Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jonny Collazo, former intern at the Ithaca Voice.
ITHACA, NY – The Cherry Arts, a “radically local,” Ithaca-based, non-profit theater group has plans in the works for a new arts space, called simply The Cherry Artspace, as part of the city’s waterfront redevelopment plan.
Back in March, the Ithaca Common Council voted unanimously for a temporary zoning change that would give the council greater control in deciding what development plans will and will not meet approval along the city’s transforming waterfront zone.
The Cherry Artspace is part of the first wave of projects for the redevelopment program. Artistic Director Samuel Buggeln has his fingers crossed for a completion date of October of this year.
Keeping with The Cherry Arts’ focus on innovative art, The Cherry will run a headphone play called “Storm Country” beginning in September — while the space is under construction,. The play will weave in the plot of the 1909 novel Tess of the Storm Country, written by Grace Miller Wright and set in Ithaca.
The Cherry has run versions of Storm Country in the past, but never before as a headphone play. Playgoers will receive a set of headphones and a packet of information. They will begin at Lookout Point and walk along the waterfront down to the cite of the new space on Cherry Street, experiencing the story as they traverse the area in which the story takes place.
The novel tells the story of squatters who covertly fish along the waterfront under the noses of the wealthy inhabitants of Ithaca’s West Hills. A forbidden romance develops between a rich landowner’s son and a squatter’s plucky, hard-headed daughter, Tess Skinner. Buggeln hopes the theme of class and spatial division will find new relevance in the development of Ithaca’s waterfront into a mixed use zone.
“People should lookout in September for Storm Country,” said Buggeln, “which is our third ‘we-don’t-have-a-theater-yet’ piece of theater.”
Plans for the The Cherry Artspace were reviewed back in January of this year. The new building will be a replica of the warehouse next door, formerly owned by Renovus, a solar energy equipment firm who relocated to a site along Trumansburg Road outside the city.
The group intends to keep the future building at 102 Cherry Street green with good insulation and LED lighting to reduce the often costly power-usage associated with the heavy-duty lights that illuminate theater stages during productions.
Citing the expensive nature of LEED-certification guidelines, Artistic Director Samuel Buggeln noted that The Cherry would nevertheless work to implement environmentally friendly equipment and power-usage practices. He expressed doubt that the new construction project, slated to begin once the plans for the new building meet approval, would have a negative impact on this piece of waterfront located on the Cayuga inlet in Ithaca’s West End near Wegmans.
“All of the lights we bought are LED’s,” said Buggeln. “They draw much less electricity than normal theater lights. Also, because LED lights don’t heat up, we won’t have to air condition the theater in the same way that normal performance spaces need to be. So that’s one way in which we’re green.”