Bay Street Theater Celebrates Executive Director Tracy Mitchell's 10 Year Anniversary

Bay Street Theater Celebrates Executive Director Tracy Mitchell's 10 Year Anniversary

Bay Street Theater is pleased to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Executive Director Tracy Mitchell at Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center of the Arts. Her term has seen growth in nearly every aspect of the theater, building upon the devoted passion of its founders 27 years ago--Emma Walton Hamilton, Steve Hamilton, and Sybil Christopher.

"It's a fun milestone", states Mitchell, "...a great time to reflect on how much we've been able to accomplish in what seems like such a short time to me. I suppose that means it's been mostly enjoyable-hard work, but mostly really fun. Of course, the biggest change during my tenure here has been in finding and hiring our incredible Artistic Director, Scott Schwartz in 2014, following the passing of our dear Sybil Christopher, the last Co-Founder and Artistic Director with whom I had the fortune to work."

While Ms. Christopher was most often referred to and known as the first wife of Richard Burton, she was a giant in her own right, founding one of the most popular nightclubs of the 60's and 70's in NYC called Arthur's. It was there that she continued to form her own relationships with the "who's who" of the entertainment world, and created a Rolodex from which she drew her famous friends to Bay Street. "It was a big turning point for me and for the theater when she died. I knew I needed to find another dynamic Artistic Director. We needed to get our audience reinvigorated and excited again about the art on our stage-- the key to a successful theater, or frankly, to any artistic endeavor. We needed to focus on producing even more new works and bringing in up and coming talent-from writers and directors to design teams and actors. Fortunately, in Scott, I have found a new partner-in-crime, as I like to call him, who is able to do this, and help us connect with our audiences in our own new way. Together I think we make a great team."

In addition to this change, the theater has continued to grow both in size and stature among the professional theatrical community, with several leading Broadway producers now serving on the Board of Trustees. In addition, the theater has been approached by numerous leading agents and theatrical foundations who wish to see their work premiered at Bay Street as an 'out of town' tryout before working it further and possibly moving it to New York City. The most recent example was the 3-week run of Fellow Travelers, whose partners included the Shubert Foundation and two leading Broadway producers, Evan Bergman and Leonard Soloway. "These are just a few of the great relationships that we have been able to grow and develop over time."

Of course, as a Regional Professional theater, Bay Street has always seen some of its work have a further life on or off Broadway and beyond. Under Mitchell's time, a workshop of Murder For Two went on to be directed by Schwartz with a national tour, even before he and Mitchell had met. "It was kind of funny when I realized that. It felt like kismet." In their time together, Grey Gardens, starring Betty Buckley and Rachel York, moved to the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles. "With this move, it felt like we had really come full circle. The Ahmanson is helmed by Michael Richie, Sybil's son-in-law (married to her daughter, actress Kate Burton) and I think Sybil would have been pleased with what we accomplished on that show."

The other idea Mitchell implemented upon her arrival was an even bigger focus on how to serve the local East End community needs. As a not-for-profit, it was an important piece of the mission, but Mitchell believed Bay Streetcould do more. "It was important to me that everyone felt they were welcome and that it was a place that everyone could relate to. In the arts, we know that if you've never really been introduced as a kid to live theater, or museums or the opera, it is something that most adults then don't feel comfortable doing. I know it can be intimidating." Mitchell made it her goal to remove that stigma, with an open door policy to anyone who wanted to step through the doors and simply explore what Bay Street had to offer. One of her very first moves upon taking over the helm was to offer up Free Community Events, including free screenings of the 2008 debates, the election, the Tony's, and other nights to gather for fun. She also went on a listening tour to hear more about what people liked, and what they wanted to see more of. "It was a fascinating learning experience. As a former TV and Film Producer for 25 years, I understood the producing aspect and running a business. But I wasn't as prepared for the 'not-for-profit' aspects including the often mixed messages and trying to address the needs of various constituents whose support is critical in a small community."

In 2008, Mitchell led the refocusing of Bay Street's educational program and with just a 5 person staff at that time, began the Literature Live program. The program now serves over 3,000 students each year from across Long Island. "It was important to me that we help bring students to see live theater and to give them the background needed to understand its nuances more fully. The more schools were failing them by cutting back their arts programs, the more I was motivated to do this. If we didn't, we were simply perpetuating a problem for the future of the arts, as well as denying kids the opportunity to see for themselves stories of a bigger world and a different way of expressing oneself. The program has since been a huge success with schools from as far away as Port Jefferson and Wyandanch, with many teachers securing seats each year for this highly successful month-long program."

Not long after this, Mitchell began another program called Benefits by Bay Street, a program that she hopes will remain an important one at Bay Streetforever. "To me, it is always important to realize that no matter what line of work you are in, no matter how one lives their daily life, there will always be disasters that happen around the globe that are simply too large to ignore-no matter where you live or what you do. As human beings, we all feel the need to try to help. This was how we began Benefits by Bay Street, as artists are often the first to jump in and say what can we do." The program began with concerts arranged quickly with whatever band members and singers were in town, who contributed to evening performances for the earthquake victims in Haiti, the Hurricane victims in Katrina and Sandy, the typhoon in Japan, and most recently, the fire in our own village. "It was an honor to be able to raise funds to support our first responders who we watched in horror as they got slicked with ice and worked ten hours to ensure this village remained standing. It certainly was not on the scale of these other world disasters, but it certainly could have been much worse."

In 2014, the theater changed its name to better reflect its expanded focus, and thus the Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center for the Arts was celebrated. "Our goal is to ensure that we can support all types of community needs, including the support we continue to provide to over 30 other not-for-profits and organizations who wish to use our facility to present lectures, to further their missions, and to raise their own funds by having a place to do so. It truly has been an honor to serve as Bay Street's Executive Director, and I hope to be able to continue for years to come. Hopefully, I'll have the stamina-as those of us in the business know, it isn't just about putting on a show!"

Bay Street Theater and Sag Harbor Center for the Arts is a year-round, not-for-profit professional theater and community cultural center which endeavors to innovate, educate, and entertain a diverse community through the practice of the performing arts. They serve as a social and cultural gathering place, an educational resource, and a home for a community of artists.

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