I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark A. Gamma, the owner of the Newburgh Actors Studio at 784 Broadway. Here we take a look at somebody who is putting a lot of his own personal effort in trying to make the Newburgh art scene shine from its former glory. Local efforts like these need to be supported and recognized to make a difference. If you have not visited, make it a goal to attend one of their upcoming shows. Now to the interview:
You grew up in Newburgh. What was the entertainment scene like growing up?
When I was a kid Newburgh was teaming with people. There were several live entertainment venues in Newburgh. The Ritz, Broadway and Cameo theaters. I performed at the Ritz and Broadway theaters. I was a legit singer. 1959-1964. My mother was a dancer in the chorus line. The shows were great. There were always sold out crowds. Think of it, lower Broadway at 11:00pm and packed with people. It was safe. I used to sing at a place called “The Newburgh Tea Room” also on lower Broadway. All the big acts of the day would come to Newburgh before going to NYC. They would do “Dry Runs” here in Newburgh. Kind of like a warm up. Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Lucielle Ball etc. Then “Urban Renewal” reared it’s ugly head. People started moving out of the city to the suburbs. That was the beginning of the end.
How did the Newburgh’s Actor Studio get started?
I had been looking for a place to open a small intimate theater for several years. I began buying buildings in 1997. I bought three properties next to each other over a ten year period. I built my theater from a shell of an old factory, and built two apartments on the second floor to help with the expenses for the theater. We have NO benefactors here in Newburgh. We had to be self sufficient. I opened the Actors Studio on Valentines Day 2008. We have produced 15 shows since opening. When people come to my Studio the reaction is always the same, “This is beautiful.” We provide great quality entertainment at a fraction of the cost of going to the city.
Are there any achievements that you are particularly proud of?
I built the Studio because I have been performing my entire life all over the country. I thought why not give the city I was born in the benefit of my talent and knowledge? I tried to get the philanthropists of Newburgh to recognize our efforts to no avail. So, I will do it myself at my expense. I wrote an original play “Newburgh the Sixth Borough.” It ran for 9 weeks in 2009. We made a short film of the play. We are now seeking funding to re-shoot parts of the film to make it a feature. With or without funding we are scheduled to begin filming in July 2010. We produced a short film called “AMERICA,america” (see attached) that just had it’s world premiere at “The Hoboken International Film Festival” on June 6th 2010.
What are you doing in the community now or what ideas do you have?
I want the studio to become a staple in the community. A place were kids can go to experience real theater, to tap that desire inside of them. “ARTS NOT GANGS” We have a great show slated for June 18th & 19th. “KIDS ON BROADWAY” showcasing 11 kids ages 11-15. It’s at 8:00pm both nights. We offer acting work shops for all that have the desire to further their craft. The Newburgh Actors Studio is here and operating. I don’t talk about it, I DO it. If we could get some of the big money people to pull there heads out of the clouds and recognize that need for the arts here in Newburgh, maybe we would have a chance to bring her back to her former glory.
Thank you Mark for taking the time out to share the work you are doing at your theater! Art has been a common thread in the revitalization of many cities. Efforts like the Newburgh Actors Studio needs to be supported to make a change. Don’t just say Newburgh needs more artists, support the ones that are here already!