By ERIC SCHELKOPF - comp:000049183ad5:000000023d:5016 BATAVIA – The Albright Theatre has much to celebrate as it gets ready to open its 40th season this weekend. new
Elwood P. Dowd (Jim Oberg of Batavia), Judge Gaffney (Regis Snyder of Batavia), Myrtle Mae Simmons (Lisa Duchek of Batavia) and Veta Louise Simmons (Kristen Duerdoth of Geneva) pose for a family portrait in the production of “Harvey.” (Photo provided )

BATAVIA – The Albright Theatre has much to celebrate as it gets ready to open its 40th season this weekend.

The nonprofit theater will unveil its newly created lobby as it presents its production of “Harvey,” starting Friday, Sept. 6, at its third-floor space in the Batavia Government Center at 100 N. Island Ave. in downtown Batavia.

“We are real excited to show it off for ‘Harvey,’” said Jennifer Ring, president of the Albright Theatre Board of Directors. “Before the lobby was put in, people could wander back stage. Having it creates a better experience.”

Albright Theatre has a rich history of presenting community theater. The theater’s first show, “Star Spangled Girl,” opened to eight people in April 1974 in a former church in Warrenville.

The theater had been in the Batavia Government Center for several years in the late ’80s and early ’90s before moving to the Batavia Park District’s Eastside Community Center. The theater returned to the Batavia Government Center in 2001.

Albright Theater now attracts an average of 50 to 60 people to its performances, but crowds have swelled to as many as 140 people for a single performance, Ring said. The theater has 80 permanent seats, but that can be expanded to accommodate larger crowds, she said.

People who come to the Albright Theatre this season also will notice other changes. Starting this season, Aliano’s Ristorante will serve wine and beer in the theater’s lobby for Friday and Saturday evening performances.

“We always want to offer our audience members options and make them feel at home,” Ring said. “It is just something else we can offer so people can make an evening of it. Our priority is first and foremost to provide a good experience for audience members.”

Before Saturday’s performance of “Harvey,” there will be a gala starting at 7 p.m. at the Albright Theatre, including food, drinks, a display of the Albright Theatre’s history and a toast after the show.

Founding member and box office manager Jeannine Collins has been a part of that history.

“We wanted to bring creativity to the stage, so audiences would come and enjoy what we do,” Collins said. “I can’t believe it has been 40 years. I’m so very proud of what The Albright has done. It’s grown beyond our expectations.”

Collins said Albright is dedicated to presenting quality theater to the community.

“Community theater groups do it because they love it,” she said. “They are not getting paid for it. People are invested in community theater.”

Tickets to “Harvey,” which runs through Saturday, Sept. 21, are $15 for adults and $12 for adults and seniors. They are available at Reservations to “Harvey” and the gala can be made by calling 630-406-8838.