic NNY opera houses
By Norah Machia
Historic opera houses in Northern New York restored to their original luster are drawing audiences from throughout New York State and even Canada through the use of technology.
The Clayton Opera House, Riverside Drive, and the Edwards Opera House, 161 Main St., are using the Internet to reach people closer to home tell them they don’t have to travel far for high quality performances.
Both opera houses have rich histories, and performances are staged by nonprofit organizations that have established good working relationships with their respective town and village officials.
The Edwards Opera House seats up to 275 people. It’s located in the town office building’s second floor, and through a long-term use agreement, the Edwards Arts Council stages a variety of shows at the opera house, said Brigitte Clark, arts council chairperson. In 2007, town and village officials combined offices in the building to make room for a second bathroom to be built to accommodate a growing number of patrons coming to the opera house.
The historic Clayton Opera House on Riverside Drive dates back to 1903 and underwent a more than $3 million renovation in 2007 that added a new heating and air conditioning system, access for handicapped guests and new dressing rooms. The renovation helped to return the two-story performance hall and third floor ballroom to their original historic appearance, said Erin McCarthy Greene, vice president of the Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund and interim director.
The Clayton Opera House, which serves as a year-round center for performances and community events, is owned by the town of Clayton and managed by the Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund. The town of Clayton and TIPAF formalized their partnership in March 2007, she said. The town offices are in the ground floor level, while main hall and upper levels are used mainly by TIPAF.
The nonprofit organizations that oversee performances at the historic opera houses also maintain websites that draw people from near and far to their venues.
TIPAF established its own Facebook page as part of an effort to increase the “number of people we connect with through social media,” Ms. Greene said.
“If someone is a fan of a particular performer, they will search the Internet to follow the schedule of shows,” said Ms. Clark. “They may not know where Edwards is located, but they will find us. It’s been fun to get people from all over the place to come to our tiny town.”
Edwards has a population of about 1,100, Ms. Clark said.