The Secret Theatre is a wonderful space and a testament to the neighborhood’s growing, diverse theater scene. It’s also the brainchild of Owner/Artistic Director Richard Mazda.
Mazda is truly a mover and shaker in the LIC arts community. His songwriting, music producing and acting credits are impressive enough.
Indeed, Mazda made his name well before emigrating from England to Queens, where started an acting company, The Queens Players, and now a theater, The Secret Theatre, in the LIC Arts Center.
Two years after its 2007 debut and dozens of curtain calls later, The Secret Theatre is bigger and better than ever before with the addition of a new larger space, Theatre 1. The space debuted last week for The Queens Players’ delightful production of Edmond Rostand’s tragic comedy, Cyrano de Bergerac.
“We’ve turned around this place, from completely gutting it and directing the first show, in about two months,” explained Mazda, who is directing the play, when I corned him after a recent show. “A massive amount of the actors were involved with helping the building. They’re a part of our little family. The community’s been really great.”
(The original, smaller black box venue, now called The Secret Theatre Studio, will also host events, including the monthly burlesque show, which is slated for Nov. 21).
Mazda admits there are still a few kinks to be worked out in the new venue, formerly a coffee roasters cold store warehouse. “It was quite dingy,” he said. “This entire floor was torn up, the floors and walls were lined with cork. We had to dig it out, dumpster after dumpster.”
The hard work paid off. The revamped, custom-built, 3,000 square-foot facility includes a sprung stage and gallery area with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Mazda said plans for the space include hosting art shows, spoken work performances, open mic nights and other music events. “We want this to be a nice area for the audience to gather before a show and after show and open it up to other events.”
As if that weren’t enough, in addition to The Secret Theatre, Mazda’s ambitions include writing a book, directing the documentary, Live At The Gantries and releasing a retrospective album of his music.
He also hopes to launch the first Queens Fringe Festival in May.
“We already have about 15 acting companies signed up. There’s no reason why the Queens Fringe can’t be possibly more significant than the Manhattan Fringe,” Mazda said. “There’s a misnomer in New York that only good art is created in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but with acting, the reality is no!”
The art and theater world have ignored Queens for years. If Mazda has his way, this could change fast.
Cyrano de Bergerac runs through Dec. 5. Visit The Secret Theatre’s Web site for the rest of the 2009 season and a preview of the 2010 lineup, which includes Romeo & Juliet and Titus Andronicus.
The Secret Theatre | 44-02 23rd St, Long Island City | (718) 392-0722