For the last 12 years as the executive director of Bay Street Theater, Tracy Mitchell — and the creative team and board behind the Sag Harbor-based theater — has had the long-term ambition of ensuring the longevity of the almost 30-year old nonprofit.
“My goal, the goal of [creative director] Scott [Schwartz] and the goal of the board of Bay Street has always been to make sure Bay Street is here for future generations,” said Ms. Mitchell in an interview on Wednesday. “The only way to ensure that is to make sure we have a permanent home one day.”
With a little less than four year lefts on its 10-year lease at its longtime home on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, Ms. Mitchell said the theater is exploring all of its options for the future, including potentially purchasing property outside of Sag Harbor for a permanent home for Bay Street Theater.
That said, Ms. Mitchell stressed that Bay Street Theater administrators and its board are also still open to discussions with their landlord, Patrick Malloy III — a person Ms. Mitchell said has been “very generous” to the nonprofit, extending its lease by 10 years in 2012 with a minor rent increase.
“Our landlord has been great to us,” she said. “I personally think he has done amazing things for Sag Harbor. He gave us our 10-year lease and we are coming to the end of that. So that is where we are at right now.”
One property Ms. Mitchell confirmed the theater has looked at is the Country Gardens Agway on Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton, a five-acre property owned by Joseph Butts, a resident of Sag Harbor. However, there is no formal agreement on the table and the theater remains open to other options, including staying in its current home, said Ms. Mitchell.
Its current home is one the theater has outgrown to a certain extent, admitted Ms. Mitchell. “We are busting at the seams, which is why we rent another facility for [building] our sets and we spend $350,000 in housing, [and] rent separate space for our theater camp — that part is unsustainable, which is why we are always looking to find a permanent space for Bay Street to call home,” she said. “It is also helpful for fundraising as a nonprofit.”
In Sag Harbor, said Ms. Mitchell, there is no parcel large enough to accommodate the theater’s needs. She estimated at least 25,000 square feet would be needed for a new theater, educational spaces and to house production facilities. “It would also be great if we could accommodate some artist housing,” she added. “We have looked at everything — we looked at the Sag Harbor Cinema space long ago when it was for sale and we know we could not build what we needed to build there. We did our due diligence and it was not a possibility.”
If it were able to, the nonprofit would be open to expanding at its current building, said Ms. Mitchell, but that is a conversation the board has yet to broach with Mr. Malloy.
The theater renewed its current lease with Mr. Malloy in April, 2012, after months of speculation that it would move out of Sag Harbor in an effort to find a long-term home. One of the options it explored at that time was moving into the former Parrish Art Museum property on Jobs Lane — now the Southampton Arts Center. However, administrators and board members declared their commitment to staying in Sag Harbor amid a community outcry over its potential departure. Mr. Malloy came to the table to offer the nonprofit a long-term lease, even agreeing to a clause that would allow the theater to leave its lease early should it find a new home.
As in 2012, Ms. Mitchell said on Wednesday she understood what is at stake for Sag Harbor. As a resident, she said she appreciates what the loss of a cultural institution would be for the village.
“The arts help everyone in a downtown center,” she said. “It draws in creative people, it draws in the kind of people who want to support the arts and the community at large.”