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A theater struggles to stay in Queens

By Christina Perry

The Chain Theatre opened its doors days after Hurricane Sandy. When looking back at that time, Artistic Director Kirk Gostkowski remembers late nights passing the black Manhattan skyline still waiting for power, crammed roadways, searching for gas and sore muscles from laying plywood for the new flooring. As New Yorkers know, Hurricane Sandy brought the city to a standstill, which caused our hired contractors to walk out on the job. With time and money running tight, it was up to the artistic team to trudge through the chaos and finish the build.

And we did. We watched that first night as patrons entered the space noticing aromas of fresh paint and wood and knew that we had created something very special. After 15 main stage productions (from Arthur Miller’s “After the Fall,” to David Rabe’s “Hurlyburly”), six Play Festivals, three international film festivals, and dozens of comedy events, we were given notification that our lease was to be terminated in early February 2016 to make way for new luxury condos. Before we knew it, three years had passed and we are forced to say goodbye to the place we had poured our hearts into.

During the announcement of the theatre closing, something happened that although seemingly obvious, surprised us. We had been working so hard we haven’t had a chance to see the huge amount of people impacted by the theater. They were all coming out to support us, share their own grief and send messages of encouragement, as they too said goodbye to a place they called home.

We set out to create a place that could benefit artists, and we didn’t know exactly what the impact had been until the space was in jeopardy. Words of support poured in, such as, “The Chain epitomizes what it means to have a passion for art.” Describing the Chain as a place that is “a home away from home,” “more than just a ‘place’ to so many people,” and a place, “where people have come to feel fully accepted by a community of artists,” artists of all ages, directors, actors, filmmakers and playwrights, are sharing how the Chain Theatre was a safe, professional, creative space like nowhere else in New York City.

We do not see this as the ending of an incredible adventure. We view this time as a continuation of our story and an opportunity to expand. Perhaps one of our interns, SanMartin Garcia, said it best: “The plays themselves are great, but to me they mean nothing without the people who have helped bring them to life.” We look to continue building our community. We ask now for the support of Long Island City and the New York City theatre community. Donate, share our campaign or your own story about the Chain Theatre. We too believe that it is the people who make a home. The stories and lives touched are the fuel for our passion to create art. The people of Queens want the Chain Theatre. Help us continue that mission.

See support videos from many artists as well as our Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, plus more about our story, on our campaign page: https://igg.me/at/savethechain

Christina Perry

Director of Development

The Chain Theatre

Long Island City

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