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Berkshire Music Hall, Pittsfield, Ma

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  • hawaiiguy123155
    Theater owner has eye on May PITTSFIELD -- The entrepreneur working to revive the former Berkshire Public Theater said yesterday that the project remains on
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 29, 2004
      Theater owner has eye on May

      PITTSFIELD -- The entrepreneur working to revive the former Berkshire
      Public Theater said yesterday that the project remains on track for
      an opening by Memorial Day.

      Raymond D. Schilke said he has spent $45,000 to date removing rubbish
      from the Union Street theater, which ceased operating in 1995, and
      renovating the Octagon House next door for administrative offices.

      The plan is to start renovations to the theater next month and to
      reopen the doors to the public in late May.

      An open house tentatively is planned for next month in the theater

      "I'm anxious to get started," said Schilke, who has coined a new
      name -- Berkshire Music Hall -- for the downtown venue.

      The owner of a sound production company in New Paltz, N.Y., Schilke
      purchased the theater and Octagon House last October for $160,000.
      The sale and renovations are being financed by Greylock Federal
      Credit Union.

      $500,000 outlay expected

      Schilke expects to spend up to $500,000 to renovate both buildings.
      He hopes to pay for some labor and materials "out of pocket" and is
      applying for a Small Business Administration loan for larger jobs,
      one of which is to install air conditioning in the theater. Bids are
      presently being sought to repair the tin ceiling.

      Meanwhile, Schilke is gradually restoring the eight-sided Octagon
      House. "The heat's on and the electric -- I've got a phone," he said
      yesterday. "It's very civilized."

      Schilke's vision for the theater is to restore it for theatrical and
      musical performances and second-run movies. He wants to both host and
      occasionally produce events, operating the facility through the
      summer and into the holiday season.

      The new name reflects what is expected to be a predominance of music
      over theater. "We probably will be doing more music than theater
      because I think there's a fair amount of theater being done locally,"
      he said.

      With orchestra and balcony levels, the theater could seat up to 800
      people. Schilke also wants to build eight to 10 dressing rooms at the
      basement level.

      Early last year, Schilke withdrew a proposal to build a 300-seat
      theater behind his Ins & Outs Inc. sound equipment and recording
      studio in New Paltz.

      He told the Daily Freeman of Kingston, N.Y., that he spent $22,000
      over 14 months on legal, architectural and engineering fees, but lost
      patience when the town's zoning board, among other requests, sought a
      wildlife study to determine the effect of car headlights on nocturnal

      "I will consider any town that would welcome an idea and not give me
      such a hard time," he told the newspaper last February.

      In Pittsfield, which has had its own issues with business owners and
      developers, Schilke has retained Bradley Architects Inc. to assist
      with the permitting process. Since he is renovating a building that
      already has been used as a theater, he doesn't anticipate running
      into the same problems that torpedoed his earlier project.

      Parking problems

      Schilke said he has discussed with Mayor James M. Ruberto the biggest
      potential hitch -- finding nearby parking spaces.

      "We're not changing the use of the building. It's a continued use,"
      he said. "The only issue we may have, and I've spoken to the mayor
      about it, is the parking. [Ruberto] understands it's something
      Pittsfield should respond to. I'm pretty confident he's going to work
      it out."

      As recently as yesterday, discussions on the possibility of joint
      production this summer have taken place between Schilke and the
      leadership of the $15 million Colonial Theatre restoration. The
      latter theater on South Street is being readied for a hoped-for
      reopening in late 2005 or 2006.

      While cautioning that some "big maybes" remain, Susan Sperber,
      executive director of the Colonial Theatre Association, said, "We're
      both very excited about it, and I think it's a right statement to
      make to the city that we're collaborating."

      The possibility of partnering with the Colonial on a production
      is "very exciting," Schilke said. " It shows we're working to-gether."
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