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Threshold Arts turns its focus toward the Chateau

Community dances or theater performances might be early productions at historic downtown site.

Chateau Theatre
Chateau Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Naura Anderson wants to hit the floor of the Chateau running.

Threshold Arts, which received the city’s approval to operate the long-vacant Chateau Theater last week, plans to move in this coming spring and start programming ASAP.

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Threshold Arts doesn’t have significant renovations planned, she said — a few enhancements and new furnishings will take a month or two, but the goal is to get “some level of activation” as soon as possible.

One priority, Anderson said, will be a pop-up retail space and leisure area similar to the Castle Community’s pre-COVID commons area.

Early events might be community dances or theater performances, she added. Threshold’s proposal also includes art exhibitions, a meeting space, special event rental, and leisure space with games and other quiet activities.

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In short, it’s a lot like the Castle Community’s early blueprint , mapped onto the Chateau building – minus the bookstore.

Absolute Theatre moves
Supporters of Absolute Theatre toast the theater’s move to the Castle Community at an event Thursday evening, Aug. 8, 2019, at the Castle Community in Rochester.
Post Bulletin file photo

Absolute Theatre , which partnered with Threshold Arts to use the third floor of the Castle for rehearsals and productions, will make the jump to the Chateau as well.

The company, which was limited to online performances in most of 2020 and 2021, would be “homeless” without a contract with Threshold Arts, founding director James Douglass said.

Last year's attempts to return to the Castle were unsuccessful — first because the building was “all but closed” in the fall of 2021, and because weekend performances conflicted with ongoing tenant Echo Church , he said.

“It was very stressful,” Douglass said.

Performing in the Chateau may require more nimbleness so the building can remain fully activated, but the company has some ideas to bring theater to the Chateau in between full productions.

“I don’t know how long it has been since the Chateau Theatre housed a live theatrical production, but the thought of doing it as Absolute gives me chills,” Douglass said. “(Theater) is a superstitious art form, and that has (to) have the support of all the ghosts that have been waiting for its return.”

Other partnerships are still in the works. Threshold will work with a food and drink provider to open a cafe in the building, but the vendor hasn't been selected.

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“We were hesitant to make any commitments until we knew we had this thing,” Anderson said.

She also plans to hold small events with community members to gather information on the public’s preferred uses.

What does this mean for the Castle?

City council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, who represents the ward that includes the Chateau, repeatedly brought up concerns about Threshold Arts' potential return to the Castle Community.

After what will become seven extra months of Echo Church’s tenancy and indecision by the Castle Community owners , Anderson is tired of the runaround.

“It’s hard to keep fighting for something that doesn’t feel like an option for you,” Anderson said.

Does that mean she’s backing off of the Castle?

“I have done everything in our power to get back in the Castle,” she said. “The current situation at the Castle is not one that feels healthy for us as an organization.”

The Castle Community owners, who control the building’s occupancy leases, have been largely silent about their plans for the building they purchased from the city, except to request an extension until March 31 to return it to arts and cultural use.

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Co-owner Scott Hoss, who is in a longtime relationship with Anderson, named a yet-unknown group called Amplify Arts the “most-viable” candidate to program the second and third floors in his extension request — not Threshold Arts.

Castle community owners Hoss, Ross Henderson, Eric Deutsch and Leyzer Topel have not responded to repeated queries from the Post-Bulletin since mid-November.

But at this point for Threshold Arts, “our focus is the Chateau,” Anderson said.

“It’s a difficult situation, it’s a really hard decision to think about us not being back at the Castle, but at this point, we need to focus on something that we have control over,” she said. “For us, that’s the ability to start activating the Chateau.”

Email: ahalliwell@rochestermagazine.com
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