By George Basler

Johnson City’s planning board has given the green light to the Goodwill Theatre Inc.’s plan to erect a tent for live outdoor performances this spring and summer. At its Feb. 23 meeting, the board unanimously approved both a special use permit and a site plan for the project, allowing it to proceed.

The approvals came after a public hearing, done over Zoom, at which no one spoke for, or against, the project. “I’m very happy and pleased we’ll be able to move forward,” Goodwill CEO Naima Kradjian said after the votes.

The plan calls for Goodwill to put up a 40-foot by 90-foot tent in the 46 Willow St. parking lot of the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage, which is Goodwill’s main performance space. The tent would house live performances from May through the end of September.

Erecting the tent will allow the Goodwill Theatre to resume its mission of being a performing arts center that hosts local groups and brings touring performers to the region, Kradjian said. Such events have been on hold since March 2020 when the Firehouse Stage suspended indoor performances because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Discussion at the planning board meeting focused on curfew times for the outdoor performances. The resolution, approved by the board, sets an 8:30 p.m. cutoff time Sundays through Thursdays and a 10 p.m. cutoff time Fridays and Saturdays.

Putting up the tent is “our plan for our survival,” Kradjian told the planning board. “We feel people will be more apt to come if the show is in the open air,” she noted, adding audiences are starved for live entertainment. Goodwill would also rent the tent — for $1 per event — to Tri-Cities Opera and the Binghamton Philharmonic.

The planning board’s action means Goodwill has cleared one hurdle to erect the tent, Kradjian said, but others remain. The company now must work with Broome County and New York state on the requirements for low-risk outdoor activities. If Goodwill can operate at 50 percent capacity, audiences could total 100 persons, she said, but the company has also budgeted to have capacity limited to 50 persons.

Also, while the company has raised enough money to erect the tent, it must needs some $75,000 to put in a new parking lot on neighboring Broad Street, Kradjian said. Goodwill Inc. will be looking for major donors and is considering a crowdsourcing effort, she said. Anyone wishing to make a donation should call the Goodwill Theatre at 607-772-2404, ext. 305.

On a practical note, the company plans to install a security fence and security cameras for the tent.

Meanwhile, the company is finalizing its performance schedule for the spring and summer, Kradjian said. Events in the works include:

  • The resumption of the popular Monday night jazz concerts featuring local and regional performers,
  • A tribute concert for pop/folk singer Harry Chapin,
  • A tribute concert for jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan,
  • A Cole Porter concert featuring the Mason Warrington Orchestra and
  • The East Coast premiere of Ghost Factory, a dance work about Johnson City featuring an internationally known dance company.

Goodwill is also working with SRO Productions III on a plan to stage the children’s musical Honk!, on the based Ugly Duckling fairytale. Local puppeteer Robert Rogers would create marionettes for the production, Kradian said.

Finally, Kradjian is busily working to book a series of comedians for shows throughout the warm weather months. “We’re going to be heavy on the comedy, because the community needs it,” she said.