Clare Bisceglia fell in love in 2002.
Having been immersed in the world of the performing arts for her entire career, Ms. Bisceglia said she was searching for what to do with the next chapter of her life when she took a walking tour of the then recently renovated Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. She recalled knowing immediately that she wanted to be a part of the operation.
“It is a magical place,” Ms. Bisceglia said of the 425-seat theater, of which she knows every nook and cranny. “I have been in theaters around the world, and I can honestly tell you that the PAC is my favorite performance space.”
Now, 10 years after becoming executive director of the PAC, Ms. Bisceglia, 63, is looking to commemorate her decade at the helm of the theater—which she considers her home—by establishing a theater refurbishment fund. The goal of the new fund, she said, is to raise $250,000 in donations over the next few months to finance an assortment of improvements to the interior of the Main Street building.
“We do everything possible to make sure the theater is in perfect condition for our patrons and our artists,” said Ms. Bisceglia, who lives in Quogue. “But after a while, wear and tear starts to show through. So, when the board asked me how do I want to celebrate my tenth year here, I said, ‘I want a face-lift for the theater.’”
If all goes as planned, the financing will be in place to complete the renovations in January. As part of the project, the interior of the theater will be painted, the stage floor will be refinished, carpet will be replaced throughout the venue, and a new lighting system will replace the outdated system in the main lobby and hall.
“Everything will be restored and refreshed,” Ms. Bisceglia said.
She noted that she is excited about the pending upgrades because, next summer, the PAC will be celebrating its 15th anniversary. It officially opened its doors on July 4, 1998. Ms. Bisceglia estimates that the pending renovations will carry the theater for at least another 15 years—if not longer.
“We are still in our infancy,” she said of the PAC. “We have so many plans and years of growth ahead.”
To commemorate next year’s milestone, Ms. Bisceglia and her team are planning several events. According to Jodi Giambrone, the PAC’s manager of press and artist relations, both the theater’s children’s and senior groups will put on performances next year, and every month between next March and October will feature a special anniversary performance. Ms. Giambrone said the theater is still working on the line-up for next year, but noted that she and others are excited about the possibilities being discussed.
“The 15th anniversary is going to be a huge year,” Ms. Giambrone said. “There is going to be a lot of traffic coming to the theater, so we want everything to be in tip-top shape.”
According to Ms. Bisceglia, members of the PAC’s Board of Directors will begin reaching out to patrons and longtime supporters of the theater and start raising funds. Ms. Bisceglia said she is confident that the community will support her ambitious initiative, one that she is billing as her gift back to the theater, and its many patrons, both of which have given her so much enjoyment over the past decade.
“We set the bar very high at the PAC,” Ms. Bisceglia said. “That is not only based on the artist, but the experience. It is important we are never anything less than absolutely perfect. It is a perfect place—a rare jewel.”
The PAC operates on an estimated $3 million annual budget, half of which must be raised through donations each year, and employs about a dozen full-time employees. Those workers are assisted by a small army of volunteers who organize fundraisers each year and also volunteer their time at the theater prior to, during and after performances.
For now, Ms. Bisceglia said she intends to enjoy her 10th anniversary and notes that, during most performances, she can be found sitting in a folding chair behind the last row of seats on the lower level, her favorite place in the theater. She explained that, from there, she can see the audience and the artists at the same time, and she can feel the electricity.
“Without Clare’s leadership, we could never have made it this far,” Ms. Giambrone said. “She’s a beacon of light not only for the WHBPAC, but for the entire community.”
Those wishing to contribute to the PAC’s refurbishment fund should contact Ms. Bisceglia at (631) 288-2350, ext. 113.