On a recent Thursday morning, downtown Riverhead rumbles on as usual. Cars buzz down Main Street. A couple walks out of the Riverhead Grill and Diner. A man walks his street bike into Twin Forks Bicycle for a winter tune-up.
Across the street at 118 East Main St., inside the Suffolk Theater, contractors, laborers, and a full staff inside the office are continuing to prepare for the theater's grand opening, now less than two months away.
The March 2 opening will feature Grammy Award-winners Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, which specialize in 1920s and 1930s jazz and will give a nod to the Suffolk Theater's roots.
Everything in the theater, which opened in 1933, pays homage to the art deco time period which the theater embraced, said owner Bob Castaldi. From the hand rails to the carpeting to the fabrics to the colors to the toilets to the "tastefully camouflaged" sound system, heating system and more, Castaldi said when the doors open in March, those in attendance will be able to take a step back into a unique atmosphere – the one obvious twist being that the theater will serve as a modern performing arts theater.
Bringing the two together hasn't been easy though, he said.
- 'Video: Construction Plugs Along at Suffolk Theatre' (2011)
"There have been non-stop unexpected challenges," said Castaldi. "Making this the performing arts center you want it to be, while keeping the architectural and historical integrity in tact – that's challenging."
The women's bathroom, for example, previously fit two stalls; plumbing has been upgraded for 13. The original theater hosted no bars; now there will be two.
Meanwhile capacity at the theater will drop slightly – from 800 to anywhere to 500 or 600, depending on the event. Rows of seats may be installed in the lower floor terraces for one event while tables of 10 or 12 might work better for another. On the upper deck, high-hat tables of four will sit across terraced seating as well, with drink and limited food service available.
Castaldi said he expects construction to be completed around the beginning of January.
That challenge of mixing the old with the new is also part of what drew Executive Director Bob Spiotto to the gig, which he started in September.
"There are always challenges in any kind of creative endeavor," he said. "It's actually part of the lure – overcoming that and working through those challenges is one of the exciting parts."
Spiotto has been working toward booking acts of all stripes, though programming will ultimately be determined by demand. For the month of March at least, many acts featuring musical components will take the stage, though Spiotto noted lectures, films and plays will be sure to make their ways in as well. Programming is expected week round, Spiotto said, with programs even capturing daytime audiences during the week.
"Our mission phrase – I wouldn't call it a mission statement, but it's out phrase – has been, 'There's always something to celebrate at the Suffolk Theater.'"