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CoHo, Third Rail and PETE Have United to Type the Cuomo Theatre Collaborative, Named for the Late Philip Cuomo

“It’s an extended, lovely and heartbreaking story.” That is how Maureen Porter would characterize the formation of the Cuomo Theatre Collaborative, the newest addition to Portland’s vibrant however typically hard-up theater scene.

The CTC contains a triumvirate of Portland corporations: CoHo Productions, Third Rail Repertory Theatre, and Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble. The collaborative can be based mostly on the CoHo Theatre on Northwest Raleigh Road and is at the moment within the course of of buying the constructing.

The institution of the CTC—and its eventual possession of the property in Northwest—secures the way forward for the three theaters and predicts a wealth of latest alternatives for Portland artists. Notably, the CTC cements the legacy of Philip Cuomo, CoHo’s longtime chief and a beloved actor, director and mentor to numerous Portland theater artists, together with members of Third Rail and PETE.

Cuomo died in late 2021 following an extended battle with lymphoma. His passing left a gap within the coronary heart of Portland’s theater group. “The CTC got here from a shared need to hitch collectively and full Philip’s imaginative and prescient,” says Porter, the managing inventive director at Third Rail, who was married to Cuomo for 14 years.

Way back to 2018, Cuomo labored on a capital marketing campaign to allow CoHo to buy the constructing. Whilst his well being worsened, Cuomo was adamant that CoHo would purchase the constructing.

“There was a degree the place we acknowledged that his sickness was not going to be one thing we might have the ability to make it via,” Porter says. In June 2021, Cuomo was hospitalized after struggling a stroke. With out CoHo’s inventive director on the helm, assist from the theater’s board of administrators wavered. The sale stagnated, and for a second it regarded as if Cuomo’s imaginative and prescient can be left unfinished.

“What occurred subsequent,” Porter says, “is that this group of individuals—who coalesced across the take care of this man and his imaginative and prescient—got here collectively and talked about the best way to make it proceed.”

Cuomo’s sisters, Michele Cuomo and Lisa Gabel, stepped in. Collectively, they created the Philip Cuomo Household Basis to boost funds for the acquisition of the constructing. In the meantime, CoHo’s board was dissolved and a brand new one assembled. Final spring, the inspiration purchased the property for $2.5 million, a steal given the theater’s prime location in Portland’s fashionable Slabtown neighborhood.

The CTC views itself as taking a stand towards the rising tide of gentrification and the aftershocks of the pandemic, which has precipitated many efficiency areas to shut. Finally, the inspiration plans to switch possession of the constructing to the CTC. “This theater will serve all theater artists at any level of their path,” Michele Cuomo says.

For nicely over 20 years, theater artists have discovered a house at CoHo, an “incubator” area that produces work based mostly on artist submissions. Third Rail is house to a few of Portland’s most interesting actors and provides a mentorship program for rising artists (of which, full disclosure, I’m a beneficiary). PETE, in the meantime, creates invigorating new works that defy style and homes the Institute for Modern Efficiency, a yearlong coaching program.

Whereas the three theaters have very totally different missions, all of them function on an analogous scale. Ideally, the CTC will turn out to be greater than a sum of its components. “We’re daring to do one thing totally different in selecting to imagine in collaboration and group,” says Cristi Miles, a co-founder of PETE who calls herself a “endlessly scholar” of Cuomo’s. “It’s a lot tougher than operating a person group.”

The CTC is not going to simply notice Cuomo’s dream however develop on it. At the moment, the group is engaged on a renovation of the constructing with Opsis Structure—the agency that designed the Patricia Reser Middle for the Arts in Beaverton.

Phil Johnson, CoHo’s program director, says the CTC desires to create area that’s accessible to each artists and group members. The plans are nonetheless in early phases, however the renovation will seemingly embody a studio area for rehearsals and the ICP program, in addition to workplace area and a standard space and cafe that will be open to the group.

Johnson says when he asks artists round city what they suppose Portland is lacking, the reply is at all times the identical: area. “What town wants is a group of rising artists which have entry to assets. That’s an issue the CTC is right here to repair,” Johnson says.

The CTC is at the moment fundraising for the renovation. The timeline for the undertaking is a number of years—4 at the least—however when the renovation is completed, the end result will hopefully be a boon to theater artists and audiences alike.

Finally, Jonson sees the CTC as an funding in group: “If you concentrate on being an artist on this city, the place do you go to be in group with different artists? The place is the theater epicenter of Portland? We imagine that it will likely be right here.”

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