Eye-opening restoration at theater

By Pauline Liu
The Open Eye Theater in Margaretville is preparing for its first theatrical production since the raging floodwaters of Tropical Storm Irene destroyed much of the building eight months ago.
A tour of the extensive restoration at The Open Eye is an eye opening experience. “It’s thrilling to me to see how far it’s come,” said Director Amie Brockway. “Not so long ago, it was an empty bombed out shell. Now, it’s a theater again. We’re looking forward to a full schedule of programs after reopening.”

Rehearsals are now underway for Memorial Day Weekend’s world premiere of the new one-woman play called, “Walking to America,” written by Sandra Fenichel Asher. Meanwhile, a production of another kind is wrapping up. Much of the construction work to restore the building was done by the theater’s technical director Erwin Karl of Margaretville and B.J. Mathis of BJ Home Improvement.

“We had to tear everything out and we gutted the building,” said Brockway. The drywall, floors, windows, front steps, and technical booth were among the items that had to be replaced.

According to Brockway, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated the damage to be $121,000.  The repairs were covered by insurance and a series of grants, including ones from the Catskill Watershed Corporation and the MARK Project. Community volunteers also played a key role in the painstaking recovery of the theater. “They came and shoveled out all of the mud,” said Brockway.

When the construction work is completed in a couple of weeks, visitors will find that some changes have made the theater better than before.  For instance, the technical booth, where Karl controls the sound and stage lighting, is in a new location and has been raised by several feet. “It used to be in the corner at the same level as the audience,” he said. “Now, when I adjust the lights, I can see the stage.” Visitors have also admired the new wooden front entrance, which Mathis built to replace the concrete steps, which were destroyed.

When the curtain rises again later this month, Patricia Van Tassel of West Fulton will star in the new play. Margaretville brothers Curtis,12, and Cedric Taylor, 15, will serve as the production’s musicians. Both play stringed instruments. World War II serves as the backdrop for much of the story line. It follows the life of Patricia Ilga Vise, a young Christian girl, as she flees her home in the Latvia, which was first occupied by the Soviet Union and then invaded by the Nazis.

“It’s about what happens during war from the view of a child and the hardship of war, but also has humor and a message of hope,” said Brockway. The production will run for two weekends, from Thursday to Saturday beginning May 24 at 7:30 p.m.