As the historic and recently renovated Suffolk Theater in Riverhead celebrates its first anniversary, owners Dianne and Bob Castaldi have made some bold staffing decisions. Dan Binderman has taken the helm as general and artistic director and Riverhead local Diane Tucci steps up as director of marketing.
“Like any new enterprise, the first year is always challenging,” says Dianne Castaldi. “There was definitely a learning curve. But we are deeply committed to this theater and its success in Riverhead, as well as the revitalization of the downtown area. We reevaluated the situation and made some changes.”
Binderman, who comes to the theater with a wealth of knowledge from his time at World Music Institute, The Knitting Factory, NY POPS and other prestigious performance venues, shares the Castaldis’ vision. “I want this to be a hub, to draw people from the cities.” To that end the theater is investing in big-name entertainment. They recently hosted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Booker T. On the docket are Grammy-winner Shaun Colvin (April 11) and blues singer Mavis Staples (March 29), with more celebrated entertainers to follow.
“This theater has the potential to become one of the great concert halls, like the Fillmore in New York or Whiskey A Go Go in Chicago,” says Binderman, who grew up in Westchester and did his graduate studies in Arts Management at NYU. “Long Island is one of the biggest metropolitan areas on its own, excluding the boroughs.”
He’s planning to increase the scope of genres presented at the theater, scheduling evenings featuring dance bands, salsa, comedy, rock, folk festivals, and film. “We want to serve a broad population,” he says. The theater, with its full service bar and state-of-the-art kitchen is already established as a sought-after venue for weddings and benefits.
Binderman has a wide interest in the arts. He’s an accomplished guitarist, adept at finger-style jazz blues and has also worked as a jingle singer. With a strong belief in the importance of the arts as a part of a well-rounded life, he’s also active in philanthropic arts organizations.
Tucci, an accomplished professional photographer, honed her skills as marketing manager for jazz legend Al Di Meola. With 20 years of media experience and a strong graphic design background, she and Binderman have already revamped their marketing outreach plan. But she also brings a deeply heartfelt connection to the theater. It’s not just a building to her, Tucci says. “It’s where I spent many rainy Saturdays watching movies as a kid. It was a place to go to feed my imagination and dream.” She understands the value a performing arts venue can bring and is working hard to spread the word. “I’m really invested in providing a world-class cultural and arts experience for my children (and) the entire region.”
There will be much to celebrate at the 1st Anniversary Gala, March 1, featuring dinner and dancing to the music of Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. In keeping with last year’s opening gala, and the vintage of the theater, attendees are encouraged to wear Jazz Age clothes to this “After Hours Speakeasy.”
“It’s going to be a very exciting season,” Binderman says. “But I want the programming to speak for itself.” And it already does. In addition to bringing in high profile names, he says they are also looking forward to developing educational and children’s programming.
“We are approaching our first anniversary with tremendous enthusiasm,” Castaldi says. “I think we have put together a dynamic team and we are looking forward to a great season.”
Binderman agrees. “I think we have every advantage here. We have great food and wine. We are at the crossroads: the best of all worlds right here and the best opportunity to bring so many artists to one of the best concert halls I have seen… to create a destination. I want folks to come and support us with their feet!”