Hudson Falls Strand opens up the back wall, will add 40 seats

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

The Strand Theatre in Hudson Falls is undergoing yet another renovation — even as it continues staging all performances.

On Monday, Pete Sabo of Proficient Construction and Roofing and crew removed the back wall of the stage, revealing the original brick backstage wall.

The stage is being moved farther back and rebuilt ­— and 40 seats will be added ­— in yet another phase of revival & improvement of the thriving Strand — all while the shows go on. Cathy DeDe photo
The next step is to rebuild the stage eight feet back from where it was.
They’ll add two rows of seating on the main floor, pull the seating structure forward and add another tier behind it.

Jonathan Newell, the theatre’s founding executive director, said it will bring seating from 350 to nearly 400.

“Last year we sold out 40 shows,” Mr. Newell said. “We’re gonna gain 40 seats at really no cost, volunteer labor, reusing some materials.

“And, one of the issues is always having seats for seniors, who have a hard time making it up to the balcony,” where most of the current seating is located.

“We’ll try it out and see how it works,” Mr. Newell said.

“We could just stop there.” Or, he said, they could eventually proceed with the plan from 2015 — when Mr. Newell first discovered the former theatre infrastructure hidden within what was at the time Kingsbury’s Town Offices — to dig out the raked seating platform that lies under the current main theater floor.

The original Strand stage dating from the 1800s is about three feet beneath the current stage. Hard to visualize, but the front of today’s stage is where the orchestra pit was, Mr. Newell said.

Early plans for the Strand Theatre, in 2015 — The theatre’s elements were at the time hidden behind the dropped ceilings and office walls of the Kingsbury Town Hall. The original thought, deemed too expensive, was to dig out the raked seating platform beneath the main floor. Now it’s possibly coming to fruition, in incremental stages. Chronicle file image
The 2015 plan was set aside as too expensive. Work has progressed incrementally, often with “a lot of volunteers,” Mr. Newell notes, and donations and grants.

“Now we have an opportunity to really do the whole thing, reach the full potential of the theatre,” he said.

Once completed, the stage will be bigger, 32 feet wide, up from about 20 feetnow at the upstage, and 30 feet deep, Mr. Newell said.

A narrow balcony on the brick wall at the back of the stage could provide added seating, he said, for theater in the round, or a place for the orchestra in a musical theater show.

“I’m hoping to get more different kinds of productions,” Mr. Newell says. “We could do Beethoven’s Ninth and put the chorus up there” on the back balcony.

He said, “We don’t want to lose the intimacy” of the current stage, which is particularly close to the audience, cozy for smaller shows and up-close for larger touring acts. “We’re hoping it doesn’t make it feel like it’s too big.”

“The timing is great,” Mr. Newell says. “We’re heading into a really busy summer and it gives a different look for people that have been coming here for a long time. This is the first time I think any audience will have seen the back wall, maybe ever.”

HF classmate Pete Sabo pitches in

HF classmate Pete Sabo pitches in
Strand Theatre executive director Jonathan Newell (left) and Pete Sabo, owner of Proficient Construction and Roofing, said they two grew up together, classmates at Hudson Falls school. Mr. Sabo said he overheard a conversation “just a couple of weeks ago” about a possible Strand expansion being put on hold when grant funding requests had not come through. “I think I said, I want to be a part of this,” Mr. Sabo says. He told Mr. Newell, “I can do that” …at no charge.
Strand Theatre executive director Jonathan Newell (left) and Pete Sabo, owner of Proficient Construction and Roofing, said they two grew up together, classmates at Hudson Falls school. Mr. Sabo said he overheard a conversation “just a couple of weeks ago” about a possible Strand expansion being put on hold when grant funding requests had not come through. “I think I said, I want to be a part of this,” Mr. Sabo says. He told Mr. Newell, “I can do that” …at no charge.

Text & Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe

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