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Airport Playhouse lands at CM Arts Center

Ed and Terry Brennan in 2004 when they

Ed and Terry Brennan in 2004 when they took over as owners of Airport Playhouse with their sons Lucas, left, and Zak. handout Credit: None/

Noel Ruiz had "no idea" that Airport Playhouse was about to close after 33 years - not until he got a call from Ed and Terry Brennan just before Thanksgiving.

Ruiz, executive director of CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, says the Brennans primarily wanted a new home for their subscribers. "But they also wanted to continue working in Long Island theater," Ruiz says.

As president of CM's board of directors, Ruiz brought the proposition up for a vote. Two weeks later, a deal was announced: The Brennans, husband-and-wife co-

producers at Airport, would join CM.

At a time when arts groups everywhere are struggling or folding - the Long Island Philharmonic recently decided for forgo its season - CM's move to expand seems bold. But to Ruiz, it was a no-brainer.

"I think we've improved our level of production over the years," he says, "but we haven't increased our audience."

Meanwhile, in the six years since the Brennans took over the Bohemia stage from Amy and Bill McGrath, "We've tripled our number of subscribers," says Ed Brennan, to 450. "We're very proud of that."

Much of the credit, Brennan and Ruiz say, goes to Terry Brennan. Among her marketing ideas: After paying $35 for online certification to become an ordained minister, she offered to preside over renewed marriage vows for couples attending "The Wedding Singer."

"She's done a wonderful job at Airport," Ruiz says. "That was certainly a significant factor in bringing them on board." She will be CM marketing director, also in charge of educational tours and subscriber/guest relations. CM's current subscriber base is 157.

Airport closes Dec. 31. Ed Brennan says the decision was forced in part by the sale of the Bohemia industrial park building on Knickerbocker Avenue, where the playhouse has been a tenant for decades.

Ed Brennan was voted onto the CM board and will serve as associate artistic director. "Ed has a strong background in finances and theater," Ruiz says. Brennan will preside over production meetings and help decide on the shows for each season. "He's respected among Long Island actors, which is important since we don't pay our cast," Ruiz says.

Among the shows the Brennans would like to add to CM next season is "Mame," starring local theater favorite Mary Ellin Kurtz. It would have ended Airport's current season in February.

With two shows remaining this season, Airport subscribers have been offered tickets at CM. Children's programs, including Airport acting classes, will continue in Oakdale. Some of Airport's staff of six are being interviewed for CM jobs.

So far, Terry Brennan says, not one Airport subscriber has sought a refund. One offered condolences. "It's just a building," Terry Brennan quotes the subscriber. "We'll follow you wherever you go."

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