New York theaters lobby for state funding to cover costs

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For theatergoers, nothing beats the moment the curtain comes up and the lights go down. Theater leadership doesn’t want that to go away.

“What can we do for our theaters to gather as a collective group to try to tell the story of what we do?” asked Linda Glosser, executive vice president of the Rochester Broadway Theatre League.

It’s a question that theaters across the state are trying to answer.

From the Auditorium Theatre in Rochester and Shea’s in Buffalo — to the Palace Theatre in Albany — 13 theaters joined together to create “Alive Downtowns!”

“When we initially started talking together, it was at the very, very beginning of the pandemic,” said Glosser. “And we all, because of obviously that, we’re shut down. And our initial reason for meeting was to just to kind of talk about how are we getting through this.”

Each one of the 13 theaters is around 100 years old. They all present touring Broadway shows and host educational programs.

Since reopening after the pandemic, the campaign changed into a push for more state funding. Alive Downtowns is asking for $20 million out of a state budget of about $220 billion. Split between the 13 theaters, the money would go toward program funding and supporting operational costs.

“There was no reason to stop the alliance,” Glosser said. “We were all gleaning great information from each other and again, thought that we could have some strength in numbers, and we were all going after the same thing. So why not help our elected understand that it’s not just us just asking for a little ol’ Rochester? It’s for the benefit that it does for the state as well.”

Each theater brings decades of history to the stage, and each one plans to keep the lights on for another 100 years.

“Whatever help we get or don’t get, we will be here,” Glosser said.