COHOES — The city has named a new management company to take the reins of its storied music hall on Remsen Street.
Playhouse Stage Company will now manage Cohoes Music Hall supplanting the services of Music Hall Arts Alliance, Inc., which has overseen the venue over nearly three years. The decision announced at a press conference on Thursday, July 23, closes the curtain on the city’s three-month process to select a new management group following Mayor Bill Keeler’s recommendation to terminate the contracts it had with both entities.
Playhouse Stage Company emerged out of an initial field of six applicants who submitted proposals for the management position. As of last week, that field was whittled down to three, which pitted the theatre company against Guthrie/Bell Productions and Music Hall Arts Alliance, Inc.
Playhouse Stage Company is a division of Albany Park Playhouse which has maintained a presence in the region’s arts scene for more than 30 years. Earning the city’s contract to manage the music hall is yet another accolade for the company born after Park Playhouse moved to Cohoes in 2018. That move was credited in part to the working relationship between Owen Smith, Park Playhouse’s producing artistic director, and Holly Brown, Music Hall Arts Alliance, Inc.’s executive director. The two previously worked together while the two were both at the Albany Palace Theatre.
The changing of the guard comes days after Cohoes cited financial woes brought on by virus-related shutdowns. The city has lost more than $1 million in revenue due to decreases in sales tax and reductions in state aid.
Keeler has said the city could neither support the contract with the management company, nor the one for Park Playhouse. Severing ties with the two companies was to save the city approximately $200,000 this year. The former contract with Music Hall Arts Alliance called for the city to pay a management fee of $90,000. In turn, the city would have received $2.50 for each ticket sold. Last season, the City Hall received back $38,000.
“Regrettably, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic it has not been possible to have performances at the Music Hall since March, and will not be for the foreseeable future,” Keeler said in a statement. “However, I am planning for the time, perhaps 2021, hopefully sooner, when the lights are back on and the seats are filled. I envision an eclectic mix of professional and community programs – theater, music, comedy, dance – that will appeal to people of all ages and interests. None of that would be possible if we did not take the actions we are taking now.”
Theatres across New York closed their doors to the public in mid-March amid state-mandated novel coronavirus-related shutdowns. The shutdowns meant to mitigate the spread of the virus have caused a strain on the economy as it has limited public access to only businesses deemed essential. The shutdown of restaurants, bars and retail stores leaves municipalities across the board without income from sales tax. According to New York state, counties outside of New York City are projected to lose a combined $2 billion in revenue from sales tax this year.
Brown said her management company maintained the Music Hall off an annual budget of approximately $450,000, 20 percent of which was from the city. The city agreed to those terms prior to Keeler taking office in January.
Park Playhouse produces free musicals in Albany’s historic Washington Park. These productions have been attended by more than 1.25 million people. Over the past several years, Park Playhouse has offered a year-round slate of musicals, school programming and educational services at venues including Albany’s Washington Park, Cohoes Music Hall, Palace Theatre and the City School District of Albany as well as more than 40 schools in the region.