It’s official. Downtown’s Majestic Repertory Theatre has found its forever home. The scrappy little company had been camping out at Alios lighting’s retail space at 1217 S. Main Street (next to Buffalo Exchange) while artistic director Troy Heard looked for a longtime location. As the company witnessed the redevelopment of Main Street, it decided to settle in for good. So when Alios’ lease ended over the summer, Majestic took over the lease (Alios owner Todd VonBastiaans still serves on Majestic’s advisory board).
“Within the next few years, Main will be a central hub for play, retail and leisure.” Heard says, and he’s determined to be one of the area’s main draws. “We’re literally hanging out our shingle by putting up a marquee.”
But first, the space needed a few improvements. To achieve the city’s coveted “assembly” certificate of occupancy, the company added a drinking fountain, an additional emergency exit, extra lighting and more. These are pricey changes for a small company, and that’s before getting to any of the fun stuff, like a new neon sign and marquee.
Majestic is planning a February fundraiser called Backstage Bash, which will coincide with a 2018-19 season announcement. The most anticipated piece of that unveiling: the world premiere of a new musical called Big Foot, written by Amber Ruffin of Late Night With Seth Meyers fame.
Self-described theater geek Kate Turner Whiteley loves what’s happening at the “awesome, little playhouse right Downtown.” She’s been a Heard fan for several years and loves his creative choices. “It’s not all ‘serious’ or ‘period’ or ‘artsy’ or ‘avant-garde.’ It’s just … interesting,” she says. “In a city where other performing arts [groups] are based on what will sell, Troy takes marvelous, fascinating risks. What he’s doing is what we need as a growing community.” (Full disclosure: I’ve benefited from Heard’s artistic risk by writing a couple short plays for Majestic. I donated my fees back to the theater and thus received no compensation.)
While raising money and searching for corporate sponsors can be all-consuming for a nonprofit organization, Heard remains focused on his theater’s mission—producing stories from the American canon and providing a platform for new voices. “We just want to tell stories,” he says. “There’s so much power in storytelling.”
The continuation of what's been unofficially billed as Majestic’s “revolutionary” 2017-2018 season will include Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (January 11-28), the world premiere of Sentience (February 22-March 11), Marie Antoinette (April 5-22) and Animal Farm (May 17-June 3). “There’s a definite political leaning in it,” he says. “I certainly hope our shows are entertaining first and foremost. But if you happen to get something else out of it, then we’ve definitely done our job.”