The impulse of these artists to continue creating theater—combined with cheap rents in an economically depressed city, an expanding dinner theater phenomenon, and local colleges and universities turning out theater majors by the score--propelled Buffalo’s theater scene to a new trajectory. The theater boom that began in the 1970s and ’80s continues to this day, but it has evolved.
Many of the first wave of theaters to open in the theater district in the late 1970s
and ’80s are gone: the Playhouse, opened by Irv Weinstein, with Bryna and Joe Weiss,
was once where Shea’s Bistro and Bar are today; the Buffalo Ensemble Theatre was in a
number of spaces including the Buffalo Chophouse building; and the Cabaret, which was
on Main Street and then in the D’Arcy
McGee space on Franklin.
The days of cheap downtown
rent are also over. Today, the theater
district is far too expensive for a
fledgling theater, and building owners
often have greater ambitions for their
properties. In the wake of this shift
in the real estate market, Road Less
Traveled Productions is moving—again.
Second Generation Theatre, which had
intended to renovate Shea’s Seneca
in South Buffalo, will, instead, rent
the Smith Theatre from Shea’s. After
multiple moves, Buffalo United Artists
is sharing space in the Alleyway theater
complex, which enjoys a long-term
lease in the former Greyhound Bus
terminal. Ujima Theatre is moving into
School 77, while American Repertory
Theater of Western New York is
moving into the old Ujima space on
Elmwood Avenue, and also using the
Philip Sheridan building in Tonawanda.
BY ANTHONY CHASE