To restore and maintain Shea’s Buffalo Theatre for present and future generations to enjoy as a working historic theatre providing a wide variety of live performing arts experiences for our patrons and innovative and effective educational experiences fostering an appreciation of live theatre by area youth.
For the first twenty years of Shea’s Buffalo Theatre’s existence, the theatre was one of the finest in the country, but slowly fell into disarray in the late 1960’s. Friends of Shea’s were able to secure funding to ensure the building was listed as a National Historic Site, and did what they could to save it from demolition by installing new carpeting, removing fabric from walls and upholstering the seats, but it wasn’t until 1995 that “The Wonder Theatre” was shown some love.
Fabric torn, paint peeling, chandeliers missing – the Shea’s Interior Restoration program commenced. Not only was it the obvious wear and tear of seven decades, but also any modifications that were attempted over the years, were not authentic to the original grandeur of the theatre. Utilizing volunteers, who were trained on-site to replicate painted finishes, plaster mold production and castings and faux painting techniques, efforts were underway to restore the Tiffany-designed interior to its original splendor. Skills and experience were not a requirement of the troops of volunteers, only their time and interest in learning the art of restoration – the key to the project; that, and a lot of elbow grease!
While much was taught to the volunteers, much was also shared with eventual techniques used in mold making and casting, wood refinishing, sewing and even lending a technological hand with designing the border for the new Grand Drape. While outside contractors were utilized in the high ceiling and side walls of the theatre’s auditorium, the bulk of the work was accomplished by the restoration volunteers; to date they have restored the ceilings and side walls on all five levels as well as the orchestra level ceiling and side walls. Over 7,000 square feet of walls were painstakingly covered with a replica of an original stencil and hand-painted.
Volunteers came from (and continue to come from) all walks of life, including retirees and even those assigned to community service from city courts. The longest continuous volunteer donated his time and energy for 18 years! The program also incorporates high school students who are able to fulfill their service learning requirements. A class is taught at Shea’s Buffalo in “Historic Surface Treatments” for Villa Maria College’s Interior Design Department. Some students from the University at Buffalo’s Architecture Department have come as interns as well.
Because we have had the luxury of time and many hands over the twenty plus years since the Interior Restoration program started, we have been able to incorporate original pieces and make exact replicas of details to restore the theatre to its original décor and color palette as Tiffany intended. Advantages of the volunteer program include: no shut down of shows or events by having a flexible schedule where ladders and scaffolding are removed and reinstalled whenever necessary, quality of work that equals that of professional craftspeople due to the training they receive, a proprietorship develops that will continue to involve them in the preservation of this jewel of Buffalo’s architecture, and it has been a huge cost savings to the theatre.
It is a continuing treasure hunt in both replacing missing pieces and lost works of interior art, as well as finding new “easter eggs” hidden inside the walls of this opulent building in downtown Buffalo. We at Shea’s remain eternally grateful to those hands who have helped, nurtured and loved this building – bringing it back to life one stencil at a time, under the careful guidance of our beloved restoration consultant (who can double as our resident historian).
MICHAEL G. MURPHY joined Shea’s Performing Arts Center as President in October of 2016. He previously served as Managing Director of the Tony-Award winning Old Globe Theatre in San Diego from 2011 and as its General Manager beginning in 2003. Prior to the Globe, he was the Managing Director of Austin Lyric Opera in Austin, Texas; Director of Administration of San Diego Opera; and General Manager of San Diego Repertory Theatre. Before relocating to San Diego from New York City, he held similar positions at Theatre for a New Audience and the Joyce Theater Foundation’s American Theater Exchange. He also served as negotiating assistant for the League of Resident Theatres and sales representative for Columbia Artists Theatricals Corporation. Mr. Murphy serves on the Board of Directors of the Theatre District Association of Western New York and the National Alliance of Musical Theatre. He has also served on the Board of Directors of National Corporate Theatre Fund, the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, and as a Management Trustee for San Diego County Theatrical Trusts, the pension and welfare trust for IATSE stagehands in the San Diego region. He was also an adjunct faculty member of the Music Department at the University of San Diego. Mr. Murphy earned his B.F.A. degree in Stage Management from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, and his M.F.A. in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.
John joined Shea’s in 1999 as Vice President of Finance and Administration. He was hired to oversee Shea’s finances, human resources and computer systems. In 2004 he added the responsibilities of the ticketing system and the box office. John also house manages and can be seen working in some capacity at many of Shea’s events. In 1986 he graduated from Canisius College with a dual degree in Accounting and Finance. He obtained his CPA license in 1988. From Public accounting he spent two years in banking with Empire of America, then moved on to work at the World Headquarters of Varity Corporation where he held several positions until their sale and closure of the Buffalo offices in 1999. To John, Shea’s is not just a job but also a hobby. He has been involved in various restoration projects and creating window displays.
A member of Shea’s Senior Management Team since 2013, John Schaller is an executive-level award winner with impressive and quantifiable successes in fundraising, marketing, organizational advancement, and donor development. A strategic thinker currently administering Shea’s Donor Development Programs, John overseas all fundraising initiatives including the Annual Fund, Major Gifts, Sponsorships, Grants, Encore Events, Planned Giving, and more.
Prior to joining Shea’s Performing Arts Center, John served as Vice President of Direct Marketing for M&T Bank. Before moving back to Buffalo, the majority of John’s experience was obtained while serving as Executive Vice President of The Lukens Company, a direct response marketing and fundraising agency in Arlington, Virginia. From marketing strategy and multi-channel fundraising to communications and relationship building, John was charged with guiding the strategic and operational plans of the entire company. But some of his proudest moments came managing campaigns responsible for raising over $100 million for organizations such as the Martin Luther King, Jr National Memorial, the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and more than a dozen Performing Arts Centers across the country..
John earned his Master of Arts from Washington DC’s American University, following a Bachelor of Arts from Canisius College. A member of the American Association of Fundraising Professionals, he has also served on the Board of the Theatre District Association of WNY and as Chairman of Curtain Up! Buffalo. A recent graduate of the Leadership Buffalo Class of 2017, John is committed to playing his part in the resurgence happening all across Western New York.
Robert has served on the senior management team at Shea’s Performing Arts Center since July 2015 where he oversees: Building Maintenance, Restoration & Environmental Services; the Events & Hospitality department, the Volunteer Program; and Facility Rentals at all three venues: Shea’s Buffalo Theatre, Shea’s 710 Theatre and Shea’s Smith Theatre.
Prior to his employment at Shea’s, Robert worked at Theatre of Youth (TOY), Buffalo’s only non-profit professional theatre company dedicated to creating live theatre experiences for young people and families. From 2000-2015, Robert served TOY’s mission in several administrative roles including Managing Director for 11 years, where he led the organization in collaboration with Artistic Director Meg Quinn. His first job in arts administration was as a Subscription Sales Representative for the former Studio Arena Theatre from 1998-2000—years later he is honored to be overseeing its operations as Shea’s 710 Theatre.
Robert was graduated from Medaille College with an MBA, received a B.S. in Biology from Niagara University and was certified in Program Planning & Proposal Writing through the Grantsmanship Training Center. He has served the theatre community as Chair of Curtain Up!, President of the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo, and as a steering committee member of Arts Partners for Learning. Robert is currently a Board member of the Theatre District Association and a proud grant review panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant program facilitated by Arts Services Initiative of Western New York.
Thembi Duncan is an arts administrator, director, actor, and teaching artist with over fifteen years of experience synthesizing theatre, American history, and social justice in and around Washington, D.C. Leadership highlights include serving as Creative Programs Director of Young Playwrights’ Theater, Producing Artistic Director of African Continuum Theatre Company, and Lead Teaching Artist at historic Ford’s Theatre. She directed and performed in numerous productions during her career, most memorably of plays by Pulitzer Award-winning playwrights Lynn Nottage, Dael Orlandersmith, August Wilson, and Ayad Akhtar. Her adjudication and mentorship efforts include projects with the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Prince George’s County Theatre Festival, the Mead Theatre Lab Program, and National History Day. She proudly served on the TheatreWashington Helen Hayes Awards Board of Governors for two terms and co-founded the biannual Black Theatre & Dance Symposium at the University of Maryland with Scot Reese, Head of Performance. Ms. Duncan holds a B.A. in Theatre, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Maryland.