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Geva Theatre Center Announces Launch of $10 Million Capital Campaign to Renovate Building, Enhance Patron Experience and Ensure Theatre's Future

Over $8 Million Raised to Date for Front & Center: The Campaign for Geva


Rochester, N.Y., November 20, 2014 - Geva Theatre Center, one of the country's leading non-profit, professional regional theatres, currently celebrating its 42nd Season, announced plans today for a $10 million capital campaign to grow its endowment and complete the most extensive renovation of its 49,457 square foot facility since the 1984 conversion and refurbishment of the historic Arsenal building.


Ted Boucher and David L. Fiedler are co-chairmen of the campaign, "Front & Center: The Campaign for Geva." Boucher and Fiedler have a combined 60 years of engagement with Geva as subscribers, donors, Trustees, Honorary Board members and now as co-chairs of this campaign. They are supported by a Campaign Council of 18, plus five honorary members, coming from all professions, interests and areas of the community. To date, more than $8 million has been raised toward the $10 million goal.


Front and Center: The Campaign for Geva will transform Geva Theatre Center's historic home, the former New York State Arsenal and Rochester Convention Hall, into a dynamic, world-class cultural asset serving people from all over the country, providing exceptional arts and cultural programs and contributing to the economic vibrancy of the region. Through major exterior and interior renovations, Geva will provide more opportunities to entertain, inspire, educate, engage and lead. The building in its current form has served Rochester well for over a generation, and these renovations will prepare it to serve and attract future generations.


Since the official opening of the historic Arsenal building as the Richard Pine Theatre in 1985, Geva has educated and entertained over four million people, introduced hundreds of thousands of students to live theatre, developed tomorrow's plays and artists, and helped transform downtown. This constant wear and tear, coupled with nearly 30 years of Rochester weather, created significant damage to the roof, masonry, windows and cornices. To date, the Front & Center Campaign has funded much needed repairs and improvements including: improved Box Office and Restrooms (2010), Roof Replacement (2010), Production Equipment Enhancements (2010), Masonry Restoration (2011), Window and Door Restoration/Replacement (2012), Acoustical Enhancements (2013), Accessibility Improvements (2013) and HVAC Replacement (2013 and 2014).


The exciting interior transformation, scheduled to begin in Summer 2015, will extend the reach of a captivating performance to the moment one enters the building. From a great meal featuring local wines and culinary treats to an experience that will engage all the senses, Geva's renovation will bring the art of design and illusion together to create a thoroughly captivating experience where artists and patrons are at the center. Interweaving staff, artist and patron spaces, Geva will be a hub of contemporary community energy, showcasing artistry and innovation and fostering lasting relationships between first class artists and loyal patrons.


Geva engaged Clark Patterson Lee to complete conceptual and schematic design. Clark Patterson Lee incorporated over 1,500 patron survey responses and held extensive meetings with Geva staff, patron focus groups and the Board of Trustees to develop a conceptual design that will serve the future of the theatre while also being sensitive to the historic nature and integrity of the Andrew J. Warner designed building. Geva will issue a request for proposals for Design-Build services to complete the renovations by the beginning of the 2016-2017 Season.


Front and Center: The Campaign for Geva has two major components:

1.      $8 million to fund building restoration, renovations and improvements, and

2.      $2 million in artistic, education and facility endowment funds.


"We believe this campaign is supporting our community in preserving a nearly 150-year-old architectural treasure and enhancing the live theatre experience inside it," explained co-chairs Boucher and Fiedler. "The Geva building provides a stunning welcome to downtown Rochester, but more importantly, Geva is a key contributor to the quality of life in Rochester."


Necessitated by imminent structural issues to the building, the Front & Center Campaign entered the quiet phase of fundraising in late 2009, kicked off by a lead grant from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY). Subsequent public support under Governor Andrew Cuomo came from Empire State Development (ESD); New York State Canal Corporation; the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP); New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA); New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); and Empire State Development - I LOVE NY. The Front & Center Campaign has received over $6 million in private support from over 160 individual, foundation and corporate donors.


Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, "The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and Empire State Development (ESD) celebrate Geva Theatre Center, which attracts thousands of visitors and contributes to the overall economic vitality of Rochester, and wishes them great success as they kick off their campaign to transform into a 21st century performing arts and cultural center."


Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton said, "The Canal Corporation was pleased to help support the preservation and restoration of this important cultural venue in the City of Rochester through Governor Cuomo's successful Regional Economic Development Council program.  We look forward to the indelible mark that Geva Theatre Center will continue to make on the cultural heritage of the City of Rochester and all along the Canal corridor."


"The Front & Center Campaign will create a first class facility for Rochesterians to find the country's top theatre experience and for artists and professional staff to work," says Artistic Director Mark Cuddy. Executive Director Tom Parrish adds that, "A growing endowment will ensure Geva's future as the leading performing arts facility in the region."


Front & Center Campaign Upcoming Projects and Priorities

In addition to the exterior restoration, mechanical systems replacement and accessibility improvements completed to date, Front and Center: The Campaign for Geva will create:


A Home for First Class Artists


Education, Rehearsal and Conference Center

The front half of the building's top floor will become a multi-use space to benefit students, educators, patrons, artists and staff. The renovated space will be well-equipped to offer the best learning experience to the over 16,000 children and youth Geva serves annually, and an exceptional environment for creating national level theatre productions and events. The reconfiguration will establish a dynamic hub of creation, innovation and education, including the ability to expand in-house education programs and events.


Dressing Rooms & Green Rooms

Located in the basement, Geva's Dressing Rooms and Green Rooms serve over 200 professional performers and artists each season. Much needed improvements include replacing the bathrooms and showers, improving the layout and amenities to better serve Geva's first-class performers, and updating the dressing rooms. In addition, this project will improve the adjoining wardrobe facilities to allow for the proper care and maintenance of Geva's costumes and wigs, which are handmade here in Rochester for each production. Quality artist support spaces will help give Geva a competitive advantage in recruiting the country's top artists and performers.


Artist Housing

Located only 150 steps from Geva Theatre Center, Geva is partnering to develop and furnish 11 studio loft apartments in the former Merkel Donahue complex to house its artists. Each unit must be fully furnished. Per its collective bargaining agreement, Geva must provide its out-of-town actors with housing while they are in residence for the nine weeks of rehearsals and performance. The new housing will help the theatre be an employer of choice and continue to attract the country's top talent.


Enhanced Audience Experience


Lobby Renovation

The lobby is the central gathering place and amenity for audiences before and after a performance and at intermission. Increasingly, these spaces are engaging environments for social interaction between audience members, a critical element of the theatrical experience. The renovated lobby will be a warm and cozy environment, featuring wood, brick and texture, that showcases the spectacular verticality, volume and historic character of the space. Areas for visual and interactive displays will enhance the patron experience; a larger and more centralized bar area featuring Finger Lakes wine, beer and spirits will improve the patron experience and service efficiency; an open-concept kitchen will offer more menu options featuring locally sourced ingredients; and added lobby seating capacity will provide patrons with a variety of gathering and seating options.


Theatre Refurbishment

Geva's performance spaces are acclaimed for their intimacy and warm aesthetic. Improvements such as new seating, enhanced theatre lighting, acoustic enhancement, updated finishes and elevator access to the Mainstage balcony will refresh the spaces after 30 years of wear and tear, while maintaining the characteristics that Rochester audiences have come to know and love.


Entertainment Suites

The Patron Lounge will be a new, flexible event space located on the balcony level. This comfortable, well-appointed lounge will feature a bar and private restrooms, as well as sliding glass doors to provide visual and acoustic privacy. The sub-dividable event space will accommodate donor receptions, business meetings, group outings, and community rentals for 20-75 people. This new patron amenity will increase the square footage and seating capacity of the lobby, restrooms and event spaces, while providing a valuable perk and ‘thank you' for Geva supporters.


Nurturing Support and Service


Administrative Offices

Artist and patron service are supported by a full-time professional staff of 50 administrators, technicians and resident artists. To recruit and retain top talent, Geva's office spaces will undergo improvements to encourage collaboration, creativity, efficiency and professionalism.


Endowment Funds

The Front & Center Campaign will increase endowment funds by at least $2 million to help secure Geva's future as the premier producing theatre in the region. Artistic enhancement, education and facility endowment funds will generate interest, dividends and investment income to ensure long-term fiscal health and stability. Comparable regional theatres have an average endowment of approximately $8 million. Geva Theatre Center currently has approximately $1.8 million in endowment assets, which are overseen by the Board of Trustees and managed by The Community Foundation.



There are many ways that members of the public can support the Front & Center Campaign from outright gifts and pledges of cash or securities to estate gifts. For more information, please contact (585) 420-3041 or visit




Founded in 1972, Geva Theatre Center is a not-for-profit, professional theatre company dedicated to creating and producing professional theatre productions, programs and services of a national standard. As Rochester's leading professional theatre, Geva Theatre Center is the most attended regional theatre in New York State, and one of the 25 most subscribed in the country, serving up to 160,000 patrons annually, including more than 16,000 students.


The 526-seat Elaine P. Wilson Mainstage is home to a wide variety of performances, from musicals to American and world classics. The 180-seat Ron & Donna Fielding Nextstage is home to Geva's own series of contemporary drama, comedy and musical theatre; Geva Comedy Improv; Geva's New Play Reading Series and the Hornets' Nest - an innovative play-reading series facilitating community-wide discussion on controversial topics. In addition, the Nextstage hosts visiting companies of both local and international renown.


Geva Theatre Center offers a wide variety of educational, outreach and literary programs, nurturing audiences and artists alike. Since 1995, the organization has been under the artistic direction of Mark Cuddy.