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New theaters may be in the works for Rochester 

This is a corrected version of this story.

The concept of adding multiple new venues to Rochester's performing arts scene seemed to die with the Renaissance Square project in 2009. But it has come back strong.

click to enlarge Several sources say that Rochester Lyric Opera is interested in converting the First Church of Christ, Scientist, building on East Avenue into performance space. - PHOTO BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN
  • PHOTO BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN
  • Several sources say that Rochester Lyric Opera is interested in converting the First Church of Christ, Scientist, building on East Avenue into performance space.

Rochester Broadway Theatre League wants a 3,000-seat theater downtown, and the city has taken the first steps toward getting one built by seeking out a consultant to do a study.

And RBTL officials say that if they get a new theater downtown, they'll continue to operate the Auditorium Theatre.

Rochester Lyric Opera is said by several sources to want to convert the First Church of Christ, Scientist, building on East Avenue into a performance theater for its own productions and a variety of other events. (The church has purchased a property on Mt. Hope Avenue in Rochester.)

Fringe Festival leaders have already said that the church will be one of the venues for next September's festival. And the building is a venue for the Jazz Festival this year.

Lyric Opera officials declined to comment on their plans, but City Council member Elaine Spaull says that the surrounding neighborhoods are excited about the potential new theater.

A study commissioned in the planning of Ren Square, which would've combined a performing arts center with a transit center and MCC, found that Rochester could support a performing-arts venue with three or four theaters. But Rochester's performance venues have increased since Ren Square died.

The Eastman School of Music built a new small theater, Blackfriars now has a building on East Main, Nazareth renovated its arts center in 2009, and last year, RAPA began operating a 1,964-seat theater in northwest Rochester.

Can Rochester support all of these performance spaces? The downtown theater study may give a clue. It will include a look at the demand for a new downtown theater, and will include a market analysis.

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