Geva Theatre Center
Naval Armory-Convention Hall
Rear-angle view of the theatre building
|Architect||Warner,Andrew J.; Gorsline & Aldridge|
|Architectural style||Classical Revival, Late Victorian|
|MPS||Inner Loop MRA|
|NRHP Reference #||85002852|
|Added to NRHP||October 4, 1985|
Geva Theatre Center is a regional professional theater company based in Rochester, New York. Founded in 1972, it is ranked with similar companies, including those of Buffalo and Syracuse. Geva has two stages inside the former Naval Armory-Convention Hall, an 1868 building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was extensively renovated and redesigned in 1985 for use as a theater, with the second stage added in 1990.
In 1868 the Naval Armory and Convention Hall was constructed in Rochester. The Convention Hall was used for years and attracted high-quality touring productions and international performers to northern New York state, including opera singer Enrico Caruso and prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. It was also used for political conventions, but by the late 20th century was vacant.
In 1972, William Markham Selden and Cynthia Mason Selden, a British actress, residents of nearby Avon, co-founded GeVa, an abbreviation for "Genesee Valley Arts Foundation" and its associated theatre company. Among its activities was organizing a theater company, whose first shows were short dramas produced at lunchtime in 1973 at the Rochester Business Institute (RBI). Programming expanded to full-length plays and it became known as a regional theatre company. Actors appearing at GeVa in the early years included Samuel L. Jackson (in A Raisin in the Sun), Scott Bakula, and Georgia Engel.
By 1982, GeVa had expanded to a "full-fledged company" ranked with those in Buffalo and Syracuse, and it needed an improved facility. It purchased the former Naval Armory and Convention Hall across the street from the RBI building. Extensive renovations to the hall created a 552-seat theater (now the Mainstage).
The new theater opened in 1985 with a production of Planet Fires, a drama by Thomas Babe, a Rochester playwright. Featuring a newly freed black man and s Union deserter who have traveled North together, the play was set soon after the Civil War at a campground near Rochester. GeVa commissioned additional renovations, and the 180-seat Nextstage was installed within the building, opening in 1990. The Center has full seasons of programming, in addition to discussions based on plays and staged readings, and community outreach.
In 1997 the name of the company was changed to Geva Theatre Center, dropping the CamelCase formatting. In 2011 Geva Theatre Center hosted the 2011 American Association of Community Theatre Festival.
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- Staff (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Mel Gussow, "THE STAGE: 'PLANET FIRES,' AT GEVA IN ROCHESTER", New York Times, 14 April 1985, accessed 27 February 2014
- "Geva Theatre's first 40 years". RocDocs. Democrat and Chronicle. September 2012. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
- Low, Stuart (September 2, 2012). "Geva Theatre celebrates 40th season". Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York). Gannet Company. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2012.