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Musical festival turns on the lights Former Studio Arena ?is ready for revival

For nearly four years, the former Studio Arena Theater at the corner of Main and Tupper streets has stood vacant, dust settling on its empty stage while it worked its way through legal limbo.

Now, on June 23, the once-thriving theater will once again raise its lights, open its doors and put on a show.

With the venue's new lease on life finally assured under the stewardship ?of Shea's Performing Arts Center, MusicalFare Theatre's inaugural 24-Hour Musical Festival will be the first event in the revived 625-seat space. (The theater is temporarily rebranded as 710 Main Street in lieu of a corporate sponsorship.)

Randall Kramer, MusicalFare's executive and artistic director, announced the event this week, calling it the result of two years of planning, constantly delayed by the building's plodding bankruptcy process.

The festival, a fundraiser modeled after similar events in New York City and local events like the 48-Hour Film Project, will feature four writing and acting teams. Each will write, rehearse and perform a 10- to 15-minute musical over the course of a single day.

"The idea is to really celebrate the creativity of Buffalo, to celebrate the image [of] Buffalo and to also reclaim a really important building in the heart of the city," Kramer said. "More and more, we're seeing what MusicalFare does as something that really needs to represent the region in all different ways."

The festival starts June 22 when four teams of writers, along with event sponsors and guests, will gather in the lobby of 710 Main Street. Each team will base its musical on a photograph of a Buffalo landscape, industrial scene, building or community. The teams will spend the following night writing and will call in actors on Saturday morning for rehearsals. The show will go through a technical rehearsal on Saturday afternoon and the actors will perform the musicals – without scripts – at 8 that evening.

Kramer has assembled the teams from a cross-section of the local theater community. Participants will include director Chris Kelly working with Buffalo-based band The Albrights; frequent MusicalFare music director Jason Bravo; Billy Horn (of the Alt Theatre's "Hedwig and the Angry Inch") working with Road Less Traveled Productions' resident playwright Jon Elston, and choreographer/director Michael Walline.

And while the administrators of 710 Main Street intend to rent the building out rather than produce original productions, its reopening may provide local theaters with the chance to expand their audiences and give a home to touring productions that might not otherwise have come to town.

"The facility is an important element of the theater district and the theater community in Western New York," said Shea's President and CEO Anthony Conte. "It's essentially the only 625-seat theater we have. I think it's important that it remain a theater. Our hope is to work with other local theater companies and put together a season of programming people will enjoy."

Conte said other events for 710 Main Street are in the planning stages, and a programming announcement is expected by mid-June.

Tickets to the performance at 8 p.m. June 23 are $25; $15 for students, with VIP tickets to the June 22 kickoff and June 23 performance available for $150. For more information, call 839-8540 or go to