Samrov retires from the Glove Theatre
GLOVERSVILLE — The Glove Theatre’s executive director of nearly a decade, Richard Samrov, is retiring, but he said his work preserving the history of the theater is far from over.
“I will work in the museum, maybe go to Florida for the winter and help with the transition,” Samrov said while discussing his retirement with the new board president Laurie Lazinski at the theater on Aug. 22. “It will be exciting to be able to sit down and enjoy going to the theater, it’s going to be wonderful.”
Samrov and his wife, JoAnn, resigned from the Glove Performing Arts Center Board of Directors on Aug. 20, but he will continue to serve as the curator of the Glove Theatre Museum.
Although Samrov has been the executive director of the theater on North Main Street since 2009, his first ambition was to preserve the history of the 104 year-old-theater through the opening of the Glove Theatre Museum in 2003.
“I started the museum to show the young people in the community what used to be here,” Samrov said.
“You were the first one that got me to come to a show and I fell in love with the theater,” Lazinski pointed out.
The Glove was built in 1914 as a live performance venue for opera, Vaudeville shows and orchestral concerts. The theater was later purchased and converted into a movie house in the 1920s. The theater was sold again in the 1960s due to low ticket sales before closing in 1976.
In 1995, a group of locals formed the Gloversville Theatre Corporation, establishing the theater as a community based not-for-profit organization and initiated a restoration project throughout the building that has continued through today.
While fondly recounting the history of the theater, Samrov noted that his own history with theater stretches back past his birth to the days when his grandfather was a Vaudeville performer.
“I have a passion for the theater business,” Samrov said. “It’s embedded in my DNA.”
Samrov’s history with the Glove started when he took a job as an usher during his teenage years. The Gloversville native left the area in 1959 to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, but returned each summer to work at the theater.
“People that lived here reconnect with the theater when they come back,” Samrov said. “Maybe that’s why I’m here today.”
Samrov’s final year at the theater was in 1962 before he started working in the fashion industry first as a designer of ready to wear for 7th Avenue, then as a buyer of children’s wear for Lord and Taylor and finally he returned to Gloversville working as an apprentice for St. Thomas Fine Leather Inc.
Samrov worked for St. Thomas for 28 years, finishing his career as the head of research and development, but retirement never stopped Samrov as he went from the fashion industry to a new career as a special education aid at Gloversville Middle School.
Samrov retired as an aid after 13 years, but continued working as a substitute teacher at the middle school until 2016.
“In the meantime I was doing this,” Samrov said gesturing to the theater building. “I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to do what I love to do. I have a wonderful family that supports me in my endeavors.”
Six years after he established the theater museum with grant funding, Samrov took over as executive director of the theater in 2009 at a time when the theater’s future was in doubt due to lapses in insurance coverage and utilities.
“When I took over it was like taking over a whole new theater and we had to form a whole new board,” Samrov said. “It wasn’t easy.”
“My wife has been an asset right beside me,” he added.
Samrov focused on reorganizing the theater and bringing utilities and insurance policies up to date. He said that finding financial support was difficult at that point, so it was necessary to staff the theater with only volunteers, mostly board members, who also performed cleaning, repair and renovation work throughout the building.
Samrov concentrated on producing programming at no cost to the theater that would generate funds that could be used to cover utility fees. Typical programming included concerts, the battle of the bands, community plays and holiday events.
“Anything that would bring people in,” he said.
As attendance increased, the theater was able to pay performers and fund licensed theater productions. He noted that ticket sales paid to keep the building open, but were insufficient to provide for the theater’s much needed repair and renovation work that was ultimately funded by community donations.
“The community was very supportive. What they could give they gave,” Samrov said. “The building is the most important, it needs to be maintained. What good is a theater if there isn’t a building to perform in?”
Samrov and the board focused on making cost saving improvements, like replacing an old oil furnace that cost nearly $100 a day to run and switching to LEDs, and essential maintenance, like repairing roof leaks as they occur.
“Keeping the theater open was my goal, and it is and it will be,” Samrov said. “[Lazinski] is going to be a good board president. They’re going to continue my dreams and the vision and the vision of the community.”
Lazinski and the board plan to focus on continuing repair work over the fall and winter now that the theater’s 2018 season has drawn to a close and will prepare to submit grant applications in the spring to fund further renovation work.
“The Glove really is the foundation of downtown,” Lazinski said. “The theater has such a rich history and we want to see that continue. I want this to be the weekend place to be.”
“It’s a gem,” Samrov added. “If you have a community theater you have to keep it going.”
Lazinski said the board will not seek to replace the executive director position currently, instead absorbing Samrov’s duties among the 11 current members. She said the board plans to get more involved with the community through local events and will gather input to direct future activities at the Glove.
She added that Samrov will continue to be part of the Glove Theatre while serving as the curator of the museum.
“It means a lot to the board to have Richard’s support. We could not continue without the foundation he laid for us,” Lazinski said.