By Taylor Beglane and Aminata Fall
When Dan Ostrander got inklings that the Bow Tie Cinema, the Babylon movie theater he managed, was going to close, he scrambled to find ways to save it. One tactic was to put on a shadowcast — a live performance in front of a film being played — of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” the last Saturday of every month for a year. It sold out every month.
Bow Tie ended up closing in September 2014, unable to compete with nearby multiplex Regal Cinemas. Two months later, father and son duo Mark and Dylan Perlman showed up with their architect, their structural engineer and others to check out the closed venue. That’s when Ostrander knew things were serious. The Perlmans bought the place in 2017 and fully renovated it into a performing arts center.
“We wanted to bring Broadway to Babylon,” Ostrander, who is now the company manager and director of operations, said. “And I think that we’re doing it.”
Now, Argyle Theatre is in the middle of its first yearly season with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” It previously showcased titles like “Guys and Dolls” and “Hairspray,” pulling talent from both Broadway veterans and local performers.
Dylan Perlman has been acting since he was 7, and theater holds a special place in his heart. “Today we have amazing technology and lights and sounds and such,” he said, “but going back to the most ancient of storytelling and live theater is something that I just think is very much a part of our human experience.”
The Perlmans hope to bring in starpower by working with the Actors Equity Association, the same union that represents Broadway performers. Actor Colin Anderson, who just debuted on Broadway in “Carousel,” plays the titular Quasimodo. Equity contracts come with health coverage and pensions, an expensive investment for the theater, according to Dylan.
Being an Equity member isn’t appealing to all actors. Local ones like Bobby Peterson, who plays Frederick in “Hunchback,” still prefers to work outside of an union despite meeting the qualifications to join.
“There’s pros and cons to Equity, because once you’re actually in the union, then you’re bound by a lot of union rules,” Peterson, said. “I think non-union works for me because it allows you to also be open to do any theater that you want.”
The theatre is two minutes away from the Babylon train station, allowing audience members to enjoy shows without having to go to the city.
“The acting is definitely on par with Broadway shows,” attendee Erin Donahue said.
Argyle also hosts a children’s theater, youth acting classes and brings in school classes for matinee viewings. “All arts try to get more youth involved, more youth to go to the theater,” Evan Pappas, the artistic director, said. “There are some people who still think we’re a movie theater.”
Pappas was an original cast member of Broadway hit “Parade” and has starred in and written numerous touring shows. He met the Perlmans in the cast of “On Golden Pond,” where Pappas starred and Dylan played an extra. Pappas and the Perlmans worked together to decide the shows in each season.
“We thought it was our first year, and we thought, ‘Do we take a risk?’” Pappas said of “Hunchback.”
“And I’m glad we did. I do think, as heavy as it is, I think it’s a beautiful message.”