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Kitchen Theatre announces its 25th season

The Kitchen Theatre Company announced their 25th season starting Sept. 6.
By Olivia Cross and Erica Dischino

The Kitchen Theatre Company, a not-for-profit business located on W. State Street, announced the start of its 25th season on September 6, with “Buyer & Cellar,” a one-man comedy show about an unemployed actor.

The company moved from the Clinton House on N. Cayuga Street to its current location in 2010. After a $1.2 million renovation, this new location accommodates 26 additional seats as well as a larger stage, new dressing rooms and a lobby.

Managing Director Stephen Nunley has seen the company’s growth since he began working for The Kitchen Theatre 11 seasons ago. He said the success of the company, which won the 2006 David R. Strong Memorial “Small Business of the Year”, is due to the increase in its now 650 subscribers.

“You really count on that subscriber base to give you the support that you need to keep working,” Nunley said.

This increase, Nunley said, was a result of Artistic Director Rachel Lampert’s strides to expand their base of dedicated audience members.

“[Lampert] created a variety of plays and we present a high-quality product that interests people to sign-up,” Nunley said. “[The audience] has a lot of confidence in what she’s chosen to present.”

Subscribers and ticket sales, which contribute 30 to 35 percent of the Kitchen Theatre Company’s funding, are not its only source of income. The company compensates for other costs through fundraising, donations and grants.

At the start of every season, the company asks for donations to support the following season. So far, this season has raised around $33,000. Their goal is to raise $70,000 by Thanksgiving.

“Money is important, but what’s more important is the time [the audience] spends to come watch our shows,” Lambert said.

The Kitchen produces shows new to its audience members. Lambert said they intend to reflect the diversity of our population and broaden people’s understanding of who they share the world with.

“It’s different than seeing a Broadway show that you know everything about,” Lampert said. “People come to [our] theater and they don’t know what they’re seeing.”

Ithaca College senior Emily Freeman volunteered as a prop master in 2014 for “Slashes of Light,” a show the Kitchen Theatre Company collaborated with the Civic Ensemble to produce. Freeman said that the company puts on a show for its message rather than for revenue. This strategy is what is what allows the company to thrive in a community like Ithaca.

“It’s partially their environment but it’s also, I think, the passion of the people working there,” Freeman said. “[The company] really stands behind [their shows] and puts effort into everything they do.”

Because the Kitchen is producing such experimental work, the company intends to build loyalty with its audience members. Lambert said this loyalty is created by producing performances that are impactful and worth its audience’s time.

“We communicate to our audience that when they come to our theater, the productions are going to be high-quality and have something about them that made us choose it,” Lampert said.

The company’s productions are something they want their audience to be able to afford Nunley said. They offer a variety of discounts, such as student rush and “pay-what-you-can” tickets. Even with these discounts, the Kitchen has to continue to remain flexible with it’s audience.

“It’s a challenge. People are passing through here every year,” Nunley said. “We are constantly renewing our connection with a new audience.”

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