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Show goes on though theater needs work

February 13, 2015

by Paige DeSorbo

A production of A Doll’s House is running this weekend at The Steamer 10 Theatre at Madison and Western avenues.

Theater Voices held a staged reading of the play Friday and production of the Valentine’s weekend production begin Saturday. Admission is $15.

On Monday children’s productions will begin for the winter school break. The theatre, which is a former firehouse, has been under construction for more than 10 years, but progress has halted.  Patrons as well as the staff hope to begin fundraising to fix the city owned building. Construction has not deterred actors or the audience.

The founder and executive director of all the productions Ric Chesser produces more than130 shows a year.

Front Entrance of The Steamer 10/Paige DeSorbo

Front Entrance of The Steamer 10/Paige DeSorbo

“I try and make everything work,” Chesser said. He started the theatre because he was looking for activities that were appropriate for his 2-year-old daughter at the time.  “I realized I could do this,” said Chesser, who has a degree in theatre from Goddard College in Vermont.

Steamer 10 has a variety of children who act from schools all over the Capital Region, including Cleis Hahn, 12, from Hackett Middle School. She has been acting at the theatre for six years.

“ I really hope to one day be on Broadway –  it’s my dream,” Hahn said. She and her mother, Akum Norder, are both residents of the Pine Hills.  “Beautiful old buildings like Steamer 10 give Albany its identity,” Norder said.  She hopes The Steamer 10 will be repaired soon because she and her daughter love the productions and most of all the people.

Closer look at Steamer 10 Front Entrance/ Paige DeSorbo

Closer look at Steamer 10 Front Entrance/ Paige DeSorbo

The refurbished firehouse has been operating as a theater for 24 years. Originally Engine 10 which has been moved to Brevator Street and Washington Avenue. The building is attached to the eastern side of the Albany Police Department at 500 Western Ave. Chesser rents the theatre from the city of Albany. The theatre pays $1 a year to the city in rent but the city owns any improvements that the Steamer 10 makes.

The entrance of the theatre, which resembles a castle entrance, was never finished. Steamer 10 has run into many obstacles while trying to repair the front entrance. The theatre operator raised $150,000 that they thought was enough to complete the project. They ran into an environmental cleanup of a fuel tank that was buried underground which set back the construction a year, the city paid for the tank to be removed in 2005. On top of the cleanup the contractor was diagnosed with cancer during the project, according to Chesser. They lost time and money they had raised.

No taxes are paid on the city building, according to Keith McDonald from the department of assessment and taxation. The Department of Building and Codes declined to provide information about the status of code at the property and required the Pine Hills blog to file a request for that information under the Freedom of Information Law. A request was filed regarding the property concerning code violations.

The theatre operators are trying to come up with ways to raise money for their Finish the Castle Campaign, but nothing is finalized and Chesser did not comment on who the investors were.

“It is our responsibility to fix it because we are renting it from the city but they own it,” Chesser said. All ticket and concession sales go to running the theatre which costs $200,000 a year to run. Chesser thinks $300,000 will be enough to fix the front entrance and the fundraising should start soon.

Many folks involved with the theater want the building completed, it has become an eyesore.   “If wishes built buildings, that castle would be 10 stories tall,” Norder said. -30-

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