Built in 1868, one of Jamestown's oldest church structures has been revitalized and repurposed to become a center for the arts.
The Giuffre family is poised to bring more than 70 evenings of entertainment to area residents this year. The location of the action is the Spire Theater, a downtown Jamestown church that Angelo and Ylsa Giuffre purchased in 2011. Over the last three years the theater has seen tens of thousands of patrons enter its doors for live theater, musicals, talent shows, magic shows, dinner theater, banquets, weddings, jazz concerts and more.
Founded on the mission of fostering the arts, the Giuffre family created a place where the community could gather to show appreciation for expression.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
An on-set photo of “Empire” by Schermerhorn Entertainment and Brown Hat Productions. From left are: Paul Schermerhorn, Lewis Ecker, Patricia Culliton and Matthew Swanson.
Jazz musicians, including John Cross, Steve Davis, Preach Freedom, Tony Grey and Jed Thompson, are pictured performing at the Spire Theater earlier this month.
P-J file photo by Dusten Rader
aylor Latour is pictured performing with the Jamestown Harmony Express Barbershop Quartet during the Spire Theater’s Chautauqua’s Got Talent competition earlier this year.
P-J file photo by Dusten Rader
"The theater is full of interesting characters that you're bound to meet at any given time," Ylsa said.
The majority of the entertainment is held in the sanctuary of the First Congregational Church, which seats 300. The sanctuary hosts a variety of events, including the annual Chautauqua's Got Talent competition. But in addition to the main theater, the Giuffres also recently completed a 150-seat theater for Theatre For A Cause's recent presentation of "12 Angry Men." The theater will be repurposed for future projects. Dinner theater, weddings and private parties are held in the Odyssey Hall banquet facility.
The Giuffres' interest in Jamestown began 10 years ago when they witnessed what they felt was the beginning of a downtown renaissance.
"Ten years ago we were running Big Time Productions out of the back of a beat-up station wagon - and now we own a city block," Angelo said. "Our facility houses three performance venues, an office wing and a banquet room. I can't believe we were able to do this."
"For me it's a surreal experience," Ylsa added. "It felt safe working out of a car, but now I see that the opportunities here to provide the community with an artistic outlet are limitless. We feel the energy of the young people, and we want to be a part of it as facilitators."
Ylsa's next goal is to start helping writers have their original works published and staged at little risk. But, for now, Big Time Productions and Odyssey Entertainment are focused on the more than 70 nights of shows already scheduled this year.
The Spire Theater's upcoming presentations include: "RENT," a musical set in New York City about love and life that is set for May 9-10 and May 16-17; Jazz at the Spire, a monthly presentation featuring regional musicians that is set for Friday; "Legendary!," a concert set for Saturday; "Rising Stars," a fundraising concert featuring Chautauqua's Got Talent finalists who wish to audition for NBC's "The Voice" that is set for Saturday, May 3; and "Life With The Pepperonis," an interactive dinner theater show featuring the Giuffre family that is set for early June.
The Spire Theater is located at 317 E. Third St. in Jamestown. For more information, call 450-7357, visit www.spiretheater.org, in-spire.us or search for "The Spire Theater" on Facebook.
The Giuffres' mission to provide area residents with an artistic outlet has drawn all kinds of characters interested in live performances, as well as those who love film.
Paul Schermerhorn, 26, is the founder of Schermerhorn Entertainment, and his production company has selected the Spire Theater as its headquarters.
Schermerhorn, a 2005 graduate of Sherman Central School and 2007 media arts graduate of Jamestown Community College, has always loved film. His interest developed into a desire to act, but he quickly found that there were few local film opportunities. That's why he decided to create his own outlet, and the Spire Theater was the perfect place to do so.
"The Spire is a home for a lot of artists," Schermerhorn said. "What I like about it is that it fits in with my viewing of film and building a family of artists. There are a lot of people who are in Spire productions that act in our films, and vice versa. The Giuffres' generosity inspires you to keep going for what you want to do. To see them building a family and their business inspires you to not give up even when working through the muck."
Schermerhorn soon found himself surrounded by like-minded individuals, allowing him to collaborate with many other talented area residents. Two of the individuals who have worked with Schermerhorn on a variety of projects include: Matthew Swanson and Donald Hill.
Swanson, 24, is a 2007 Panama Central School graduate and 2011 media arts graduate of Jamestown Community College. Swanson is the founder of Brown Hat Productions, and he is currently collaborating with Schermerhorn on a feature film project titled "Empire." The film follows a university student who is recruited to uncover a 400-year-old buried legend.
"Film is something that I've loved to do since I was 9 years old," Swanson said. "I've learned that you get to meet so many different people who are inspired by the work that you do - it really makes you feel good inside."
Hill, a Michigan native who served as an adjunct art professor at Jamestown Community College, is the founder of Don Hill Studios and One Trick Loofah. Schermerhorn is currently collaborating with Hill on a feature film project titled "Midas Legacy." The film stars Schermerhorn as a man named Jake who is obsessed with a woman who broke his heart. Jake obtains the power to change circumstances at will, including the past and the present, and the question of whether the ability is good or bad comes into play.
In addition to Schermerhorn's feature film work, he also hosts a talk show titled "Chautauqua Tonight." The show features interviews, musical guests and much more. For more information, visit schermerhornentertainment.com or candidpaul.com.