Curtain Up! History
Curtain Up! was first presented 30 years ago on Friday, September 21, as an outdoor gala opening of the theatre season. In its first year, it was principally the product of the planning and execution of Studio Arena Theatre. Michael Pitek, then managing director of Studio Arena, invented the concept and supervised its execution. The first Event Chairman was Richard Bezemer, then president of the Board of Studio Arena Theatre.
The late Blossom Cohan, who was the publicist for Studio Arena during the event’s early years, played a very important role in publicizing Curtain Up.
The following years saw many changes in the event. In addition to growth, Curtain Up! experienced organizational changes which permitted greater participation by other theatres. Although a scheduling conflict with a Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra opening caused one season’s Curtain Up! to be held on a Saturday night. All others were the third Friday in September of each year.
On-going sponsorship for Curtain Up! was received from M & T Bank who is still the major sponsor today.
Curtain Up! has an excellent attendance record. It is generally acknowledged as one of the area’s most successful celebrations.
Throughout the history of Curtain Up!, weather has been an important factor, and the time of the year has made weather conditions a perennial topic of conversation. In 1988, Curtain Up! was expanded to a two-day event with workshops and theatre tours on Saturday afternoon, and theatre and outdoor entertainment on Saturday evening, but was restored to a one evening event in 1990.
In 2003, the Gala Dinner was moved indoors to the stage of Shea’s Performing Arts Center with a capacity for over 500 guests.
The formal incorporation of Curtain Up! as an activity of the Theatre District Association of Western New York, Inc. was accomplished in 1988.
Information provided by Neal Radice, artistic director of Alleyway Theatre and 1992 chair of Curtain Up!