The Arts

Stained-glass windows revealed at theater

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Charlie Scheer, member of the North Fork Community Theatre board of directors, in front of the two original stained-glass windows long believed to be broken.

When North Fork Community Theatre volunteer Charlie Scheer removed the building’s rotting marquee for repairs last month, he thought he’d find a lot of broken glass.

That’s because, he said, people said that over the years, while building sets, they’d hear the “tinkling” of breaking glass as they nailed into the plywood that covered a window on the Mattituck theater’s front wall, behind the marquee.

As Mr. Scheer and his son, David, worked with a bucket truck and a sawzall to remove the marquee — piece by piece — more and more of a stained-glass window was revealed.

“I kept saying, ‘It must be broken further up,’ ” Mr. Scheer, a member of the theater’s board of directors, recalled during an interview last week in front of the window. “It’s quite the surprise.”

The colorful window, more than 15 feet tall, has an intricate design that includes religious symbols: a cross and crown and alpha and omega. The window has suffered only minimal damage, only a few nicks and a small hole toward the bottom that’s believed to have been created by a squirrel. Mr. Scheer believes the squirrel had been trapped there for a very long time because he found its petrified remains.

A second, smaller stained-glass window uncovered during the renovation also appears to be in good condition.

The theater occupies a former church on Old Sound Avenue, near Love Lane, and the 19th-century structure is undergoing its most intensive renovation since an arsonist set fire to the back of the building in the mid-1980s, Mr. Scheer said. Since then, theater officials have offered scholarships to local students as a way to thank the community for helping them rebuild after the fire.

The amateur theatrical group, which started in Greenport about 56 years ago, moved to its current location in 1961.

Last year, with the help of donations from community supporters, the group was able to purchase the building from Mattituck Presbyterian Church for $465,000. Then last month, the theater received financial support from Emilie and Michael Corey. The couple donated $100,000 outright to help fund the theater’s much-needed renovations and agreed to match all other donations, up to $300,000, through December 2015. That means as much as $700,000 could go toward the theater’s “Building on Tradition” renovation campaign.

“The outside is the first thing we worked on and a treasure pops up,” said NFCT president Mary Motto Kalich. “It’s a really good talisman that good things are coming.”

Ms. Kalich said the window’s trim will be painted white when Bryan Danstrup, owner of Bryan Danstrup Custom House Painting in Riverhead, repaints the building’s exterior this month.

Another marquee or sign will also be constructed, since the old one couldn’t be salvaged.

As the theater’s board continues to discuss the newly discovered windows’ future, Mr. Scheer said he’s visited local churches to learn how they protect their stained-glass features.

“Personally, I’d like to see them preserved,” he said. “It would be a shame to see them destroyed.”

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