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Proctors: The Phenom of State Street


Like a metronome in overdrive, Proctors CEO Philip Morris sets the work-a-day pace at the Capital Region’s premier arts and entertainment complex and enduring, historic jewel of Downtown Schenectady.

Staffers routinely check email before coming to work. In all likelihood, Morris has emailed queries in the night about the business behind showbiz. More often than not, these succinct “posts” include the phrase, “Guys, What you think?” Without doubt, he wants to know – based on his readily expressed deep respect for the perceptions and expertise of the close-knit team he looks to for support.

Like a pendulum personified, the persuasive — and apparently sleepless — impresario is a high-stakes team builder determined to reconnect and integrate longtime Capital Region theatergoers with Schenectady’s resurging downtown business community. His weapon: the persuasive and pervasive power of the Arts to create common weal among diversity.

The 2010 – 2011 Season at Proctors (see Broadway hoofs it to you, pp. 24 – 25, in the September issue of this publication) is proof positive of Morris’ power to brew a potent blend of highest quality, family-focused entertainment, good corporate citizenship and non-stop friend- and fund- raising. Increasingly, Proctors watchers have come to understand that this Phenom of State Street runs a 24/7 enterprise. Its story unfolds in planned and unscripted scenes each day guided by his vaulted vision of its future.

In 2003 Proctors embarked on a $30 million expansion that included a new stage house to accommodate blockbuster Broadway shows, and renovations of the adjacent former Carl Company, which added the 438 seat GE Theatre with its Bigger, Bolder, Better GIANT-Screen Movies, new conference spaces and new offices. The expansion included a box office, coffee shop and additional space for theatergoers. With these and other changes, Proctors truly became a performing arts center, cultural anchor and downtown destination.

Close to 1,400 contributors participated in the Proctors Expansion Campaign from 2004 – 2007 and donated more than $7 million to the $30 million mega-project. True to Proctors style, each contributor is acknowledged in alphabetical order, on four, historic copper-trimmed Carl Company display windows that greet people as they enter from State Street.

To ensure firm footing and safety for the hundreds of people who pass through Proctors arcade everyday, work continues in the Golub Family Atrium, which leads to the Mainstage and includes most of the tile work in the public restrooms and dressing areas within the theatre complex as well as marble restoration on the arcade walls.

In March, Proctors entered an agreement to purchase the Key Bank branch at 436 State Street. The 12,000-square-foot three-story structure includes an atrium of Vermont marble with three-story ceilings as well as office space. Now called KeyHall at Proctors, the handicapped-accessible, repurposed structure serves as a multi-use, banquet hall and performance space with arts offices as part of the Proctors complex.

A recent grant coupled with a gift from a private benefactor enabled Proctors to expand its capacity to present live shows through the introduction of a new state-of-the-art sound system and lighting enhancements in the GE Theatre. A smaller, more intimate space, the GE Theatre often is able to offer lower ticket prices to live performances to Capital Region residents of varying income levels – while enabling Proctors to schedule more diverse events that anticipate the expectations of the region’s wide-ranging and evolving tastes and interests.

The multi-purpose GE Theatre has a 35′ x 50′ screen and 436 raked, retractable seats that facilitate use as an open, flat space with a sprung danceable floor, as a theater or as the venue for what Proctors calls its Bigger, Bolder, Better GIANT-Screen movies.

In September, Proctors debuted Molecules to the MAX! — a 3-D adventure produced at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in a RPI/Proctors collaboration that brought this breakthrough, animated scientific film to Capital Region audiences. Another film, Dinosaurs Alive! is a global adventure of science and discovery. Both these delightful features combine valuable lessons in science with high adventure – for shared family fun and provocative classroom discussion.

That same month, Proctors officially launched an initiative to include The Capital Pressroom with esteemed newscaster and political observer and Capital Region resident Susan Arbetter to its public access government channel 18 as part of the evolving OSM (Open Stage Media) at Proctors.

Proctors also has expanded its presentations of movies – it boasts two of the Capital Region’s largest screens (one on the Main stage, the other in the GE Theatre) — to include filmed Live Opera, ballet, Shakespeare and more. Details on all events are available at proctors.org. Readers with a special interest in movies should consider signing up for monthly email notices of movies at Proctors on the front page of Proctors website.

More – such as noontime organ recitals sponsored by MVP Health Care on the Mainstage, or behind-the-scenes tours of the Proctors entertainment complex? You bet. Both are part of the standing fare that makes Proctors a destination of choice for Capital Region residents and visitors. Information on these and an expanding cornucopia of offerings is available at proctors.org or the Proctors Box Office (518) 346-6204.

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