New director of Danbury’s Palace Theater is full of plans
Jacky Saulnier, Contributing Writer
Published: 08:32 p.m., Friday, May 28, 2010
Stephen Snow speaks about his new position as the artistic director of the Palace Theater during an interview Monday, May 3, 2010. Photo: Chris Ware / The News-Times | Buy This Photo
For too many years, Danbury’s historic Palace Theater sat dormant. But renovations in the past few years have brought it to life, and it is raring to go.
For the first time, the theater has an artistic director, a man with boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm who, in his few weeks on the job, has hit the ground running.
Q: What drew you to this theater — why this one?
A: I think this area needs it. It’s not going to be just music here. This is not a roadhouse. We’re going to really mix it up.
“I’m a New York City guy, but I live here now. I wanted to stay close, and I think there’s an amazing opportunity to bring the arts back to this community. The Palace has such a rich history in Danbury … and the community’s hungry for it. It’s sort of looked at as the crown jewel in the revitalization effort of Main Street.
“When you come, you’re not a customer, you’re not a client — you’re a guest. We want you to feel welcome, to get involved, and to leave feeling the same way.
“This was the most exciting opportunity that I found. We’re just getting up and running, but it’s terrific because the potential of this place is like no other.
Q: So you’re sort of starting from scratch?
A: Yeah … and what I want the community to know is we’re here for them. I hope the community will come to know the schedule at the Palace as well as they know what’s playing at their local Cineplex, or who their favorite baseball team is playing. We have some exceptional acts coming up.
Q: Live theater has always had trouble taking root in Danbury. Have you given that some thought — how you’re planning on promoting it, what you’re going to do differently?
A: One of the things we are doing is to bring Broadway stars up. Names. We’ll be doing something called Musical Mondays. So when Broadway is dark, we’re going to bring in the talent from Broadway, in the hopes of exciting the community.
Q: Tell me about your background in the arts.
A: I grew up as a theatre brat. Mmy mother was an actress in Manhattan. We got towed around as kids from summer stock, to this, to that, and it was an exceptional experience. I did children’s theater as a kid, and when I was older I did a little bit of acting.
The thing about art is it can change lives. For example, somebody does our “Annie” workshop; they perform, their parents come, their grandparents, the whole family — and then 15 years later, she’s on Broadway.
That’s not something that can be quantified. That is, I think, why the arts have a hard time getting funded. Everybody agrees you need to improve somebody’s math score, but how do you put a value on what the arts do for the spirit?
It’s a shared experience: You sit down, the lights go out, and you have these live performers … There’s nothing like it! People pay $15, $20 to go to the movies. They spend 15 bucks on two packs of cigarettes. So is it worth coming out to see a $20 play? I hope so.
We’ll do movies here, too. One of the things we’re going to do is silent movies with live music.
Q: Are you going to focus on vintage or art house movies?
A: I will certainly do documentaries. There will be independent films…. That is how I came to this area in the first place. My short film, “Fall to the Son,” was in the original Bethel Film Festival.
As a writer-director-filmmaker, I would like to give everybody what they would like to see. We will run the gamut of movies as we do with all the other arts.
Q: Do you think after you’re up and running for awhile, and people are coming, that you’ll make adjustments according to the audiences you’re starting to get?
A: Absolutely! We’ll have an e-mail sign-up on the website. We definitely want feedback.
Q: Greater Danbury is such a melting pot of different cultures. Are you considering that in your plans for the theater?
A: We are! There’s nothing to say that we wouldn’t hold a Chinese play or movie or event here. The neat thing about doing something like that is you don’t just get the Chinese community to come, you’re probably also going to get some of our regular theatergoers. It broadens their horizons — that is what the arts do.
Q: How are you locating the interesting mix of performers you have planned for the theater?
A : There’s always that six degrees of separation. You meet one person and they say, “Have you ever heard of so-and-so?” It’s a bit of research, a bit of networking … and kismet!
Q: How do you see this place in a year?
A: I would love to know that the community loves what we’re doing here, that they value it, and that they understand that we value them.
They’re going to have a great experience every time out. They’re going to be able to see things that I don’t think you’re going to see anywhere else in the area … and certainly not on television.
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