Stamford Center for the Arts
|Address||61 Atlantic Street (Palace)|
307 Atlantic Street (Rich)
|Current use||concert hall (Palace)|
television studio (Rich)
|Architect||Thomas W. Lamb (Palace)|
The Palace Theatre in downtown Stamford, Connecticut, United States, comprises two facilities on Atlantic Street: the restored Palace Theatre, and the Rich Forum, both within four blocks of each other:
- 1 Performance and other facilities
- 2 Palace Stamford History
- 2.1 Part I - The Grand Opera House and The Strand Theatre
- 2.2 Part II - The Strand Theatre and Vuono's Palace Theatre
- 2.3 Part III - Mary C. Vuono: A True Visionary
- 2.4 Part IV - End of the Strand Theatre
- 2.5 Part V - Hartman Theatre Company and 1980s Restoration
- 2.6 Part VI - Lobby Expansion and Renovation 1999-2003
- 3 Television studios
- 4 See also
- 5 External links
- 6 References
Performance and other facilities
- Palace Theatre at 61 Atlantic, with 1,580 seats, was originally a Thomas W. Lamb designed vaudeville house, which opened in 1927. It was restored and re-opened in 1983 for live theatre, concerts and art exhibitions. A recently completed multi-phase improvement project has provided the Palace Theatre with an enlarged stage, new dressing rooms, new technical-support facilities, and improved services.
- Rich Forum opened in 1992 at 307 Atlantic. It includes:
- Truglia Theatre, a conventional proscenium theatre with 757 seats.
- Leonhardt Studio, a black box theatre, for more intimate performance events.
- Mercede Promenade, the main lobby and reception area.
- Rossi Salon on the upper level has a panoramic view of downtown Stamford.
- Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Gallery overlooks the Mercede Promenade.
- The Rich Forum is alternately branded as the Stamford Media Center, with operational control held by NBCUniversal, which uses state tax credits to tape three conflict talk shows; Maury, The Jerry Springer Show, and The Steve Wilkos Show, along with Crazy Talk and the American Trisha Goddard Show in the past. Jerry Springer's new court show Judge Jerry will also record at the Rich Forum for the 2019-20 season.
Both the Rich Forum and Palace Theatre seasons include performances by Connecticut Grand Opera and Orchestra, Stamford Symphony Orchestra, New England Lyric Operetta, Ballet School of Stamford, Young Artist Philharmonic, Lumina String Quartet, Zig Zag Ballet, and The Perry Players.
The theaters have presented such performers as Lily Tomlin, Peter, Paul & Mary, Tom Jones, B.B. King, Carrot Top, Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli, Kathy Griffin, Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Stern, Willie Nelson, Tony Bennett and Judy Collins.
Palace Stamford History
Part I - The Grand Opera House and The Strand Theatre
"The present home of the Palace Theatre was first the site of the Grand Opera House during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Grand Opera House was constructed in 1892-1893 by Mortimer and Dr. Philip H. Brown, a dentist who occupied an office on the second floor of the building. The Opera House was for some years the only playhouse in Stamford. It opened to the public on December 1893.
In 1904, two disastrous fires occurred in Stamford. The Town Hall was destroyed in January, and the Grand Opera House suffered the same fate in November of that year. The building was completely gutted, only the exterior walls remaining. The estimated damage exceeded $44,500.
In 1885, the Burlington Arcade Building at 73 Atlantic Street was completed. It is the current site of the Kiwanis Park, adjacent to the Palace Theatre, which opened up in 1968. The Arcade Building was a glass-enclosed “shopping center,” which housed many of Stamford’s most exclusive stores. The Arcade Building was also home to the Strand Theatre, which opened its doors to the public on December 11, 1914. Mrs. Mary Vuono managed the 400-seat theatre for six years until her husband Mr. Charles D. Vuono stepped in and purchased the entire building, giving Mrs. Vuono the control and artistic freedom she had been holding back for years."
Part II - The Strand Theatre and Vuono's Palace Theatre
"The Stamford Advocate reported on July 20, 1920: “A real estate deal involving more than $200,000, and the largest transacted for years, was consummated this morning, with the sale of the former Stamford Opera House and the Arcade Building to Mrs. Charles D. Vuono, proprietress of the Stamford Theatre.”
With this mega real-estate purchase, Charles D. Vuono had given his wife Mary total control of The Strand Theatre, which she was managing at the time, and of the Grand Opera House building, which would later become The Palace Theatre. Mrs. Vuono didn’t waste any time in making improvements to her newly acquired treasures.
On February 23, 1921, plans for alterations to the Strand Theatre were approved. It was going to be expanded from a 400-seat house into a house seating 1,400 people, by the addition of a balcony and extension to the rear of the building. The Strand Theatre is the current site of Kiwanis Park, adjacent to the Palace Theatre, which opened up in 1968. The new Strand Theatre opened its doors on November 23, 1921 with the motion picture, “The Old Nest.” With the success of the Strand Theatre, Mrs. Vuono engaged Thomas Lamb as the architect to design and build the Palace Theatre, where the Grand Opera House once stood.
The Palace Theatre opened on June 2, 1927 at 8:30PM. A headline from the Stamford Advocate on June 3, 1927 reads: “HUNDREDS TURNED AWAY, UNABLE TO OBTAIN TICKETS, AS THE NEW PALACE THEATRE OPENS DOORS.” Vuono’s Palace Theatre, as it was called at the time, was hailed for its architectural beauty, acoustic excellence, perfect sight lines, and seating comfort – what today would be called “state-of-the-art.”" 
Part III - Mary C. Vuono: A True Visionary
If it weren’t for Mary C. Vuono, there might never have been a Palace Theatre and Stamford’s audiences might never have experienced “Connecticut’s Most Magnificent,” as it was dubbed when the theatre opened on June 2, 1927.
She was born Maria Miceli in Potenza, Italy, on March 23, 1882, and moved with her family to Brooklyn, New York, the following year. At age 19, she married Charles D. Vuono, co-founder and president of the Vuono Construction Co. in Stamford.
Mr. Vuono was a very successful businessman at the time, but Mrs. Vuono proved she could be just as successful. In 1915, she rented space to open the Strand Theatre in the Burlington Building, the current site of Kiwanis Park. It did so well that she purchased the entire building. She remodeled and expanded the Strand Theatre, but Mary Vuono wasn’t done. In July 1920, she decided to buy the building next door as well, which would become the Palace Theatre seven years later. “Imagine being a woman in those days, and an Italian, and doing all that… She was amazing,” said Irving Vuono, a grandson of the Vuonos, to Jerry Zezima, a staff writer in an interview for a Stamford Advocate article in 1995.
The vaudeville show for the opening night of Vuono’s Palace was promoted as “a program never before equaled in the history of the theatre.” It was truly a huge event. The Palace was the place everyone talked about in Stamford, and they couldn’t wait to see it. Some of the artists that Mrs. Vuono brought to the Palace include Will Rogers, Lucille Ball, the Three Stooges, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Hattie McDaniel, Olsen and Johnson, Red Skelton, Jackie Cooper, Ed Sullivan, Eddie Albert, Buster Crabbe, Donald O’Connor, Paul Whiteman, Jimmy Dorsey, Blackstone the Magician, and opera star Biniamino Gigli. Mary Vuono was a pioneer in the city of Stamford, perhaps the best-known businesswoman in this city. She was years ahead of her time. Mary owned the Palace until her death in 1978. 
Part IV - End of the Strand Theatre
"Mrs. Mary C. Vuono opened the Strand Theater in 1915. It was a successful venue that featured vaudeville acts and silent movies, often combining the two for epic entertainment days for area residents. It was also the first “talkie” movie house in Stamford, making the downtown of this thriving city the place to be for the new motion picture phenomenon.
Mrs. Vuono capitalized on the momentum of the Strand Theater’s monetary gains and popularity to build the Palace Theatre, right next door to the Strand in 1927, and the two existed side by side for many years despite the bright new elegance of Vuono’s Palace Theatre, as The Palace was known at the time. The kinds of artists being presented changed a great deal between the 1930s and mid 1950s; from the vaudeville era and silent movies, to hosting live theater companies, and later as a jazz and rock & roll concert venue. Finally, in 1966, the Urban Redevelopment Commission decided as part of its program to take down the once beloved Strand Theater.
The Strand Theater is the current site of Kiwanis Park, adjacent to the Palace Theatre. First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, dedicated the park in 1968 during the inauguration ceremony and pressed the switch that unleashed the fountain. That fountain was removed when the park went through a transformation in the early 2000s during the Palace Theatre renovations." 
Part V - Hartman Theatre Company and 1980s Restoration
"From 1975 through 1980 the Palace Theatre was home to The Hartman Theatre Company, a regional theatre company that produced classic works as well as world premieres.
Season 1~1975-6 featured:
11-5-75 to 11-23-75: The Government Inspector [starring Austin Pendleton, with Bob Balaban...]
12-2-75 to 12-21-75: The Hostage [Starring Peter Rogan]
12-30-75 to 1-18-76: The Runner Stumbles [which went to Broadway from there!]
1-27-76 to 2-22-76: Tom Jones
3-2-76 to 3-21-76: Joan of Lorraine
3-30-76 to 4-18-76: An Evening of Tennessee Williams
4-27-76 to 5-16-76: Catch-22 [Starring Adam Arkin; directed by Alan Arkin]
5-27-76 to 5-30-76: Stag at Bay
5-29-76: An Evening of Bananas and Drums with Dick Shawn
Season 2 ~ 1976-7 featured:
11-3-76 to 11-28-76: The Reason We Eat
12-15-76 to 1-9-77: Arsenic and Old Lace
1-19-77 to 2-6-77: Tartuffe
2-23-77 to 3-13-77: Death of a Salesman
2-17-77 to 3-7-77: Company Store Presents Olympian Games
3-17-77 to 4-4-77: Company Store Presents Exit the King
4-14-77 to 5-2-77: Company Store Presents Donita Rosita While She Waits
3-30-77 to 4-17-77: As to the Meaning of Words
4-27-77 to 5-15-77: He Who Gets Slapped
[For remaining seasons, one may contact the Ferguson Library, in Stamford where all Playbills are archived]
The theatre went dark from 1980 to 1983, when it was purchased by Cultural Resource Associates. Since the theatre had fallen into disrepair throughout the years, a major restoration began under the direction of Dovetail, Inc., restoration specialists of Lowell, Massachusetts. The restoration and renovation design was completed by Stahl Associates, Inc. and Roger P. Lang, AIA., Architect, Associated Architects of Boston. The theatre was rededicated on December 14, 1983." 
Part VI - Lobby Expansion and Renovation 1999-2003
"A major expansion and renovation phase was put into motion in 1999. The four-story building that housed the small lobby was completely torn down, leaving only the façade. The lobby was reconstructed to include two levels, a Grand Staircase to connect them, and the Jaffe Café Teatro.
The process included community-wide input thus engaging the public to participate, encouraging and allowing a truly cooperative effort which resulted in a facility not only for entertainment, but for theatre arts education including writing, direction, scenic design, and performing.
This initiative is a testament to the dedication of F.D. Rich, Jr., the Stamford Center for the Arts Board of Directors (lead at the time by President Michael J. Cacace), the generosity of countless corporations, individual donors, and the continued support of the City of Stamford and the State of Connecticut. The expansion and renovation was completed by Frank Mercede & Sons, Inc. in 2003."
In March 2009, it was announced that The Jerry Springer Show, Maury and The Steve Wilkos Show would be broadcast from the Rich Forum complex. Connecticut is promising 30 percent production-tax credit on annual activity and a 20 percent tax credit on infrastructure costs exceeding $1 million. The state has also promised to make $3 million in local infrastructure improvements. The Trisha Goddard Show filmed here from 2012 to 2014.
- "The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT". The Ferguson Library.
- There Goes the Neighborhood - New York Post - March 16, 2009
- NBC Universal adds 'Trisha' to its Stamford family