By Ralph Hall
Throughout the Americas and Europe, there are hundreds of community theaters, but there is only one Endicott Performing Arts Center (EPAC)! EPAC is a unique, comprehensive and community-committed not-for-profit organization serving the Broome County area and making a difference in economics, the arts and education. The activities of this company are so very diverse in serving many age groups, varied arts pursuits (i.e. acting, dance, backstage, etc.) in a setting that positively affects the economics of Washington Avenue, Endicott and Broome County.
The venue, formerly known as the Lyric Theater, was built 1916-1917 as a vaudeville theater, and a few years later was transformed to a motion picture theater. In 1993 the owners closed the theater, and it began to deteriorate. Fortunately for the community, Lou Ligouri (Executive Director) and Pat Foti (Artistic Director) met in 1991 and within a few years created a vision that was to become EPAC. The first performance in 1999 was Visions of Vaudeville, produced and performed with the St. Anthony Players. In 2010, the name of the theater was changed to “Robert Eckert Theatre” to honor Robert Eckert, an Endicott native who has been active in professional and community theater for many years.
After leaving positions in their respective professions (Foti owned his own company, and Ligouri was a finance management professional), this team with scores of volunteers and theatrical professionals established EPAC. Ligouri in this interview validated EPAC’s philosophy that community theater “is for everyone.” You show up; there is something there for you … and this “something” could alter you life. There are those who have gone on to perform in several Broadway national touring companies. However, even if you do not become a famous actor, your appreciation and understanding of the arts — especially the performing arts — will be forever part of your history.
Anyone who has had the pleasure attending an EPAC performance knows that the company has used all technical aspect of current theater. The good news is that there is more yet to come. While the original theater was capable of flying sets (lifting sets into the loft), this equipment had deteriorated too much to be used when it became EPAC. Ligouri shared the good news that in the relatively near future, new electrical equipment will be installed that will enable EPAC to use 21st century drop line sets — i.e. flying sets into the loft. This technology will greatly expand the visual effects created by EPAC. This innovation is extremely expensive, and like the competent managers they are, the EPAC team has spent several years accumulating the funds for this project. As always with a not-for-profit company, additional funds would be greatly appeared.
The Mission: Making the community a better place to live. Successful? For at least 300 children it is successful as they participate in the magic of theater. Then there is the senior group, the dance group, and the actual on stage performances of the members. Additionally, professional singers, dancers and actors often perform at EPAC. Perhaps the greatest success of the mission is the role that both Foti and Ligouri play in the local arts community. Mission Accomplished!
The Endicott Performing Arts Center Repertory Company currently is presenting Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s Broadway hit musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Robert Eckert Theater, 102 Washington Ave., Endicott. There will be a 3 p.m. matinee today (April 15) and shows next weekend (8 p.m. April 20 and 21, 3 p.m. April 22). Reserved seating tickets at $18 ($15 for seniors 65 & over and children 12 and under) are available by calling the EPAC box office at 607-785-8903 or through the EPAC website. Tickets also can be purchased at the theater from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m .weekdays.