By Ivan Pereira
The recession has not been kind to the theater community, according to Richard Mazda, the artistic director of the Secret Theatre in Long Island City.
Despite the struggles with budget and ticket sales, however, Mazda and his theater group, the Queens Players, which performs various shows at the theater, have not only been riding out the storm but also growing.
On Saturday, the theater celebrated its good fortune with the gala opening of its new, expanded space on 23rd Street.
Mazda said the opening was a major accomplishment for him and his actors because despite rumors that the group and the theater would close, they were able to move forward.
“If you buy into the idea that you’re going to fail, you become a victim,” Mazda said. “But if you talk and think about success and do old-fashioned hard work and elbow grease, you can make anything possible.”
The Queens Players were able to fund the construction of the new space without any major grants. Rather the funds came from ticket sales and donations from fans. Mazda said meticulous planning and good word of mouth generated the money for the new space.
“It was choosing the right shows and working hard with increased marketing to get people inside the building,” he said.
Dozens of actors and theater fans gathered at the new brick and wood space to look at some of the art pieces on display in the studio, such as a large head bust of former President Bill Clinton made of Legos. Following the party, the players put on a performance of the classical love story “Cyrano de Bergerac” by 19th century French playwright Edmond Rostand.
Daniel Wolfe, who performed the title role and has been with the acting group since its inception, said he was impressed with the new performing space and proud the role Queens Players had in making it a reality.
“It feels great going from one small space and then going to this,” he said.
Mazda, who hails from England, started the Secret Theatre two years ago after he saw that the western Queens neighborhood was beginning to evolve from a former manufacturing area to an artistic haven. The Queens Players perform plays of various genres from Shakespeare to original modern plays written by Queens playwrights.
“I decided this would be a fabulous place to have a theater. I saw as the community was growing, it would have a theater that fit its needs,” he said.
The artistic director was able to assemble a group of actors quickly since there was much hungry and new talent living in the area. Nearly half of the performers live in western Queens, according to Mazda, and this helps to bring their performances closer to the local audience.
“It’s been a happy synchronicity working in Long Island City,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.