Black Spectrum Theatre gets $200K renovation

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"There hadn't been any repairs done since 1986," said Clay, a writer and director of both plays and films. "A lot of things got done, but a lot still needs to be done."

The Black Spectrum Theatre building in Roy Wilkins Park had more than $200,000 worth of repairs in the late summer and early fall, said Clay.

"The rugs were in terrible shape, the roof was leaking," said Clay.

Virtually every part of the theater has been retouched, from the stage area to the lounge and office.

"We have completely reconfigured the stage area," he said.

The theater walls have been repainted, new carpeting has been laid in the seating area and about half of the chairs have been reupholstered. Both the lounge and the lobby have been redone, as has the office, which has been completely repainted and recarpeted.

The Black Spectrum Theatre, founded in 1970, has become an arts institution in southeast Queens, Clay said. The appearance of the building directly correlates with the kind and quality of shows it can produce, he said.

But there are still some structural cracks in the lobby and in one of the bathrooms, while the heating still does not seem to reach the whole room, he said.

"But I'm happy we have gotten as far as we have," he said.

Roy Wilkins Park is owned by the city but run by the Southern Queens Park Association, one of the only partnerships of this type in the city. Black Spectrum Theatre moved from its storefront home on Linden Boulevard to the building on the park grounds in 1986.

Most of the repairs were payed for with funding from the city Parks Department and Borough President Claire Shulman, although Black Spectrum Theatre had to do some of its own fund-raising.

For the past four years the theater has added to its budget by running a hot dog and sausage booth at the National Tennis Center during the U.S. Open. Clay said the theater only gets to keep a small percentage of the profits, but they nevertheless helped pay for a lot of the renovations.

The work began right after the summer theater camp ended and continued until the end of the September. During that time there were not any performances and the office was completely redone.

"There was a lot of upheaval, but it was all for the good," said Clay.

Black Spectrum Theatere shows and produces plays, movies and concerts on African or African-American themes. Clay's first feature film, "Let's Get Bizee," starring rapper Doug E. Fresh, can be found at Blockbuster Video.

Clay saidd many people who meet him cannot get over how he was able to start a theater from scratch and have it survive in southeast Queens.

"Don't ask me what I did 30 years ago, ask me what I'm doing today," said Clay, who far prefers to talk about the present rather than the long haul that began back in 1970 when he launched the theater.

Updated 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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