Details emerge of RAPA's plans for Kodak theater

09:07 PM, Nov 07, 2013

The Theater on the Ridge is now the Kodak Center for the Performing Arts. (Staff file photo)/


Written By Jeff Spevak | Staff writer

A production of Peter Pan is the first to take stage at the newly named Kodak Center for the Performing Arts, in its new partnership wtih the Rochester Association for the Performing Arts.

We really look at this as the centerpiece of the new Eastman Business Park,” said RAPA President and CEO James Vollertsen at a Thursday morning press conference in the massive theater, an almost-forgotten venue in the midst of the monolithic Eastman Kodak complex at West Ridge Road and Lake Avenue.

RAPA and Kodak announced in August that the local dance and theater group would be assuming operation of the sprawling, 1,964-seat venue and its related spaces. Opened in 1959 and known as Kodak Theater on the Ridge until Thursday morning, a new video platform has been added to the modernist interior. The complex also includes a 180-seat auditorium downstairs, two cafeterias, meeting rooms and a 1,400-space parking lot on the other side of West Ridge Road.

RAPA, which will utilize some of the space, will keep open its facility on East Main Street, where it has a theater, dance and music school.

I think what it’s going to do for RAPA, it’s gonna make us the premier arts group in Rochester,” Vollersten said.

The words “gem” and “underutilized” were uttered by several speakers at Thursday’s introduction. Don Jeffries of VisitRochester extolled the venue’s potential as a meeting and convention draw, particularly groups seeking a “theater-style space.”

The collaboration of public and private entities goes beyond RAPA and Kodak. Auburn-based Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival will produce a series of Broadway-style family-oriented musical productions starting next summer, including Mary Poppins, Damn Yankees, On the Town, The Will Rogers Follies and The Church Basement Ladies. The shows will run in Auburn and then transfer to the Kodak theater afterward.

Also using the space will be Artists Unlimited, a group that mounts productions offering developmentally disabled children an opportunity to perform in large theater productions. Its first shows in the theater are performances of Peter Pan this weekend and next.

Vollersten said major concert bookings also are expected; a WDKX-FM Christmas show will feature live performances. Also in December, the 90-foot-wide stage, which is the largest in the city, has been rented by a New York City film production company. It will assemble a section of a Boeing 747 fuselage on the stage for the shooting of a paranormal film.

Job creation will include part-time work for at-risk youth under the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection.

This is going to be an innovation-driven economic area,” said Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle. The arts, he said, will be a part of that development.

State Sen. Joe Robach pointed out that the theater had once been a larger part of the area arts scene, recalling that he had appeared in two plays on the stage when he was a child.