Grantee Spotlight: The Little Theatre, Rochester

Want to see this year’s Oscar winners for Best Picture or Best Foreign Film? Watch the Bolshoi Ballet onscreen, or dive deep into genre flicks? Hear live music in an intimate café, or listen to local leaders debate hot topics?

The Little Theatre in Rochester has you covered.

As a mecca for indie and foreign films, showcase for local artist exhibits, and host of cafe concerts five nights a week, the Little Theatre makes a big impact on its Greater Rochester community. With support from NYSCA’s Facilities Program, it's about to become even more inviting and inclusive.

NYSCA awarded the Little Theatre FY2018 funding to upgrade Theatre Five, its second largest screening space, to become more accessible and to create an enhanced experience for visitors. 

"Theater 5 is very important to The Little as it is our most popular space for screening events followed by discussions, which are an important part of our mission and a great way that we engage with our community," says artistic director Brianne Merkel.

Little Theatre's Theatre 5
Science on Screen Series screenings of THE FOUNTAIN. Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov, Professors of Biology at the University of Rochester led a discussion about their research on understanding the mechanisms of longevity and on the studies of exceptionally long-lived animals.

As part of the renovations currently in progress, seating will be replaced to improve patron comfort, better arrange sight lines, and enhance handicapped seating areas; aisle lighting will be added for the safety of patrons; and flooring will be improved, both acoustically and visually. All seats will now have cupholders which can be used for personal box captioning devices, and a T-coil loop that works with hearing aid frequencies will be installed.

“Rochester has one of the largest populations of hearing impaired people in the United States and the addition of a hearing loop and additional personal captioning options in Theatre 5 is another important step towards full accessibility options in all theaters at The Little," Merkel says.

Little Theatre under construction
Seats are removed and a hearing loop is installed in the floor as Theatre 5 undergoes renovations

The Little has been a NYSCA grantee since 2007, and has also received support for its concert series through our Presenting Program and for its One Take documentary discussion series through our Electronic Media & Film Program. Through the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, NYSCA supported a planning grant to design a multi-use community space as well as funding to transition from film to digital projection.

Merkel says, "Support from NYSCA has been critical in both preserving the mission of the theatre and enhancing its range of community service." 

"NYSCA support also has a ripple effect to many other non-profit organizations in the region, as they are able to rent venue space for their community engagement events at a fair rate, where accessibility options are present, and in a central location that is an arts and cultural hub in downtown Rochester." 

Cover photo: Little Theatre Street Party, June 2017, The Little Theatre unveils its restored marquee and new digital display. The street was closed for a block party and more than 1,200 attended.