Westchester's Emelin Theatre Plans $10 Million Makeover; Michael Bush Is New Artistic Director

News   Westchester's Emelin Theatre Plans $10 Million Makeover; Michael Bush Is New Artistic Director Michael Bush, the New York City and regional theatre director who has worked at Manhattan Theatre Club, Charlotte Repertory Theatre, O'Neill Theater Center and elsewhere, has been named artistic director of the not-for-profit Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck, NY.
Michael Bush
Michael Bush

The organization's leaders hope to turn the 250-seat venue known for concerts and children's theatre into a "performing arts center" that will boast 150 more seats in the mainstage space, expanded technical features to allow for larger shows, a new separate film theatre and a new and intimate black-box space for readings, small productions and chamber music.

The appointment of Bush "comes as the Emelin embarks on a $10 million renovation project that will more than double the size of the existing structure and allow the theatre to significantly expand its offerings," according to the organization in Westchester County, north of New York City.

In mid-November, a "tasting menu"-syle festival of entertainment will play the Emelin, offering a glimpse of what Bush hopes to bring to audiences there. The new festival "will reflect Bush's artistic vision and sensibilities and include a diverse selection of plays, music and cabaret performances."

A full 2007-08 season has not been announced. The apparent goal is to continue (and expand on) the Emelin's reputation as a multi-purpose house with scattershot programming — theatre, dance, lectures, concerts, movies, kids' shows. Although plays and musicals are expected for the theatre, there has been no announcement that this is the start of a serious-minded Equity resident theatre, something that has failed to take root in the rich Westchester suburbs. Bush's experience is in resident theatre, at MTC, Charlotte Rep and beyond.

More information about future programming will be announced in the coming weeks. Following a capital campaign, a construction phase will transpire. No timeline for the completion of the project has been announced. "I am thrilled to have this unique opportunity to do at the Emelin what I love most, which is to showcase new and diverse works, while also looking at existing works with a fresh perspective," stated Bush. "Our additional programming, which will kick off with a new festival in November, will help make the Emelin a destination for new work, and a hub for arts and culture in Westchester and beyond."

In addition to helping artistically guide more than 150 new plays and musicals at MTC, Bush was instrumental in the rebirth of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's Cabaret & Performance Conference, where he has served as artistic director since 2005. He's also directed for the Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Prince Music Theater and CanStage in Toronto.

"Michael Bush has the vision, energy and passion we were looking for to take the Emelin Theatre in an exciting new direction," stated Sara Feldmann Sheehan, president of the Emelin Theatre's board of trustees. "Most importantly, Michael understands that it is crucial to maintain what is beloved about the Emelin, such as its intimacy and sense of community, while at the same time continuing to expand our programming to make it relevant to an even larger audience."

Bush succeeds outgoing Emelin Theatre managing director John Raymond.

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The Emelin Theatre is known for its popular Film Club, led by Marshall Fine, chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle. The Film Club screens films before their general release for one-time only viewings and has hosted guest speakers including Penelope Cruz and director Pedro Almodovar.

The Emelin's $10 million renovation project (called "The Next Stage") will incorporate the existing Emelin Theatre into a new Performing Arts Center. The Center will include an expanded and renovated Emelin Theatre, a new Film Theatre and a 60-seat black box experimental theatre for readings and smaller productions.

The renovation of the Emelin Theatre will add modern technology to allow for performances of full-scale musicals, productions with major set changes and larger casts.

"With the Next Stage project, we will significantly expand the Emelin Theatre's ability to offer Westchester residents the type of entertainment they would otherwise have to go to New York for," stated Sheehan.

The Emelin Theatre, founded in 1972, is the oldest continuously operating not-for-profit professional theatre in Westchester County, mixing "established artists with international reputations, young rising stars, community performers and children."

For more information, visit www.emelin.org.

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On Oct. 11, the Emelin Theatre will host a fundraising dinner at Glen Island Harbour Club in New Rochelle honoring several stars of New York theatre, including Emmy Award-winning actress and singer Leslie Uggams and Tony Award-nominated actress Tovah Feldshuh. It marks the launch of the fundraising campaign.

For information on the Glen Island fundraising dinner or to buy tickets, contact Marla Towbin at (914) 698-3045 ext. 14 or marla4emelin@aol.com.