PLATTSBURGH - Jessica Bakeman loves the Strand Theatre and its nearly a century of history.
Bakeman's fondness for the circa 1924 structure began when she was writing an article for All Points North, the on-line magazine for the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, where she is a double-major student. That's when she first saw the inside of the theatre.
"I had the chance to see the theatre when they were first starting to tear down all the things covering up the original stuff," said Bakeman, referring to the hidden original paint and carvings in the columns and walls that had "such ornate detail. "I became curious. I wanted to know more about the Strand and what it meant to people throughout its history."
Bakeman began reaching out to people who had connections to the Strand - those who went there in their younger years and keepers of history who recalled the theatre's stature in the community. She turned that work into "The Pride,"a musical theatre revue which tells the story of the Strand.
"It's been an intense amount of work," said Bakeman. "It's involved interviewing something like 20 people and putting their stories together in chronological order with the history of the theatre."
The story tells, in part, how the Strand was once a place where many couples would go on first dates - and, if things went well, many dates thereafter. One such story is that of Honey and Andre Light, a couple who frequented the Strand prior to World War II, and, upon Andre's return from serving the military overseas, frequented it many times more together and eventually with their families.
"I found out the Strand meant a great deal to a lot of people," said Bakeman.
Bakeman, who wrote the script for The Pride, credited the cast and crew for their hard work and dedication as rehearsals have been held and stage preparations have been made since the cast was announced several weeks ago.
"This is definitely not something I've done by myself," said Bakeman. "I've really learned the difficulty of putting together a show, especially for a theatre that really isn't ready to put on a show."
Though the Strand is still in the middle of a multi-million dollar restoration and renovation project, Bakeman said the crew has been able to bring in lighting and sound equipment as well as chairs to put on a makeshift production.
"It's been very difficult, but it's going to be well worth it," said Bakeman.
Tom Lavin, cast member and founder of Adirondack Regional Theatre, a local performing arts organization, agreed.
"Ever since Imoved here, the Strand is always a place where I wanted to have a performance, said Lavin. "When I heard about this, my wife,Pam, and I just had to be part of it."
"It's very exciting. I don't know if words can describe it," added Lavin.
Performances of The Pride will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6, and Saturday, May 7. A third showing will be offered Sunday, May 8, at 2 p.m.
General admission will be $10. Students will be admitted for $5. Advance tickets are available at the SUNY Plattsburgh Angell College Center, North Country Cultural Center for the Arts, and Baxter's Bagels. Tickets will also be available at the door.
Proceeds from the production will benefit the Strand Theatre restoration project, headed by the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts.
For more information, contact Bakeman at 585-943-0159 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Because the space is unheated, audience members should dress appropriately.