First Posted: 6/5/2013
Take just one step into the former St. Casimir’s Church in Pittston and you’ll understand why Gina Malsky and Applause Threatre can’t wait for the the curtain to rise.
It was 17 months ago that Malsky dipped into her pocket and purchased a second church with a plan to renovate the parish and turn it into the Pittston Downtown Arts Center.
When the Pittston Downtown Arts Center opens, the new center will be similar to Malsky’s Downtown Arts Center on North Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre, formerly the First United Methodist Church, which is soon to celebrate its sixth anniversary. That building is home to several small renters, from potters to fundraisers for non-profits.
The plan for Pittston is still in place and, after several attempts to get the building up to code, Malsky and the Applause Threater hope to tackle Act 1 by July. The center is set to be finished by the end of this month with a July gala already in the works.
But Malsky is still waiting on one thing - a little more cash flow. Admittedly, Malsky knows the threater won’t bring in mega bucks, but will be more like a non-profit. So she’s waiting on a phone call for someone to add their name in front of Downtown Arts Center. She explained it as a “Your Name Here” Downtown Arts Center.
“I’ve been trying to find somebody to get a name on the building because the sad part about it is that this is not a business that will generate a lot of income,” she said. “It’s only going to better the city. We’re drowning before we even open but we have no option but to open. We really need a business, or family, not to purchase the building, but to support it.”
A brand new stage has already taken the place of the altar. New safety and emergency procedures are in place. But before the former church opens, there is still a lot of work to do.
“We’re really way behind from our original plans,” Malsky said. “You don’t want to say its anyone’s fault. I could have thrown in the towel and walked away.”
Applause Theater is an incorporated non-profit organization that relies solely on donations. Once the Pittston building opens, it will serve as the theater’s home. So, for a number of arts lovers, this is a process that must get going quickly to hear some applause.
“Everyone will be thrilled once the doors are open,” Malsky said. “Applause has worked really hard.”
The grand opening for the center was set to take place last October with Applause Threater presenting “The Wizard of Oz” in November, Those plans were quickly dashed when the city changed code officers and Malsky was forced to push back the opening day.
One problem Malsky ran into was the lack of a handicapped bathroom on the first level of the building. Some $15,000 later, the Downtown Arts Center has a handicap accessible bathroom available.
Malky’s journey started just two days after her house was flooded back in September 2011. Her bid for St. Casimir’s Church was finalized. It was hers. It was a big undertaking, but this was a vision that Malsky said downtown Pittston needed.
“It’s definitely been a group effort,” she said. “People are really excited for this.”
“In Wilkes-Barre, it’s great,” Malsky said. “It’s an old church; we didn’t have to do renovations. We kept the pews and gutted the altar and used the stage. It’s a little different here.”
When the Downtown Arts Center opens later this summer, Applause Theater will be the sole occupant.
“We just need someone to inject us with a little cash,” Malsky said. “If you like it, then you should put your name on it.”