January 22, 2002

Firehouse Theatre Permanently Closed

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The Firehouse Theatre’s curtains closed permanently after its December performance of “A Christmas Carol” for financial reasons. Ralph Thorpe purchased the property from Tom Newton, the founder of the Firehouse Theatre. Efforts to keep the theatre running by actors and Ithacans have not been successful.


According to Hopkins, the manager of the Firehouse Theatre and a full time worker at Cornell’s Adult University, “the theatre was sold for financial reasons. We saw decreases in grants and private individual donations dropped. The future was not promising.”

Hopkins also added that despite the theatre’s popularity within the Ithaca community, ticket sales alone were unable to sustain the theatre.

“We were in an endless financial struggle in spite of the fact that we were turning away people who wanted to audition and people who wanted to present plays, a trend that is not unusual in the arts,” she said.


The Firehouse Theatre, a firehouse renovated into a 99-seat theatre located in downtown Ithaca, showed several performances of plays throughout the year. “The theatre was unique and filled a niche in the community,” Hopkins said.

“I thought that the theatre was an important cultural institution for Ithaca and contributed to its cultural life for eight years,” said Arno Selco, a professor of theatre arts at Ithaca College. “Eight years is a very long time in the arts,” said Selco.

“I was not surprised to see the theatre close because the bottom line is money. Few theatres are self supported, with Broadway being an exception because of its high ticket costs,” said Selco.

“Members of the Ithaca community are dismayed by the closing of Firehouse Theatre,” Hopkins said.

“It was tough when the theatre closed because the people who spent time there had formed a tight little community. It was an end to a circle of friends, said Kathryn Fleury, a former actor and director at Firehouse Theatre. Fleury added, “No other theatre can compare to the Firehouse, which allowed professional and non professional actors to take part in all types of plays.”

Meredith Silverman ’02, who recently performed for the first time at Firehouse theatre in “A Christmas Carol” said she would have looked forward to acting again at the theatre.

“The experience was great working with people of the community, who unlike other productions [such as those at Cornell] were of all ages,” she said.

Ralph Thorpe, the new owner of the property, is unsure what he will do with the space. He said that there were “hundreds of possibilities.”

Archived article by Jamie Yonks