The North Fork Community Theater is back at it and better than ever after its grand re-opening night performance of “The Drowsy Chaperone” on May 16, when local actors and actresses stepped onto a stage vastly improved by the $950,000 renovations NFCT president Mary Motto Kalich said were not only made possible by the North Fork community, but ultimately expanded the theater’s vision of infrastructure.
“We bought the building in 2012 and that was pretty miraculous on its own,” Kalich said of the $500,000 raised to purchase the former Mattituck Presbyterian Church space, which has had a few identities since its 1831 inception, including a community hall for the Junior Order of Mechanics. “Before that, we hadn’t raised any money whatsoever. Our first order of action after buying the building was to paint the outside, so we did that and we actually found stained glass windows under the wooden marquee in the front that were mostly intact and we renovated them.”
NFCT has raised more than $1.5 million in the past seven years, which Kalich credits to innumerable pint-sized donations, adding that Michael and Emilie Corey’s $300,000 match donation allowed the theater to “dream bigger” about projects to dig into, like the brand-new basement with full orchestra pit, as well as dressing, meeting, and restrooms.
“Once we made the match, we started to ask ourselves what would we want to do if we wanted to make this place an incredible musical theater and live performance space,” she said of the recent updates, which also include an expanded back stage area for quickly storing props, easily moving actors, and concealing stage hands.
“Given the money we were hoping to raise with this $300,000 match, we started doing architectural plans — and actually got a donation of a theatrical architect — and since 2012-2013, we have been working slowly on those architectural plans as we raise the money,” she said.
As of May 14, Kalich said the theater was only a few thousand dollars short of its $950,000 goal.
“It’s just a testament to the fact that if you have something exciting that people care about, they’re willing to spend both their time and their money,” she emphasized. Community involvement, she said, is a cornerstone of such excitement, as connections to the theater are found throughout the region.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” takes advantage of this tapping into various areas of the community as other shows have done in the past by featuring different “local celebrity guest stars” in a small role for each performance, which for the current show include Peconic Bay Medical Center CEO Andy Mitchell, former WABC senior meteorologist turned WLNG co-owner Bill Evans, Father Joe Staudt of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Grammy-nominated musician Brady Rymer, JABS owner Jill Schroeder, and Jeff Strong of Strong’s Marina, as well as David Perrin of the North Fork Promotion Council and Mattituck’s Cedar House Bed and Breakfast.