After a four to five hour rehearsal, everyone is flying at the Hamptons’ own Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. Before the first preview, the lighting department is frantically checking their lighting cues. The sound team is fixing their sound cues. The costume department is prepping dressing rooms.
The audience takes their seats. The curtain rises– it is time for the show.
The Bay Street Theatre is a professional non-profit theatre on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor that hosts professional productions, educational programming, acting classes, comedy nights, benefits and more. They consider themselves an artistic haven for thespians.
“It’s a level of quality,” said Gary Hygom, the managing director. “We have very high production values.” This year’s mainstage performances are “Lend Me a Tenor,” “The Mystery of Irma Vep” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Famous actors who have performed at Bay Street include Joy Behar, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Kate Burton and Allison Janney- just to name a few. Hamptons residents also rent out the theatre for weddings, children’s birthday parties and more.
The theatre features a thrust stage auditorium, which places 10 rows of viewers around three sides of the stage.
“The actor’s proximity to the audience,” Hygom said. “It’s such a great sense of communication between the two. It’s an intimacy that you just don’t do with other prosceniums.”
The Bay Street Theatre was founded in 1991 by Steve Hamilton, Emma Walton and Sybil Christopher. Originally a nightclub, the trio converted the space into a live theater area. Since the its first inception, the theater has started to produce non-original performances including musicals.
Sybil Christopher, one of the theatre’s founders, died last March. “No matter what she said, it was like it was royal,” said Mary Ellen DiPrisco, the director of special operations, of Christopher. “You wanted to bow when you saw her… I didn’t know her well but I felt like I knew her forever.”
One of Bay Street Theatre’s most notable accomplishments is their “Literature Live” program. The educational component to the theatre introduces middle and high school students to live theatre. For some students, it is the first time by a stage. After the show, students are invited to participate in talk backs and question-and-answer sessions. For example, when the theatre produced a performance of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” students spoke with a Holocaust survivor afterwards.
“It really introduces kids to the world of the theatre,” Hygom said.
The theatre also holds “Stages, A Children’s Workshop,” which is a seven-day workshop that also introduces younger actors to theatre. At the end of the workshop, the children put on a short play for their friends and family.
Bay Street brings in playwrights to hear their plays at table reads for free. Well-known performers, such as Joy Behar, have participated in such readings.
According to their website, this summer, Bay Street is bringing in the laughs. Their comedy line- up includes Ralphie May, Jim Bruer, an All-Star Comedy Showcase with Kenny Garcia, Vic Henley, Chris Clarke and Mark Riccadonna and more.
When it comes time to giving back to the community, Bay Street held events to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief and the 2011 earthquake in Japan. On April 27, Bay Street will be holding their 2nd Annual Honors Benefit as a way to thank their sponsors. At last year’s benefit in Manhattan, Liza Minnelli performed and this year, Joy Behar is hosting the night at East Hampton Point.
Still, DiPrisco thinks that Bay Street is most widely recognized for their high quality productions.
“It’s about real material, real stage, real theater,” DiPrisco said.
Bay Street is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information call 631- 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.