As Bay Street Theater celebrated its 27thannual summer gala last weekend, it was also honoring its executive director, Tracy Mitchell, who celebrated 10 years at the helm of the non-profit center for the arts.
“It’s a fun milestone,” said Ms. Mitchell, “…a great time to reflect on how much we’ve been able to accomplish in what seems like such a short time to me. I suppose that means it’s been mostly enjoyable — hard work, but mostly really fun. Of course, the biggest change during my tenure here has been in finding and hiring our incredible Artistic Director, Scott Schwartz, in 2014, following the passing of our dear Sybil Christopher, the last Co-Founder and Artistic Director with whom I had the fortune to work.”
Ms. Christopher founded the theater with Emma Walton-Hamilton and Stephen Hamilton. Filling the position left vacant by Ms. Christopher, said Ms. Mitchell in a press release this week, proved a challenging turning point.
“I knew I needed to find another dynamic Artistic Director. We needed to get our audience reinvigorated and excited again about the art on our stage — the key to a successful theater, or frankly, to any artistic endeavor,” she said. “We needed to focus on producing even more new works and bringing in up and coming talent — from writers and directors to design teams and actors. Fortunately, in Scott, I have found a new partner-in-crime, as I like to call him, who is able to do this, and help us connect with our audiences in our own new way. Together I think we make a great team.”
Under Ms. Mitchell’s tenure, Bay Street Theater has grown to become a space where agents and theatrical foundations hope to have their work premiered in Sag Harbor before working towards openings in larger place, including New York City. Most recently, “Fellow Travelers” was brought to Bay Street through a partnership with the Shubert Foundation and producers Evan Bergman and Leonard Soloway. Shows like “Murder for Two” would go on to be directed by Mr. Schwartz on national tour, long before his time at Bay Street, and “Grey Gardens,” starring Betty Buckley and Rachel York, moved to the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles — a theater run by Michael Richie, Ms. Christopher’s son-in-law.
Ms. Mitchell also began offering free screenings, including election night coverage, and live screenings of the Tony Awards, and in 2008 brought Literature Live to Bay Street. The program now serves over 3,000 students each year from across Long Island.
“It was important to me that we help bring students to see live theater and to give them the background needed to understand its nuances more fully,” she said. “The more schools were failing them by cutting back their arts programs, the more I was motivated to do this. If we didn’t, we were simply perpetuating a problem for the future of the arts, as well as denying kids the opportunity to see for themselves stories of a bigger world and a different way of expressing oneself.” She also helped create the theater’s Benefits by Bay Street program, supporting victims of Hurricane Katrine and Sandy, among other crises through live benefit performances.
“It truly has been an honor to serve as Bay Street’s Executive Director, and I hope to be able to continue for years to come,” said Ms. Mitchell. “Hopefully, I’ll have the stamina — as those of us in the business know, it isn’t just about putting on a show!”