The North Fork Arts Center, a new community non-profit working to revitalize the former Greenport Theater, held a ribbon cutting celebration on Thursday, May 16, ahead of what it is anticipating will be a busy summer season.

The ceremony was held in the midst of an intensive three-week residency at the theater by the Brooklyn Ballet, which has been hosting programs for North Fork schools all week in anticipation of a community open rehearsal and opening night performance this Saturday, May 18.

Tony Spiridakis (with scissors), Greenport Mayor Kevin Stuessi, NFAC Creative Director Shannon Goldman and Operations Manager Liz Gillooly at the ribbon cutting

A season filled with seven days a week of first-run and classic movie showings kicks off Memorial Day Weekend, followed closely by the premiere of “Ezra,” a film about a comedian on a cross-country road trip with his autistic son, written by NFAC Executive Director Tony Spiridakis, on May 31.

“We’ll shut down the streets and roll out the red carpet, with all the stars,” said Greenport Village Mayor Kevin Stuessi at the ribbon cutting, adding that he believes the new arts center “will be the most significant thing to happen to the community since Mitchell Park.”

Mr. Spiridakis, a screenwriter, whose non-profit Manhattan Film Institute had been running programs at the theater for several years, received a phone call in early 2023 from Josh Sapan, the former owner of the theater, who said he was putting the building on the market but would like to see it turned into a community arts center.

Mr. Sapan threw down a challenge to the community — raise $1 million for operating costs and start a non-profit to run the theater, and he would give the building to the new organization.

And the community overwhelming bought in to the mission, raising pledges for most of the money needed even before the non-profit received its final approval.

“I finally met him, and finally got to see what type of person he is. We shared something that both of our sons are on the spectrum and we bonded over that,” said Mr. Spiridakis of Mr. Sapan, for whom the theater is now named. “I have learned that Josh is such a lover of the arts. He’s such a supporter of the concept that we took on, which is not to just say we’re gonna salvage an old movie theater and play movies again. We’re gonna up the game. We’re gonna bring arts here, be an arts center with fine arts and music and dance and go beyond, and really have a place that the community can embrace as their own.”

The community fundraising was followed by government grants, with help from federal, state and county officials.

The theater now has a management team, including Mr. Spiridakis, Creative Director Shannon Goldman, Operations Manager Liz Gillooly, Director of Community Engagement Robin Lockwood and Grants Manager Meghan Krumholz, and 20 volunteers helping to run the theater.

Tony Spiridakis gives thanks to the people who helped get the theater effort off the ground.

Mr. Spiridakis urged theatergoers to be nice to the people selling popcorn.

“They probably have an MFA, and they’re probably a starving actor,” he said of the team members, whom he’s hoping will grow into greater roles as the arts center expands. “We’re building a creative family.”

That family is likely to continue to include the Brooklyn Ballet.

“We’ve been mandated by the kids in Greenport” to come back, said Lynn Parkerson, the founder and creative director of the ballet company.


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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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