Call it the honkiest, tonkiest theater joint in town.
The American Repertory Theatre of Western New York will be the main tenant in a new 45- to 55-seat performance space in the Sportsmen’s Tavern, the Amherst Street music destination with a growing national reputation for Americana music. The multipurpose venue at 330 Amherst St. is slated to open March 10 with ART’s production of John Guare’s “The House of Blue Leaves.”
The grass-roots theater company, formerly housed in the Church of the Ascension on Linwood Avenue, had been searching for a new home since it received news last summer that its performance space was being converted in to senior housing.
“You are seeing a grass-roots foundation and a local businessman utilizing their resources to renovate an unused space and turn it into a active production forum for a cultural organization that brings in local talent for theater productions,” ART founder Matthew LaChiusa said in a statement announcing the company’s move. According to the company, the small space will have a flexible setup that will allow for many different stage and set configurations.
The room in which the theater will be housed was originally intended to be used as a small second stage for musical performances, but until recently had been used for storage.
The partnership between ART and Sportsmen’s is the latest evidence of the growing reach and ambition of the Amherst Street music destination, which under owner Dwane Hall has significantly expanded its main performance space and added a recording studio. Hall also formed the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation, whose goal is to promote the venue and Buffalo’s music scene as a hub for American roots music.
That mission seems to fit snugly with ART’s programmatic approach, which leans heavily toward shows with a distinctly American flavor.
“Our objective is to work with ART in establishing a collaboration of theater and music,” said Angela Hastings, a board member of the Sportsmen’s foundation, in a statement. “The theater space that we have created will accommodate both our education programs and ART’s new theater for performance. Music and theater go hand-in-hand. We believe we can work together to become a big part of the arts in Buffalo.”