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Buffalo's theater community ready for Curtain Up!

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Buffalo's Curtain Up! remains one of the premier theater events in the country.  WBFO's Eileen Buckley says Friday night will mark the 34th annual celebration of Buffalo's professional theater season.

We are, in fact, the only city in the country that actually has a major event like this to celebrate the opening of the theater season," said Tony Conte, President of  Shea's Performing Arts Center.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Shea's Performing Arts Center where Curtain Up! will be celebrated with dinner for 500-on stage.

Conte said Buffalo is very proud to be able to organize this large theater celebration.  An evening that showcases large and small theater venues, highlighting the many talents of the local theater community.

"Really to promote and hopefully get maybe some new people, who haven't been to theater -- who hear about the event and come with friends or because they heard about it and thought they wanted to see what it was all about," said Conte. "Hopefully they fall in love."

Curtain Up! gives theater goers options to 'build' their own evening.  More than 500 are expected attend the black-tie dinner gala on the main stage at Shea's -- that's Act 1. 

"This is probably one of the few black-tie dinner type things where they are pretty much split between corporate tables and individuals who by tickets and come," said Conte.

The event will kick off at Main and Tupper Streets with a special induction ceremony in the Theater District's Plaza of the Stars. 

"I was shocked, surprised, I couldn't believe it was happening when they told me,"said Javier Bustillos, Founder of the Buffalo United Artist.  For 25-years he has also written theater news for Artvoice and will be honored with a star.

Credit Photo provided by Javier Bustillos.
Javier Bustillos, Founder of the BUA.

"As it gets closer, it's like really, is this really happening?," said Bustillos. 

Bustillos will be honored among other great national and local theater celebrities already inducted in the Plaza.

"Oh there's a lot of special people. It goes all the way from Christine Baranski, Katherine Cornell, Michael Bennett and, of course, our local people, Saul Elkin, Neal Radice, Lorna Hill, David Lamb. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
BUA actors in the recent performance of Bette & Joan.

BUA pushes beyond the edges of traditional theater, created to cultivate local voices of the LGBT community. It features male actors performing as women.

"And kind of like became what I did, and it was not my purpose to do that, but eventually it became our goal and our mission and the good think was the community was the one who recognized us as being that," said Bustillos.
Act 2 of Curtain Up is the live theater performances. More than 19-professional theaters are participating. 

Kelli Bocock-Natale is Artistic Director at New Phoenix Theater. "Something new is that they really went back to something, and that's focusing on the theaters. There, for a while, the event itself was kind of gearing toward the dinner and the party afterwards, and not enough focus on why the whole thing got started," said Bocock-Natale. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Kelli Bocock-Natale, Artistic Director at New Phoenix Theatre appears in the WBFO studio to discuss Curtain Up!

New Phoenix is celebrating a special milestone as it is about to open its 20th season.  Bocock-Natle is directing The Real Thing by Play write Tom Stoppard.

"It's a beautiful play," said Bocock-Natale. "It's an award-winning play, and the thing about Stoppard is he's such a wonderful writer. We had a full audience last night at our tech rehearsal and they loved it.'

When the curtain comes down on the stages at 10 p.m. Friday Act 3 of Curtain Up! begins.

Shea's President Conte said that's when a Free Street Party begins with fireworks at 10:45 p.m. 

WBFO News asked Conte what his favorite part of Curtain Up! is for him. "Frankly, I love the street party," responded Conte. "It's open to everybody that wants to come. I've had guest in town comment that they've never seen a party like that with people in tuxes and people in cutoffs and T-shirts, and people from ever walk of life and every ethnicity and they're all having a great time."

The party will feature the many actors, directors, singers  and dancers from the theater community, plus music and food trucks.

"The idea of a new theater seasons is always exciting and it's so much a part of me," said Bocock-Natale. I'm so blessed to be part of this Buffalo theater community.'

"I've been a theater goer since age four and I think theater is the best thing. You should go to the theater everyday, if you can and see everything. I love the theater," said Bustillos.