By ASHLEY HELMS
Since its inception in 1972, the Emelin Theater has attracted the talent and prestige of artists including Penelope Cruz, Southside Johnny and John Pizzarelli to its stage in order to bring cultural entertainment to Westchester. And, following its 40th anniversary in 2012, the theater has received what some regard as a much-needed make over.
The Emelin Theater, located on 153 Library Lane in Mamaroneck, underwent a complete renovation to its lobby this summer with repairs including the leveling of the main lobby to build wheelchair accessibility, a new box office window to expedite ticket purchasing and a modern concession stand with more options for patrons. LED lights were also installed in order to modernize the theater and make it more energy efficient.
New Rochelle-based architecture firm Stoll and Stoll donated their time and service by not charging the theater any architect fees. Approximately $250,000 was raised through donations that went directly towards construction materials, according to Emelin Theater Board president Mark Ettenger.
“Money went completely to contracting and materials, nothing went into oversight and there were no fees paid to the architect,” Ettenger said. “He didn’t charge us because he saw the importance of the Emelin to the Sound Shore community.”
As far as the repairs, Ettenger said that theater management knew the lobby needed revamping due to its age. A group of Mamaroneck citizens got together in the 1970s to raise funds for the theater, which is named after local pharmacist Arthur Emelin, who died in 1978 and helped found the building. Although the theater was founded in 1972; the structure of the current theater was built in 1984.
“The board’s vision is that the space used by the community would match how grand [the theater’s entertainment] was,” Ettenger said. “We wanted to create the kind of ambiance for the community and we thought we had to bring our physical structure in line with our performance.”
Before the repairs, the board president said the stone floor of the lobby looked worn and more like an outside structure because the theater is connected to the Mamaroneck Public Library through a hallway.
“It went from plain to pizzazz,” Ettenger said. “We’ll never measure if it was meaningful, but it was my idea and the board’s idea that it would make the Emelin much more attractive to go to on a Saturday night.”
Members of the Mamaroneck Library Board were satisfied with the repairs as well.
Susan Riley, director of the library, said the improvements look fabulous with the exception of one detail.
“Our only regret is that they didn’t put in the handicap accessible button that we requested,” Riley said, in reference to Emelin’s entrance that connects to the lower level of the library.
The repairs were noisy and patrons were not able to enter the library through the theater like they normally would, Riley said, but people were cooperative since the entranceway was only closed for two months.
Repairs were completed in about six weeks while the theater was closed for most of the summer.
Lisa Reilly, executive director of the Emelin Theater, said the overall feel of the theater was improved. On a practical level, the restrooms can now serve two patrons at a time and are accessible from the main lobby.
“We increased the comfort level and amenities. The area looked dated,” Reilly said.
The Emelin Theater is the oldest continuously operating performing arts theater in Westchester County. It brings a broad mix of entertainment for all ages and tastes, boasting film series, school outreach programs and comedians. The Emelin hosts between 80 and 100 performances a year with an attendance of about 30,000 in total, according to Ettenger.