FROM LECTURE HALL TO VAUDEVILLE HOUSE TO THEATRE
The Historic Home of The New Phoenix Theatre was built in 1884, on land deeded to Buffalo by Ebenezer Johnson, Buffalo’s first mayor, and originally served as a lecture hall for Buffalo Seminary (some say the spirits of ladies from that period keep a warm, whimsical watch on our work today). Thereafter, it served as a “séance house,” a vaudeville house, and then a soup kitchen.
It was in that latter use, as a mission run by the American Rescue Workers, that it came to be abandoned and fell into disrepair.
A little over 100 years after the building’s construction, Richard Lambert moved to Buffalo from Brooklyn and into a new house he owned with his partner, the actor Maxim Mazumdar.
Mazumdar’s death found Lambert living alone in the new house and working as an actor. He gained entrance to 95 Johnson Park and sold the house in which he lived to purchase it, moving into the third floor and beginning renovations and restorations himself and later with the help of area foundations. He officially opened the New Phoenix Theatre on The Park - named after The Phoenix Theatre in Montreal, Canada, which Mazumdar operated - in 1996, later deeding responsibility for the mortgage - and ultimately ownership of the property - to the company.
A grant from the Joint Fund for the Arts has allowed us to convert much of the theatre's upper spaces into a rehearsal hall, Green Room, offices and studio spaces we share with other companies and visiting artists. The building at 95 has thus served as a stage not only for the New Phoenix Company but for a distinguished roster of organizations that has included Buffalo Ensemble Theatre (under Timothy C. White), Road Less Traveled, Subversive Theatre, Skeletons in the Closet Puppet Theatre, Red Thread Theatre, Folkloric Dance, the Second Generation Theatre and Post Industrial Productions, and more.
For the past many years, the New Phoenix has been the home for the renowned Frank Rossi Studio classes, featuring premium acting coaching for film and stage.
The generous support of funders like The Rupp Foundation, The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, The Western New York Foundation, NYSCA, Erie County, City of Buffalo, The Hahn Foundation, The Joint Fund for the Arts, Give for Greatness, Deborah Goldman and Grant Golden, and the M&T Charitable Trust (in whose honor we have planted several new trees in the Park), and who has been the sponsor of our long standing "M & T Pay What You Can Thursdays". These generous Foundations, Corporations, and Government agencies have helped with continued renovations and services to the community, such as free performances, summer productions in Johnson Park, and new chairs, our roof, and trees and sidewalks.
The New Phoenix Theatre eventually became outright owners of the building and is now the only theatre company in Buffalo that owns its home outright.
The New Phoenix Theatre on The Park is a proud member of The Theatre Alliance Of Buffalo.
All TAB theatres are handicapped accessible, in accordance with NY State law. For individual amenities, please contact The New Phoenix Theatre with any questions.
The New Phoenix Theatre on The Park is funded in part with public funds from the City of Buffalo and the County of Erie and is grateful to M&T Bank, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, the Rupp Foundation and the Hawn Foundation.
The New Phoenix is a proud member of The Johnson Park Association. Please join our friends on the web at
We are also happy to have Talking Leaves as a sponsor of The New Phoenix Theatre.
Meet The New Phoenix Theatre Staff
Richard Lambert has been the Executive Director of the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park since he purchased the property in 1996. Since coming to Buffalo in 1988, Richard has appeared on most city stages as an actor (over 40 productions). He has directed many productions in the United States as well as Canada, and is the author of several plays. He has received over a dozen nominations in the city’s yearly “Artie Award” competition, in addition to winning Best Actor for Brad Frasier’s Poor Super Man. While living in Manhattan, Richard performed on many stages including the Tomi Theatre, Village Performers Theatre, and the Manhattan Theatre Club. It was while living in New York that he met and began a long-term relationship with noted actor/director/playwright Maxim Mazumdar, whose plays continue to be performed in both the U.S. and Canada, including a production of Oscar Remembered, directed by William Hutt at Stratford. It is for Mr. Mazumdar, who at one time operated the Phoenix Theatre in Montreal, Canada, that the New Phoenix Theatre is named. In addition to his work at the Phoenix, Richard has hosted the local television show Human Touch for Adelphia Communications and has appeared in many commercials in Western New York. Also a film actor, recent credits include Give and Take, Checkmate, and the hit film Marshall.
Master puppeteer & Designer
Franklin LaVoie has been working in theater for twelve years. He works as a set and costume designer, builder, and painter for many theater groups throughout Buffalo, including The Kavinoky Theatre, The Irish Classical Theatre, Shakespeare In The Park, The New Phoenix Theatre, Pick of the Crop Dance Company, et al. Franklin is the founding member of Skeleton in the Closet Theater Company, where he has currently written, directed, and starred in The Bedeviled Chest, and for which he served as costume and set designer as well. For over ten years Franklin has been developing a series of lectures entitled “Sacred Geography of Western New York,” which examines the legends and folklore of his hometown. As a storyteller, Franklin has performed at The Chautauqua Institute, Lilydale Assembly, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo State College, and at other venues throughout Western New York.
Betsy Bittar joined the New Phoenix Theatre Company in the summer of 2001 as a Board member and Treasurer. In addition to those responsibilities, Ms. Bittar has acted in many shows (most recently My Three Angels and Kalamazoo), and she has also costumed several productions at the New Phoenix. Recently Ms. Bittar directed the 2018 production of Way Back When, and in 2019, she was appointed to Managing Director. Ms. Bittar acts and directs in other Western New York theatres.
LORI MICHAELS has been producing graphic art in one form or another most of her life; she primarily enjoys using her computer to create artwork and videos by manipulating existing images. Lori is grateful to have been asked to design the graphics for the New Phoenix's 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons.
Technical Direction & Scenic Carpentry
Mr. Roy Walker is the head Sound Designer, Co-Scenic Carpenter and a Technical Assistant for Niagara County Community College. He is the Technical Theatre Director for both the Lockport City School District and ArtPark Theatre Academy as well as a professional designer and actor in the Buffalo area. He has earned several degrees, accolades and certifications while studying Studio Recording Technology & Vocal Performance from SUNY Fredonia and SUNY NCCC. He is a NCCC Alumnus and received the Excellence in Audio Recording and Production Award in 2013. He owns & operates a sound company, “RJWSounds” and spent two years designing theatrical sound systems around the United States. Roy is known for being a passionate songwriter and avid musician in his local bands, “FoxCity Kicks”, “The Trabbs” and “aRe Oh whY”. Roy is honored to be New Phoenix Theatre’s resident Sound Designer for the 2019-2020 season.
Leyla Gentil fell in love with theatre at 10 years old and has grown as an actress, stage manager and dramaturg. Having stage managed for both Post-Industrial Productions' Medusa Undone and Brazen-Faced Varlet's The Secretary, Leyla is thrilled to be a part of New Phoenix's 25th anniversary season. Leyla is a SUNY Purchase graduate (B.A.), with a double major in Theatre & Performance and Arts Management and she is happy to be growing professionally within the Buffalo theatre scene. All the love in the world to her wonderful partner, Jay.
Board of Directors
Chairperson of the Board
Executive Director and Interim Artistic Director
Betsy Bittar, CPA, MBA
Managing Director/ Board Treasurer
Tom Lambert, Esq.
Richard Campbell, Esq.
Board Member Emeritus
In Memoriam: Timothy C. White