Beyond The Chair with Pam Allen

July 25, 2022

A 30-year Love Affair with Theater and Broadway Utica Began at The Stanley

The smell of warm vinyl, diesel fuel, and tootsie roll pops filled the air as a young Pam Allen boarded the school bus. It was years ago, middle school perhaps, but everything about the day is embedded in her mind. It was a school field trip to The Stanley Theatre to see her first musical, 1776. Their history teacher instructed them to take notes on scenes and identify parts of the American Revolution they’d covered in their classroom lesson. But Allen saw more than what was presented. Allen saw the way the outfits gleamed under the lights, the golden buttons, the dance-like movements, and the words, which were carefully constructed to capture their attention and convey the story the actors wanted the audience to know. The performance became her gateway to the theater, so much so that she’s remained a faithful subscriber to Broadway Utica for over 30 years. 

“It’s hard to put into words the feeling a performance brings. It’s authentic. There’s no editing. Like life, if something goes wrong during the show they have to quickly find a way to make it work and keep rolling – often no one is the wiser. The unique costume designs and beautiful scenery takes you out of your seat and transports you into this new place of discovery. It’s enrapturing.”

Once Allen was given a taste of theater she looked for ways to incorporate it wherever she went. In college, she discovered $5 seats. They were nose bleeds but they satisfied the need to experience live theater. As a mother, she delved into the world of matinees and introduced her son to magical shows, like Aladdin. But it was as a teacher that Allen went full circle and gave her students the gift someone had given her years ago.  

“When I first started teaching I’d get a big van and take a group of my students to see a show. We’d sit in the balcony and I’d watch as they’d experience live theater for the first time. It was always interesting to hear their take on the show, their experience, and their connection to it.”

Years later, now retired from the Utica City School District, she’d hear from students and listen as they thanked her for an opportunity that otherwise may not have happened.

“To me, everything is a potential job. That’s how teachers think. If it intrigues students it might inspire something further that attracts a student to a career. The theater is constantly evolving. Now they’re becoming more technical, which is amazing to see. They’re doing things I would have never imagined possible years ago, and that connection just might land with a student. It’s more than an experience, something with a community, it’s doors of possibility.”

Enamored with performances like Kiss of the Spider Woman and Evita, Allen made the investment for herself and purchased a season subscription. 

“As I look back, I can’t imagine not being a subscriber. I’ve experienced so many great plays and performances. Losing that access during COVID was an awakening. I missed all that comes with experiencing live music and action, including the evening out and discussion you have with neighboring subscribers.”

After 20 years, Allen gave up her original seats and upgraded her subscription to seats that were front and center and included her mother, Maria Giglio.  

“I have a special affiliation with our seats. They’re a special part of us now. The visibility is incredible and we’ve built a nice rapport with our neighbors. There’s something about walking into the theater and knowing where your seats are and who you’ll be sitting next to that make them feel welcoming – as if you’re home. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to give that up.”  

Thirty-plus years later, Allen has seen several changes develop inside the theater. She remembers pre-show dinners at Fort Schuyler, artist showcases before and after performances, and dessert and coffee discussions between intermission. While she hopes those perks will come back one day, she’s happy to enjoy the luxury of her velvet seat and taking in the shows she’s enjoyed exploring all these years. And, while she’s anticipating the 2022-2023 season, there’s something extra powerful in knowing she’ll be in the same theater, near the same seats, settling in to see 1776 – the one performance that started it all right in the very same spot years ago. 


Written by: T.K. Millo & Co.


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