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Kevin O’Neill – John Engeman Theater in Northport
October 10, 2008 @ 12:00 am EDT
Today we had the pleasure of hearing from a passionate advocate of fine Theater experiences in a local jewel setting – The John Engeman Theater. Mr. O’Neill, an ex bond trader turned theater impresario, plays Bloom to Richard Dolce’s Bialystock, filling the house and running the infrastructure, where Mr. Dolce concentrates on staging Broadway quality productions in a luxurious four hundred seat theater space. The seats are roomy, and the ladies will appreciate the more ample bathroom facilities, long a bane of the Manhattan theater scene. The only year round Actor’s Equity house on Long Island, the renovations that took the single screen seven hundred seat movie theater to its current stage incarnation included the previously mentioned bathrooms, and a warren of dressing rooms underneath the building, to make its New ! York based troupes more comfortable. Casting and Rehearsals are done in the city, with a cast shuttle bus to make sure everybody makes curtain.
The business angle is to cultivate the season subscriber, with seven shows a year, flexible seating and scheduling. The reasonable price of $355 per seat per season makes it a low-risk purchase. Reviews have been consistently good of all the productions, and surrounding restaurants like Skipper’s are running dinner + show packages. The theater is a great complement to the village, a beautiful physical presence, and a vital social component. The inviting piano bar, "The Green Room" is open to ticket holders an hour before curtain, closed during the first act, reopens for intermission, and then opens to the public after the show. You may get a treat from a cast member who hangs around to belt out a couple of specials from time to time.
Mr. O’Neill used a sports venue analogy to the marketing of the theater. Season subscribers, single ticket purchasers, and groups are the three target markets. Quality, entertaining theater in a luxurious environment are the drawing cards. Angst-ridden Chekov plays will probably not find themselves staged here. Flexible plans for groups are available for fundraisers and such. Corporate rewards or entertainment programs can arrange a private performance of the current run based on the size of their audience.
The Q&A was threaded throughout the discussion, focused mostly on the differences between the Engeman and other Long Island houses, and the merits of quality theater without the schlep into Manhattan. Once again, another well-spent Friday morning at LIMBA.
Recap Written by Craig Plunkett of cedx.com.
Sub note; John W. Engeman was a 28 year veteran of the military when he was killed in Iraq. Mr. Engeman is the brother-in-law of theater founder Kevin O’Neil. The theater bears Engeman’s name as a tribute.