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Landmark Donation: The Auburn Public Theater Building

September 26, 2011

As the curtains opened on a new theater season in September 2011, Auburn Public Theater took on a new role – as property owner.

The building that forms the corner of 8 Exchange Street and 108 Genesee Street in Auburn, New York, became the property of its anchor tenant, Auburn Public Theater. The downtown landmark, remembered by many as the former W. T. Grant department store, was gifted by owners Angela Daddabbo and Carey Eidel to Auburn Public Theater, the nonprofit performing arts center they helped found.

The 26,000-square-foot building had been purchased by Daddabbo and Eidel with their own funds in October 2005, with plans to develop a public theater space. The couple, then owners of Daddabbo’s Pizza, a small business on Genesee Street, felt strongly that an arts center would fill a creative void in the downtown area and become an economic driver for the community.  

Following their purchase, the site underwent renovations to become the home of the newly-formed Auburn Public Theater. Featuring two stages and a cinema, the theater has evolved to present dynamic year-round programming, and it offers a rental venue for independent events from private parties to multi-week stage productions.

Volunteer and foundation support

With enthusiastic volunteer assistance and generous support from regional foundations including the Fred L. Emerson Foundation, the Stardust Foundation of Central New York, the Stanley Metcalf Foundation, the French Foundation and the Columbian Foundation, the Community Foundation of Central New York, the John Ben Snow Foundation, the Women’s Fund of Central New York, as well as numerous local businesses and individuals, Auburn Public Theater has become a lively destination for showgoers from Auburn and the greater Central New York region.

Past seasons have included performances by actress Patricia Neal, singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor and comedian Paul Mecurio, along with children’s workshops, local productions and partnerships with more than 25 regional nonprofit organizations.

Highlights of the 2011–2012 season schedule include pianist George Winston, singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega and Broadway dance legend Tommy Tune, as well as a Charlie Chaplin comedy tribute, regional youth and adult talent contests, and weekly screenings of outstanding films.

Commitment to long-term success

“Our vision has always been to create a city arts center,” said Eidel, “with offerings diverse enough to bring in people from all walks of life and enhance the quality of life for our entire region. With the help of our incredible staff who worked for no compensation for years, our board of directors and invaluable volunteers, we achieved a level of success that surpassed our wildest dreams.”

“It was always our goal for the theater to be self-sustaining,” added Daddabbo. “Motivated by our success and support we’ve had over the last six years and looking forward to a season filled with exciting new projects, we felt that now was the right time to make this gift.” The couple’s donation became official on August 30, 2011.  

“With this gift, the theater truly belongs to Auburn,” said Wendy LaDuca, president of the Auburn Public Theater Board of Directors, which takes over management of the building. “The generosity of Angela and Carey shows their deep commitment to the long-term success of the theater and to the rejuvenation of downtown Auburn. We are delighted that Carey will remain as Executive Director and Angela as Artistic Director. Their knowledge and experience have made Auburn Public Theater what it is today and what we envision it to be in the future.”